Oakland mayoral candidate Bryan Parker detailing his plan for helping the city’s youth to succeed during a press conference last week in front of Oakland City Hall. PHOTO/Steven Tavares

OAKLAND | MAYOR | At a large, mostly black audience recently at Merritt College, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan referenced President Obama, Libby Schaaf continued a push to frame her campaign as the most authentically Oakland in the race. And while Schaaf has flailed at trying to entice the black vote recently, another opponent, Jason Anderson, showed exactly how to a candidate born and raised in Oakland should address the demographic.

Jason Anderson’s closing speech Oct. 1 is one
of the Oakland mayoral race’s best moments.

“I see myself a lot like Barack Obama, as an organizer, always have been,” said Quan, who gave another strong performance Oct. 1. Crime is down not because of her own doing, said Quan, but because she has worked with the community. Later, she alluded to her activism at Cal and work for labor unions, but a few in the audience giggled at Quan’s connection to Obama. A key to Quan’s recent appearances has been her new found ability to cogently tout her record over the past four years, primarily the Brooklyn Basin project, the Oakland Army Base and the great potential for Coliseum City. In fact, there was one moment Wednesday when Quan delivered a powerful case for re-election.

And, it was immediately followed by a similarly forceful statement by Schaaf—almost as if the two were trying to one-up each other. It was clear Quan and Schaaf, among the 11 candidates at the Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) event, are showing a greater sense of urgency and clarity in their rhetoric than the rest of the field.

Schaaf, however, seems intent to chisel away votes from the city’s pool of black voters. Starting three weeks ago there were signs Schaaf was bristling under criticism she is the rich, white candidate from the Oakland Hills. When Schaaf’s campaign posted a short video of the candidate dancing to the Cupid Shuffle it furthered this belief. Later, it was bolstered by a well-done campaign commercial that inexplicably ends with the narrator intoning, “Oakland hella needs leadership.” On Wednesday night, when talking about transportation, Schaaf shifted her torso to one side and nearly placed one hand on her hip while sassily saying, “This city’s got some raggedy roads.”


Nevertheless, the best moment of the night and possibly the most exhilarating statement of the entire mayoral race was delivered by Anderson, a community activist and former Occupy Oakland protester. In short, Anderson schooled Schaaf.

“I’ve talked to several candidates and like what they have to say. As mayor, I will work with Siegel. I will work Libby. I will take some of Saied [Karamooz’s] ideas. You don’t have to lose. With me you can combine everything you like to hear and get behind someone who represents Oakland. You’re voting for an image, people. You’re voting for an image of what Oakland looks like. So, when that person stands on TV and has to speak on behalf of Oakland, I want you to say, He’s from the Town. He’s a third-generation resident. I know who his grandma is. I knew his granddaddy. I know his auntie—she still goes to church. I want you to understand I represent the people from the top to the bottom, not just to the hills to the flatlands.”

A few minute later, the speech was so effective that candidate Rebecca Kaplan leaned toward Anderson, placed her hand on his shoulder and said, “Good job.” Anderson, still amped from his outstanding flourish, stared into the distance.


Other highlights. Saied Karamooz’s main contribution to this race has been his insistent criticism of the three elected officials in the race, while also railing against special interest money in Oakland politics. He has called Quan, Schaaf and Kaplan “coin-operated politicians” and last week he described them as being “remote-controlled by big donors.” Subsequently, Bryan Parker, one of the most well-financed candidates in the race, attempted to skewer Karamooz over his comments. “Saied was right about something,” Parker began. “I’m going to tell my mom she is a big dollar donor.” Karamooz didn’t find the quip amusing and stared blankly at Parker as he spoke.


Meanwhile, nothing will change a candidate’s view of the moribund Oakland Tribune like receiving its mayoral endorsement. Joe Tuman labeled the paper, Oakland’s “hometown newspaper.” However, like every other forum, the Tribune was absent.


Two recent polls show Kaplan is the front runner to be the next mayor of Oakland. She may believe the polls are correct. By the sound of her performance last Wednesday, Kaplan is choosing to play it safe for the last month of the election by avoiding any unforced errors. In fact, Kaplan’s often monotone style of oratory during this campaign was particularly sonorous this week. Each…word…it…seemed…was…spaced…by…three…dots.