About six weeks ago, Oakland Councilmember Abel Guillen’s re-election chances appeared shockingly grim after a concerted effort by some labor groups to block his bid for the critical Alameda County Democratic Party endorsement. But in recent days, Guillen’s supporters cobbled together a coalition that was able to edge out his upstart challenger Nikki Fortunato Bas for the party’s endorsement Saturday.
The vote highlighted a rare split between big labor and the local Democratic establishment. Last month, SEIU Local 1021, in a letter to central committee members, ripped Guillen’s record a councilmember and his intransigence when it came to last winter’s labor negotiations between the city and the union. Additional groups, in lockstep with SEIU Local 1021, also contacted committee members and urged them to back Bas for the District 2 seat.
But within the last two weeks, unions such as the Alameda County Building and Trades and the Oakland firefighters issued their own strongly worded support for Guillen. A significant amount of horse-trading among central committee members was already evident within the past 48 hours either whipping up votes for Guillen or urging them to skip voting on the race altogether, according to those familiar with the dealings.
“We prevailed against some pretty powerful forces. Grateful for the support of my friends and allies in the Alameda County Democratic Party!” Guillen said Saturday night.
There was also some apprehension by some central committee members who questioned the prudence of maligning an incumbent councilmember by withholding their endorsement, according to three people who witnessed the local party’s closed-door deliberations.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also fared well Saturday winning the party’s endorsement for re-election this fall. The central committee’s steering committee last month did not find a consensus for placing the mayor’s race on its consent calendar. Instead, Schaaf and civil rights attorney Pamela Price were nominated for the endorsement.
In an often testy 20-minute forum Saturday afternoon, Schaaf defended her record as mayor, while Price lashed out at her handling of the Oakland Police Department and the city’s growing homeless problem. Price said sites that contain the mayor’s Tuff Shed program for temporarily housing some homeless look like a “concentration camp.” Price urged for the party’s endorsement or for “no endorsement.” Instead, the central committee, of which some of its leaders have fought bitterly with Price in recent months over transparency issues, gave its support to Schaaf. Price received just six votes.
In two other Oakland City Council races up for grabs Saturday, the central committee voted for “no endorsement” in the open District 4 seat, including Sheng Thao, Nayeli Maxson, Charlie Michelson, and Pamela Harris. Thao, though, fell just four vote short of the endorsement. A similar result followed in Councilmember Desley Brooks’ District 6 contest. Brooks did not attend the endorsement meeting at the Teamsters Hall in Oakland, and sent a surrogate to speak on her behalf.
Below is the complete list of endorsement from Saturday’s meeting:
ALAMEDA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
Mia Bonta (consent)
ALBANY CITY COUNCIL
Charles Blanchard (consent)
BERKELEY CITY COUNCIL
BERKELEY Measure Q
FREMONT CITY COUNCIL
HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL
Aisha Wahab (consent)
Todd Davis (consent)
LIVERMORE Measure U
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL
SAN LEANDRO MAYOR
Pauline Russo Cutter
SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL
CHABOT-LAS POSITAS TRUSTEE
Suzanne Chan (consent)
PERALTA COLLEGE TRUSTEE