Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s long-rumored interest in running for mayor included a plot twist Thursday evening. During an event announced just six hours prior, Kaplan did not declare herself a candidate for mayor, but instead issued an endorsement for Oakland activist Cat Brooks’ nascent mayoral campaign.
Kaplan cited the increasing prevalence of homeless encampments, illegal garbage dumping and the Oakland Police sexual misconduct scandal, as leading her to endorse Brooks over incumbent Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Kaplan would only say the decision to endorse Brooks arrived recently. “I came to feel the more powerful move at this point would be to support Cat Brooks for mayor and to help with this campaign and also to put my effort and time into the campaign to repeal Costa-Hawkins (the state law prohibiting rent control on single-family homes) and other people and other seats that I want to support,” said Kaplan.
Kaplan not only endorsed Brooks, but following the announcement, literally blessed her campaign, reciting an invocation while placing both hands on Brooks’ shoulders.
Brooks, a community activist and radio commentator who has long fought for social equity in Oakland, and opposed police misconduct, said she was initially against the idea of running for mayor, but a bevy of community members persistently pushed her to reconsider.
She recounted driving past homeless encampments in Oakland one day and pulling into her driveway, she said. An epiphany followed. “We spend 50 percent of our time mad at Libby, fighting with Libby, arguing with Libby, protesting Libby, what if there was just no Libby?” said Brooks. “What if we spend all of our time building the kind of Oakland we want to live in?”
Brooks thinks Schaaf’s re-election campaign anticipated Kaplan was about to announce a mayoral run today and released a poll Thursday hoping to undercut its roll out. The survey showed Schaaf leading Kaplan by a large margin, 46-15 percent. But the same poll also showed Brooks, an unknown in most parts of the city, with 11 percent. “For a left-wing activist who has never been in political office to come out the gate a month into my campaign with 11 percent, that’s pretty good news for our team,” said Brooks.
Meanwhile, Kaplan’s interest in challenging Schaaf this fall had been bandied about local and county insiders since late last year. Kaplan and Brooks, though, had discussion about running as a voting bloc to take advantage of Oakland’s Ranked Choice Voting system, said Brooks. In 2010, Kaplan and Jean Quan used the same strategy to allow Quan to overtake Don Perata, even though he received the most first-place votes.
Kaplan and Schaaf have never been chummy, even going back to their time together on the Oakland City Council. But Kaplan’s departure from the Bay Area Air Quality Management board, which she blames Schaaf for orchestrating, has clearly rankled Kaplan for months. Kaplan said, though, that endorsing Schaaf’s challenger is not payback.
“She personally went to the meeting and made the motion to giveaway the vote to another city–to get rid of Oakland having representation on the board–which was done because she thought I was running against her and somehow though ousting me and ousting Oakland from this important regional role would somehow benefit her and it’s despicable behavior,” said Kaplan. She added, that Brooks has pledged to bring back the board seat to Oakland, if elected.
In addition, to Schaaf and Brooks, there is no shortage of candidates who have already filed an intent to run for mayor. As of Thursday, the total is nine.