Three East Bay Races Where Candidates Need to Better Sing Their Songs

We are now less than two months away from Election Day. For some campaigns it’s put up or shut up. Aside from a bombshell that likely will not happen, narratives need to be developed not sooner than later, but now. Free of charge, here are some stories that some campaign’s need to start telling:

RO KHANNA Sometime in the summer Khanna’s campaign decided it would focus more generously on moderate and conservative voters in Fremont and the South Bay. Highlighting the endorsement of San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed snugly fit this strategy. But, calling Reed, who is viewed as a pariah by labor, an “American hero,” was too far off the rails. Khanna is obviously a Democrat and presumably tacking from the moderate left to the moderate right also means an occasional turn to the left. However, placing Reed on a pedestal might make any forays to left to seem disingenuous. In the meantime, Khanna’s Election Day may not be Nov. 4, but Oct. 6. That’s the date of the locally televised debate against Rep. Mike Honda. Khanna needs a knockout in addition to some sort of funky Admiral James Stockdale antics (“Who am I? Why am I here?”) from Honda. There’s no story here to tell until this occurs. That’s a low-odds, high-pressure scenario that does not bode well for Khanna. Taking out an incumbent member of Congress is like winning a heavyweight title fight. You not only have to beat the champ, you have to do it in a decisive manner. Khanna goes into the Oct. 6 debate losing on almost everybody’s scorecard. Khanna desperately needs an unforced error from Honda, but the incumbent is showing all signs that he’s willing to win re-election with a defensive approach.

Top of the heap: Rebecca Kaplan

OAKLAND MAYORAL RACE Although a poll released this week showed Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan easily winning the ranked-choice voting race over Mayor Jean Quan, the numbers were highly dubious and probably purposefully. This is Oakland, after all. However, the other mayoral candidates not named Kaplan should now shift gears and make her the Don Perata of this race, meaning, the mantra should be: “Anybody but Rebecca.” Curiously, none of the candidates seem to understand the key to ranked-choice voting is coalitions. There appear to be none, as of this week. However, Kaplan is the only candidate who consistently asks for second and third place votes. Granted, some like Councilmember Libby Schaaf and Quan have begun adding the tagline, but it’s still not common. The perception in the public that Kaplan is the clear frontrunner should be the impetus for her opponents to realize if they don’t somehow band together, none of them will be mayor. Four years ago this occurred when Quan and Kaplan joined forces and it worked in blocking Perata from the mayor’s office. The story should be, everybody is still in it because this race might not be cinched until the last days of the campaign.

Diana Souza

SAN LEANDRO MAYORAL RACE Councilmember Diana Souza doesn’t seem to understand her campaign for mayor is based on beating a straw man. She denied her comments Thursday highlighting the need for a mayor to form strong relationships with colleagues and constituents was a jab at out-going Mayor Stephen Cassidy, who is not running for re-election. In fact, it’s the perfect strategy where there is no clear frontrunner. Cassidy has been an absentee mayor who attempted to schedule the business of city government literally around his own personal work schedule and City Hall appears in disarray over the lack of leadership from the top (Exhibit A: the Oakland garbage contract). In a race where two of the three candidates are members of the City Council, running against City Hall takes some work in making the case. However, since Souza has long been an opponent to Cassidy, her case is far more plausible than Councilmember Pauline Cutter, who has ties to the mayor. Conversely, political newbie Dan Dillman is an outsider who needs to consistently point out when his colleagues criticize decisions they actually supported while on the council. When Dillman vowed to bring back council committees, Cutter and Souza agreed, despite voting to discontinue them two years ago.

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Ellen Corbett for county supervisor?

CORBETT’S FUTURE Political parlor games over a landing place for termed out State Sen. Ellen Corbett continue to heat up since the end of the legislative season last month in Sacramento. One can detect three distinct paths for Corbett who finished a dismal and surprising third in the June primary race for the 15th Congressional District. She could seek a government appointment in Sacramento, run for city office in the future or regroup and aim for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors after 2016. Just about every termed out legislator has an opportunity for an appointment by the governor, especially the former majority leader, but this option was there even before her congressional run. Returning to her roots in San Leandro might feel like a significant demotion for Corbett, although, the city is on the rise and could definitely use her experience and gravitas. The third potential option could get Corbett’s political juices flowing. Supervisor Wilma Chan is a likely candidate for the State Senate in two years, maybe against Nancy Skinner and Sandre Swanson. It would be a tough race for Chan, but don’t count her out. If she were to win, who in the supervisorial third district would be more qualified than Corbett?

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Is Mike Katz-Lacabe’s candidacy in San
Leandro being undermined from within?

HERE AND THERE Oakland mayoral candidate Bryan Parker has gotten into the bad habit of publicizing some political endorsements as if they were given solely to his campaign. For, at least, the second time, Parker boasted of backing from Oakland pastors that was actually a three-way endorsement. This week, one opponent, Joe Tuman, called him out on Twitter for the act…Another Oakland mayoral challenger, Saied Karamooz, has what you can call an excellent jab. His answers are short, sweet and powerful. However, during a forum this week hosted by a number of non-profits, the anti-government candidate told them, “I want to put all of you out of business.” He meant the sheer number of non-profits in Oakland shows government is not doing its job to help people, but the comment was followed by a long, eerie silence…Someone needs to tell San Leandro mayoral candidate Pauline Cutter to smile when others are speaking at candidates forums. Thursday night, she continually frowned during comments made by her opponents. They were not reactions to their comments, but a weird default face that looks like one of those dolls made from dried, wrinkled apples…The Alameda County Democratic Party has the endorsement on consent for business-friendly San Leandro council candidate Deborah Cox over one of the most liberal candidates in all of San Leandro, Mike Katz-Lacabe. The reason: political hardball. Katz-Lacabe’s wife is central committee member Margarita Lacabe, the same person who cost the group thousands in legal fees from a dubious investigation this year by the Fair Political Practices Commission.