San Leandro: Incumbents up for re-election help vote down restrictions for becoming vice-mayor

Last fall, San Leandro Councilmember Deborah Cox sailed to re-election. The result was expected in a race that again displayed the power of the incumbency. But some believed Cox had another notable advantage during last year’s election cycle after being named vice-mayor.

The position is ceremonial and holds no power other than replacing the mayor when she’s unavailable for council meetings and public events. But during an election year, the title is likely to appear important to voters, thereby boosting the perceived gravitas of the candidate.

Last week, Councilmember Benny Lee, who is termed out of office in 2020, asked the council to seek reforms to the process of how they select a vice-mayor in the future. He suggested excluding councilmembers who are up for re-election from being selected.

“It created an unfair advantage because of the title,” Lee said, in reference to Cox’s victory in November 2018. “I don’t think it makes sense for us to give them an advantage.”

Lee’s request for the council’s Rules Committee to examine the issue, however, was denied, led by the the two councilmembers up for re-election in November 2020.

District 1 Councilmember Ed Hernandez, who is facing a rematch against Bryan Azevedo next year, voted no, as did District 6 Councilmember Pete Ballew.

Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter and Cox also voted no.

San Leandro’s council rule book is not totally silent on who can become vice-mayor in election years. A councilmember running for mayor is barred from being named vice-mayor.

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