Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson

ALAMEDA COUNTY | During the first half of the year, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson received just $1,000 in campaign contributions, measly, by most standards. The easily countable list of donations included $250 from Assemblymember Tony Thurmond and $100 from Oakland Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney. The longest-serving member of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, however, is sitting on more than $111,000 in campaign reserves, according finance reports.

So, what does a sitting supervisor who hasn’t faced credible competition in over two decades need such campaign largess?

Often times, entrenched public officials, like many on the Board of Supervisors, can spread their wealth and power by giving large donations to the local Democratic machine or down ballot candidates. Carson has done this in the past. His colleagues on the board have participated in the same sort of generosity.

But, Carson’s campaign reserve, by far the largest among the Board of Supervisors, could also come in handy if the local political winds swerve the right way.

If Rep. Barbara Lee’s Thirteenth Congressional District is open over the next few years, Carson will likely lead the list of potential successors.

The last time Carson sought higher office he finished third in the 1998 primary for the State Senate seat later won by Don Perata.

In recent years, his rhetoric on issues such as civil rights have shown a more statesman-like bent more befitting a speech delivered on the House floor than the oratory heard at county supervisors meetings.

Of course, $100,000 is nowhere close enough to run a strong congressional race, but it can go a long way toward seeding one and showing potential donors you have a nice head start. Supervisor Wilma Chan seeded her State Senate campaign coffers with $72,000 transferred last spring from her supervisorial account.

And, similar to Carson’s past electoral experience, he does appear likely to face a strong challenge for re-election to his seat next June. Therefore, little of his cash will be spent. Yet, Carson, if interested in seeking a move to Congress, has one major stumbling block in his way. Lee doesn’t appear ready to be going anywhere and If she did, others might have the same inclination.

One name always connected to Lee’s seat is Assemblymember Rob Bonta. Some even suggest Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and just about every other official in the Oakland-Berkeley area.