Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney is
avoids a potentially bruising re-election after
just a single challenger qualified for November.

And then there was one. Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney appeared to most observers to be the councilmember with the most troubling re-election prospects. Which is to mean, she was viewed only the slightest bit vulnerable and almost assured another four years just like incumbents Dan Kalb, Noel Gallo and Larry Reid. But, then six mostly newcomers and a former mayoral candidate who registered 0.03 percent of the vote in 2014 pulled papers for McElhaney’s District 3 seat.

By the filing the deadline last Friday, just one candidate, Oakland activist Noni Session, actually went the extra mile and qualified for the ballot. The turn of events is unfortunate for East Bay political watchers in search of an interesting race and for Oakland activists hoping to at least make McElhaney sweat a little.

In fact, the entire Oakland City Council elections this November will likely be duds. Furthermore City Attorney Barbara Parker is running unopposed. In fact, the only candidate of significance is Mayor Libby Schaaf’s politically-connected aide Peggy Moore’s challenge against at-large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan. Here’s an early breakdown of the four ranked-choice voting council races this fall:

Sometimes aloof, Councilmember Dan Kalb has
turned into one of the most reliable progressive votes
on the Oakland City Council.

Councilmember Dan Kalb likely represents the most pleasant surprise among the trio of first-termers. His 2012 race was replete with uncharismatic candidates, including Kalb himself. But as a councilmember, Kalb has flourished and now represents the more thoughtful and cooperative slice of the council’s left wing. Some in the North Oakland district, however, don’t care much for his stances toward development and that’s where Kevin Corbett comes in. It’s unclear whether Corbett has the money and demeanor to upset Kalb, but it’s very unlikely.

McElhaney has an ethics problem that seems to pop up on a consistent basis. There’s the deal with her using her position to advocate against a residential project next to her own home and ongoing personal financial problems with unpaid tax liens. Calling into question an incumbent’s ethical shortcomings is usually a good head start for a challenger in Oakland. But a dearth of opponents in this ranked-choice voting race greatly helps McElhaney. To avoid a coalition of, say, six opponents in such a format would have made McElhaney nervous. A one-on-one race against a novice is exactly what McElhaney’s campaign was wishing for and they got it.

Councilmember Noel Gallo doesn’t have any ethics problems, but his race is similar to McElhaney. Gallo has done a great job of making himself known in the Fruitvale District 5, namely as the public official everybody sees on the weekends picking up trash and hauling away unsightly mattresses. Gallo’s opponent, social activist Viola Gonzales, will be hard pressed to upend Gallo in November, especially since he has allowed himself to drift toward the left on a number of recent issues. For the time being, Gallo has dropped the “Get off my lawn, you damn kids!” vibe he once sported.

It’s Councilmember Larry Reid. Nobody has beaten him over the last two decades and this pair, including activist Nehanda Imara and Marcie Hodge, isn’t going to shock the world. In fact, the only way Reid is going down is either from a carton of Marlboro’s or the F.B.I.

Four years ago, Ignacio De La Fuente was no match 
for Rebecca Kaplan.

When it comes to Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan and mayoral races, she either exceeds expectations, like in 2010, or underachieves, like in 2014. In council races, though, she’s very hard to beat. Her pummeling of Ignacio De La Fuente in 2012 likely dissuaded bigger names like Jean Quan from mounting a campaign this fall. It was that much of beat down. Certainly, Kaplan won’t have much of a problem this time around but there are some concerns here.

For one, there are five candidates who could maximize ranked choice voting in favor of one of them. Peggy Moore is well-connected within the state and national Democratic Party, but her luck as a candidate is unremarkable. Some Oakland politicos are wondering whether Moore is needlessly risking ruin to her political career with this candidacy. But if Moore’s candidacy possibly represents an extension of the 2014 race between Kaplan and her current boss, Schaaf, there are other angles here for her challengers to attack.

Bruce Quan might have some money to spend as a proxy for developers. He worked with Jean Quan in bringing Chinese investors to the Brooklyn Basin development. Matt Hummel, the chair of the Oakland Cannabis Regulatory Commission represents some concerns by the city’s cannabis interests against Kaplan, and perennial council candidate Nancy Sidebotham is also good for a biting attack against corruption in Oakland city government.

Nevertheless, Kaplan is tough to beat. In addition, the other winner here is Jean Quan, who wisely decided against running. Nobody was asking for her return to City Hall and her inclusion in this race would have grabbed attention from the entire field and really turned it into a cakewalk for Kaplan similar to 2012.