OAKLAND | Once Oakland Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf finally got it going, there was really no stopping her campaign. In terms of sports analogies, campaigns are often labeled horse races, but in this case, it is apt. Her team huddled away Schaaf in a crowded field and jockeyed her to the front down around the final stretch. In the end, the rest of the field was either severely unqualified to run in such a stakes or simply spent.
Schaaf’s dominating victory also overshadowed the fact that the lead horse, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, simply ran out of gas. Over the last six weeks or so of the campaign, it appeared to many Kaplan was hoping to run out the clock on what numerous polls suggested was impending victory. The campaign did little to attract attention to solidify those polls.
In the meantime, Schaaf did the opposite. Her campaign was easily the most aggressive down the stretch. Did Gov. Jerry Brown’s endorsement in early October really turn the tide? I doubt it was solely Brown’s imprimatur, but the attention it shined on Schaaf at precisely the moment people were actually starting to pay close attention to the race.
Noticeably, while Schaaf moved forward with another endorsement from Sen. Barbara Boxer, Kaplan was turning up aging B-list pop stars from early 1990s and Mayor Jean Quan was offering members of the Black Hole from Raiders home games. The latter, in fact, was the moment when it became clear Quan was toast.
THE HILLS Schaaf also did an excellent job of showing Oakland voters she was more than Libby from the Hills. Jason Anderson, who finished eighth in the voting (he notes he finished first among candidates with no money), praised Schaaf this week for making an attempt during the campaign to reach out to voters in the flatlands. Furthermore, said Anderson, she didn’t even need to in order to win the election. “I knew she had the hills locked up,” he said. The Schaaf campaign’s decision to roll out commercials like the one declaring “Oakland hella needs new leadership,” is a positive sign she intends to unite the city from top to bottom, he added. Anderson’s analysis turns out to be correct. Schaaf cleaned up in the hills, according to election maps from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. Despite Schaaf’s intentions, the perception she represents a return of the city’s old white elite will persist and watch for it to be an easy target for opponents to lob her way.
PERATA STILL DOESN’T UNDERSTAND RCV Why Don Perata bothered to endorse Bryan Parker so late in the game, or at all, still seems bizarre. In the end, Parker finished sixth place with less than eight percent of the vote. Was Perata not privy to polling that showed Parker running about the same position as the results on Nov. 4? Perata’s endorsement did nothing for Parker and even one member of his campaign admitted the former state senator’s reputation in Oakland was filled with negatives. In addition, the coalition of Parker, Joe Tuman and Courtney Ruby also did little to change the overall campaign calculus. The triumvirate together won over 23 percent of the first place votes. That’s six percent less than Schaaf gained, all by herself. Like Perata’s endorsement, this meeting of the minds came far too late in the game to have any impact. In hindsight, the campaign’s should have banded together by the end of September at the earliest.
QUAN’S DEMISE Back in early 2012, the amount and frequency of vitriol I heard against East Bay Rep. Pete Stark was quite noticeable. That angst played out in November 2012 and led to his demise. Over the past year, the consistent level of discontent I heard when it came to Quan reminded me of Stark two years earlier. For different reasons, voters in Oakland had grown to dislike her to the point there was no going back. Furthermore, people in outlying cities who couldn’t even vote for Quan, loathed her, too, but that could also reveal how complicit the local media was in knocking her down at every opportunity. Frankly, Quan’s could have done and actually did a job as mayor and still would have faced the music last week. In fact, history will likely view Quan’s administration as the lead-in to an even greater renaissance in Oakland. Good thing Quan really loves Oakland because, electorally, she took one for the team. She also seems to be taking the loss exceptionally well. In fact, I have never seen a politician look more at ease with a high stakes loss like this one in my five years covering the East Bay.
DESLEY’S NEW SPARRING PARTNER? The changeover on the Oakland City Council continued this election cycle. The council swapped out Oakland-style moderates in Council President Pat Kernighan and Schaaf with progressives Abel Guillen in District 2 and Anne Campbell Washington in District 4. Coupled those two with progressive stalwarts Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Desley Brooks, who won re-election last week, and this council now has an even more leftist lean than before. But, this begs the question, who on the council will the irascible Brooks fight with now? The council’s reputation for raucous meetings is often cited by voters as a huge negative. However, with three new members in 2012 coming on board, this year has been noticeably quiet in terms of fireworks. Its most moderate member is now Councilmember Noel Gallo, but she and Brooks seem to get along, but its hard to guess how certain personalities react to each other regardless of ideology. When I interviewed Brooks as she drove around her East Oakland district, she seemed unsure about my opinion her and Guillen would work well together. If all else fails, Brooks can just return to hammering the new mayor. In addition, Brooks’ election results left a lot to be desired especially for a 12-year incumbent who took a beating over her behavior at council meetings. When the initial returns showed Brooks sitting in the low-40 percent range, she had to be sweating bullets over the potential for ranked choice voting to aid one of her opponents. It didn’t, but Brooks only defeated Shereda Nosakhare by less than five points after RCV tabulations.
|Kaplan’s Plan B could be council president.|
NEW PRESIDENT Councilmember Larry Reid told me last month that he doesn’t ever want to be council president again. “I’d rather be fishing,” he said while roaming the halls of City Hall. Now that Kernighan is retiring next month, who might lead the next council? Similar to rumors you hear about some mayoral candidates having backups for employment if they’re out of government after the election—we all heard the one about Schaaf having a job lined up with Jerry Brown, if she lost—there was also one going around about Kaplan becoming council president if she lost the mayoral election. Well, she lost, and lost badly. But, Kaplan’s election to lead the council seems plausible and probably the best choice for this relatively young group. Five of the seven members will have only served since 2012 or later. Then there’s Reid, who this summer, raised the possibility of retirement. It was also notable that he publicly floated the name of his daughter, Treva Reid, as a potential appointee to his seat, which isn’t up for re-election until 2016. Reid often makes these types of declaration, but this last one was taken more seriously since the state of health was clearly evident. But Reid looks a lot better and there appears to be a sense around City Hall that Reid won’t be going anywhere in the new year.
Looks like Schaaf raised the most money from vested interest and outside groups.
Contributions from Lew Wolff are the kiss of death in Oakland politics. First Perata went down after a 25,000 contribution from Wolff, and then Kaplan gets caught up in evil Wolff's web of cash contributions.
Larry Reid needs to move on
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Black and Brown Oakland almost completely disconnected from electoral process. Those connected probably exemplified by Oakland Post endorsement of Dan Siegel. Those disconnected: didn't know there was an election; don't know who Libby Schaaf is; could care less; don't want any cops messing with them.
Probably makes more sense than celebrating the promise of Mayor-elect Schaaf to see this election as part of the national trend towards more conservative or centrist candidates.
In addition there is the issue of very low voter turnout here and elsewhere. Something like 40% of the electorate participating in Oakland and Alameda County. Mayor-elect Schaaf winning with an abundance of votes as the second and third alternative.
Schaaf is hardly the choice of most of the voters. Her “win” was actually a small plurality among a largely-disenchanted electorate which has become fed-up with governmental neglect and general failure to stand up for current residents of this city.
Schaaf no doubt had the most professional campaign. Ties to big Dems and to local Dem organization.
The most ties to the Dem establishment. The most money and the most money from outside Oakland.
Change? If the past tells us anything about the future, not so much. Schaaf has been a conservative establishment game-player for a very long time.