Alameda’s Trish Herrera Spencer was the self-proclaimed “people’s mayor,” but voters dismissed her from office two years ago after just one term. Perhaps, this fall Spencer is hoping to rebrand herself as the “people’s councilmember”?
Spencer pulled papers earlier this month to run for one of two at-large seats this November on the Alameda City Council. The announcement is not much of surprise. Spencer has openly discussed a return to office for almost a year.
In November 2018, Spencer lost her re-election bid to Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft. Spencer fell short by five percentage points, winning more than 37 percent of the vote in a three-person race.
A former mayor seeking a return to City Hall as a councilmember is a rather unusual move in East Bay politics. But despite her mayoral defeat, Spencer still maintains a loyal following on the island. However, Spencer’s strength as a retail campaigner known for hugs and kisses on the cheek, will be tested in the era of covid-19.
The growing field of candidates, several little-known in Alameda politics, hoping to unseat Councilmembers Jim Oddie and Malia Vella this fall could also favor Spencer.
With the deadline for candidates to enter the race looming on Aug. 7, the field currently includes Oddie, Vella, Spencer, along with newcomers Amos White and Alex Cadenas.
During Spencer’s time as an Alameda school boardmember and mayor, she burnished a maverick, almost chaotic style of governance that delighted Alameda moderates and conservatives during a time when progressives gained a council majority. Spencer, however, was often left on the losing end of a number of 4-1 council votes during her tenure as mayor.
Last month, Spencer hinted at one potential campaign talking point for the fall: Her long-standing criticism of the Alameda Police Department in the wake of the arrest last May of Alameda resident Mali Watkins for, ostensibly, dancing in the street while being black.
Her animus against the police department is partly personal. Spencer and Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri often clashed during her time as mayor. A major spark of that dislike came after an Alameda police officer arrested Spencer’s husband for driving under the influence of alcohol in March 2016. The Spencers later filed a claim against the city, and police department in September of that year.
On social media, Spencer has also voiced criticism about the lack of public data available about potential covid-19 outspots in Alameda. The city, though, has one of the lowest rates of cases in Alameda County.