Sandre Swanson during an endorsement
meeting last year for the 9th state Senate.

An unsuccessful run for the state Senate last year proved Sandre Swanson is not done with public service. Swanson confirmed Friday that he had strong interest for challenging Alameda Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer‘s re-election next year.

“I’ve been honored by people and organizations in the community that have approached me about running for mayor of Alameda,” Swanson said in an interview. “I told them, at the time, that I would do my due diligence and talk to the people that I respect in the city, and my wife, and consider it.”

Swanson represented Alameda in the state Assembly for three terms and has been an island resident for decades.

Swanson said he discussed the race late Friday afternoon with Councilmember Frank Matarrese an hour prior to being interviewed for this story. Matarrese confirmed he is running for mayor, said Swanson.


Last week it was reported that Matarrese suggested in an email to an Alameda housing advocate that he was strongly leaning toward running for mayor, although questioning his chances of winning.

Alameda Councilmember Frank Matarrese
previously ran for mayor in 2010.

With Spencer running for a second term and Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft almost certain to run for mayor next year, Swanson said he decided last Friday to defer on his campaign, citing a long-term personal and political friendship with Matarrese.

“Among those people who I respect is Frank Matarrese,” said Swanson. “I told him and I’m telling others, there’s no way I can even consider such an offer with Frank running in the race.”

He added it would be counter-productive to join the race in its current and likely composition. “There’s going to be three candidates in the race,” said Swanson. “So Alameda is going to have some good choices.”

Whether it be an extension of their service to the public or personal vanity, the prodigal son story line is not entirely unique in the Bay Area. Jerry Brown famously returned to Oakland to become its mayor after an already illustrious political career. Willie Brown did the same in San Francisco. Elsewhere in the East Bay, former Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney served two terms during the past decade following a stint in the state Legislature.

Despite his decision, Swanson said he’s not ready to retire from politics. He cited the possibilities of a local seat in the Legislature or the Alameda County Board of Supervisors one day opening up. After serving six years in the Assembly through 2012, Swanson spent time as Oakland deputy mayor under Jean Quan before running last year for the open Ninth District seat in the state Senate.

A Swanson run for mayor would have been a tantalizing and potential game-changing equation to an already complicated race next year. His interest is viewed not only as an indication of Spencer’s vulnerabilities, but also growing anxiety among Alameda progressives about Ashcraft.

Adding Swanson to the equation might have shattered a number of assumptions about the race. Many of which would negatively affect Ashcraft, at the moment, the candidate most likely to attract support from the Democratic Party and local unions.

A three-person race, not including Swanson, may also create a vacuum for a bonafide progressive to enter the race, said insiders, since it is likely Spencer, Ashcraft and Matarrese, draw support from similar moderate constituencies.

However, insiders in recent weeks have been questioning Ashcraft’s progressive credentials, primarily due to some recent decisions that include a deciding vote on one of Spencer’s planning board selections and ambivalence toward cannabis in Alameda, issues supported by the City Council’s two other progressives.