First in: Councilmember Diana Souza

SAN LEANDRO | MAYOR | After months of chatter speculating San Leandro Councilmember Diana Souza would run for mayor this year, the two-term District 3 representative officially filed papers for a bid to replace Mayor Stephen Cassidy. Souza filed to form a campaign committee just days before the surprise announcement by Cassidy he would not seek re-election after one term in office. “I am gratified by the support I am receiving,” Souza said in a statement. “People seem genuinely excited about the opportunity to keep the city moving forward in the right direction.”

Cassidy’s early exit avoids what could have been a vitriolic fall campaign. Souza and Cassidy have grappled often in City Council meetings over the past few years. In the past, Souza has been openly critical of the mayor for leaving her and other council member out of the decision-making process. Earlier this year, Souza raised objections over how the council appoints its vice mayor. The ceremonial position has evading Souza over her nearly eight years on the council. However, with Cassidy out of the race, Souza is the first person to declare their candidacy for a likely wide-open field. Councilmember Pauline Cutter announced May 17 she intends to run for mayor and, on Tuesday, San Leandro theater owner, Dan Dillman, also announced his candidacy in a posting on Facebook.

During the fall ranked-choice voting campaign, Souza will likely resume the role she typically holds on the City Council as a moderate voice who typically seeks consensus. Recently, Souza has gravitated toward the similarly moderate Councilmember Benny Lee on the issue of medical marijuana dispensaries. The City Council approved a single dispensary last year, but consistently without the support of Souza, who has made a series of protest against the action as recently as two weeks ago. Instead of abstaining or voting no, Souza recused herself from a procedural vote on zoning for the dispensary. Opposition to the dispensary is also greatly supported by many in San Leandro’s growing Asian American community, which Souza hopes to coalesce around her candidacy.

As a two-term council member, Souza may also be able to piggy-back on the number of large projects that are beginning to transform the look and feel of San Leandro, including the new Kaiser Permanente and senior community center on East 14th Street. She plans to organize a campaign kickoff some time after the June primary. The official nominating period for candidates in San Leandro begins July 14 through August 13, five days into the customary 88 day deadline before the November 4 election since the incumbent is not running.

NOTE Additions were made to this article to reflect the candidacy of Councilmember Pauline Cutter.