ELECTION ’14 | The big race of the night is in Oakland and the identity of its next mayor will likely not be known until early Wednesday morning, at the earliest. The county registrar won’t run the ranked choice algorithm until all the votes are counted. This may render early results meaningless, or, at least, to be taken with a grain of sales since the top three to five first round vote-getters might be separated by just a few percentage points. That leaves loads of permutations for a number of candidates to cobble together 50 percent plus one of the vote. A couple things to look for after polls close at 8 p.m.: How strong is Mayor Jean Quan’s support? She’s had some very positive news in recent days. And if she doesn’t have enough support for herself is it still robust enough to vault or keep Kaplan on top? What does the alliance of Joe Tuman, Bryan Parker and Courtney Ruby do to Libby Schaaf’s clear momentum?
The registrar’s decision on released RCV totals until late may not affect some City Council races in Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro. Councilmember Desley Brooks in Oakland’s District 6 race could potentially gain a majority of votes in the first round, although simply the presence of three challengers might thwart an early celebration in East Oakland. In Berkeley, District 4 and 7 contests will be decided without RCV, as could District 1, Councilmember Linda Maio’s race with two other candidates. Over in San Leandro, Districts 3 and 5 could be decided early, although the three-person mayor’s race and four-person District 1 could take a bit to be decided.
Measure FF, Oakland’s minimum wage increase to $12.25 an hour looks like a winner. But, let’s look to the future. The added victory for proponents may come later if other cities in the East Bay begin their own march to increasing their base wages. The issue is beginning to percolate in San Leandro and some council members in Hayward are openly advocating for increases. Earlier this year, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates advocated for a regional approach on minimum wage. After tonight. the starting point will likely start at $12.25 and up.
The Alameda County transportation tax, Measure BB, is another important initiative on the local ballot. Two years ago, BB’s antecedent, Measure B, was defeated by just over 700 votes. This time around, transportation agencies say they learned their lesson and vowed to more clearly define what each city could expect to receive from the 30-year half-cent sales tax. The work, though, needs to be done in the Tri Valley and Fremont areas. if 2012 is any indication. Infamously, just one precinct (Dublin) in the entire moderate to conservative Tri Valley voted by the two-thirds clip needed to pass the measure. Another problem rests with $700 million in proceeds from the tax will go toward a BART extension to Livermore, which even some BART candidates are against. Soda tax initiatives in Berkeley and San Francisco will also dominate Wednesday morning headlines and like Oakland’s Measure FF reverberate across the state and, in this case, across the country.
The contest in the 17th Congressional District took a long circuitous path toward being a close race that slightly favors the incumbent Rep. Mike Honda. Both campaigns are betting their ground game is better than the other. Has Democrat Ro Khanna sufficiently knitted together moderates natural to his platform with disaffected Republicans in the South Bay? That’s the big question and what does a likely low-voter turnout mean in this race?
The other toss-up in the East Bay rests in two Assembly races. Democrats in Berkeley’s 15th District have bloodied each other with help from independent expenditure committees. Berkeley has one of the most knowledgeable electorates in the Bay Area and a win for Elizabeth Echols greatly suggests the so called Berkeley Establishment is still running strong. Tim Sbranti is the favorite in the 16th District, but labor isn’t resting on its laurels with a tough candidate in Catharine Baker. It’s conceivable, but unlikely, Baker can pull out at upset, but if she does, the statewide media will whiplash to the Contra Costa County/Tri Valley battleground.
The Oakland mayor’s race is chocked full of great choices, all of which have spent big money to get voter’s attention. Then there’s Peter Liu, the Iraq War vet/insurance broker/possible millionaire who got himself mentioned on late night’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. He quickly became the most famous person in the entire 15-candidate field. In every election, there are a certain number of  people who are intent on throwing their vote toward a sure underdog merely to register a protest vote. This group of absurdist voters might find their candidate in Liu, but can it vault him to the top of third tier candidates like Jason Anderson, Nancy Sidebotham and Charles Williams?