Although the Legislature’s 12-year term limits, along with strong incumbents at the congressional level have rendered eight of the nine state and federal race in Alameda County uncompetitive, a large number of municipal elections and down ballot races deserve your attention this fall.
The open 15th Assembly District race between Democrats Buffy Wicks and Jovanka Beckles is undoubtedly the East Bay’s marquee matchup this November. But Oakland’s mayoral tilt isn’t far behind.
With Oakland rapidly changing, Mayor Libby Schaaf is likely to face spirited opposition from community leaders Pamela Price and Cat Brooks. Price ran strong and hotly-contested campaign just last June against Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. Price lost, but beat O’Malley in Oakland, which is buttressing her hopes this fall against Schaaf. Five of the 10 candidates for Oakland mayor, including Schaaf, ran in the 2014 race. Seven candidates are seeking Oakland’s likely most competitive council race in the District 4 seat left vacant by Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington. Sheng Thao, an aide for Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan; along with activists Nayeli Maxson, and Pam Harris, join a field with businessman Charlie Maxson, Oakland city employee Joseph Tanios, Francis Hummel, and Joseph Simmons. District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks’ potentially most difficult re-election bid ever includes challenges from Loren Taylor, who nearly tripled Brooks’ campaign contributions this year; Natasha Middleton, Marlo Rodriguez and Mya Whitaker. District 2 Councilmember Abel Guillen will face a labor-enhanced challenge from Nikki Forunato Bas and Kenzie Smith, of BBQ Becky fame.
Three of the five members of the Alameda City Council are running for mayor, including incumbent Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer. Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Frank Mattarese, who is giving up his council seat in order to challenge Spencer, believe they can upset the popular, but highly controversial mayor. A smaller than expected council field for two at-large seats is headed by incumbent Councilmember Jim Oddie, who is likely to be a target of Alameda conservatives for his involvement in the city manager scandal that paralyzed city politics earlier this year. Former Alameda Councilmembers Tony Daysog and Stewart Chen are also vying for a return to the dais, along with former planning board member John Knox White, and attorney Robert Matz. At the school board level, Mia Bonta, the wife of Alameda Assemblymember Rob Bonta, is on the ballot for two seats, along incumbent Gary Lym, appointed school board member Anne McKereghan, and teacher Kevin Jordan.
Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter’s bid for a second term will include challenges from San Leandro Councilmember Benny Lee, whose well-financed campaign may pose trouble for Cutter;Dan Dillman, the owner of San Leandro’s Bal Theatre; and Jeromey Shafer, who is likely the most progressive candidate in the field. District 1 Councilmember Deborah Cox will face local CPA Kenneth Pon in a rematch of the 2014 race. This time around Eva Arce joins the ranked choice voting race. District 3 Councilmember Lee Thomas will seek re-election against San Leandro school board member Victor Aguilar, Jr., also a rematch from four years ago. And District 5 Councilmember Corina Lopez will face Maxine Oliver-Benson. All three open school board seats will not appear on the ballot this November. School board member Leo Sheridan does not have an opponent, while Area 2 candidate Christian Rodriguez will receive the open seat, as will 18-year-old James Aguilar in Area 6.
Like in San Leandro, Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday will seek re-election against a fellow councilmember. Mark Salinas will challenge Halliday this fall, in yet again, a rematch of their 2014 race. Two open at-large seats on the Hayward City Council feature incumbents Marvin Peixoto and Sara Lamnin. Five others hope to take their place, including, Aisha Wahab, whose campaign raised a whopping $42,000 in contributions over the first half of the year; urban planner Didacus Ramos; insurance man Joe Ramos; EMS technician Thomas Ferreira; and sourcing specialist Mekia Michelle Fields. Hayward school board meetings are never dull and the campaign for two seats will likely follow suit. School boardmembers Lisa Brunner and William McGee will face challenges form teachers Ken Rawdon and April Oquenda; Todd Davis, who ran for the school board in 2016; and Nicholas Harvey, the Fairview resident who is running for five separate offices this November.
The second-largest city in Alameda County is expanding its City Council to seven members, starting this November. Two newly created districts will be filled this fall. The two-year seat in District 1 features business owner Teresa Keng, civil engineer Jose Oropeza, and businesswoman Chandu Siramdas. The new four-year seat in District 4 may be Fremont’s most contentious. Polarizing Fremont school board president Yang Shao is in a six-person field that includes retired Fremont Police Chief Craig Steckler, business owner Debbie Watanuki, educator Robert Daulton, law clerk Justin Sha, and Joseph Valenti. In District 2, Councilmember Rick Jones will face accountant Marshall Overlander, and Cullen Tiernan, who ran for the council two years ago. Appointed District 3 Councilmember David Bonaccorsi will face Jennifer Kassan. If Kassan is elected, she would join her husband, current Councilmember Vinnie Bacon, on the City Council. The potential scenario being an offshoot of the city’s gradual expansion of the council.
♦A number of interesting storylines could develop at various elected boards around the East Bay. Alameda County Assessor candidates Phong La and James Johnson will resume their June primary race. La won the primary, but failed to reach the 50 percent plus one threshold to win the race outright.
♦AC Transit Ward 5 Director Jeff Davis is not seeking re-election to the Hayward, Tri Cities seat. Retired transit manager Diane Shaw and transit administrator Newal Singh are on the ballot.
♦Two former members of the Fremont City Council are itching to get back into the game. Anu Natarajan is facing civil engineer Liz Ames for the BART Board of Directors District 6 seat left open by the retiring Thomas Blalock. Meanwhile, Suzanne Lee Chan is seeking one of two seats on the Ohlone Community College Board of Trustee in the full-term Area 2 seat.
♦There appears to be inordinate interest in the three open seats this fall at the Eden Health District covering San Leandro, unincorporated Alameda County, and parts of Hayward. Five challengers hope to snag seats from incumbents Lester Friedman, Roxann Lewis, and Tom Lorentzen. They include former San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy, former San Leandro Councilmember Gordon Galvan, Teamster Felix Martinez, and Mariellen Faria.