Alameda County Democrats typically have a high bar when it comes to advocating for the removal of one of their own from office. While a number of Democratic incumbents for races this November in Alameda County failed to receive the party’s endorsement over the weekend, in only four occasions, did the party choose to back an upstart challenger.
Oakland City Council District 3 candidate Carroll Fife snagged the party’s valuable endorsement away from incumbent Oakland Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney on Saturday. In Berkeley, District 2 City Council candidate Terry Taplin received the party’s backing over Councilmember Cheryl Davila. In addition, San Leandro City Council District 2 candidate Bryan Azevedo received the party’s endorsement over Councilmember Ed Hernandez.
For Fife, a long-time community advocate on issues ranging from police accountability and affordable housing, the endorsement adds momentum to a campaign that many local political insiders believe is a potential upset in the making.
Alameda County labor groups have made the removal of McElhaney from office after two terms on the Oakland City Council one of their prime objectives this election season. Animosity toward McElhaney follows a generally belief that she has done little in recent years to support the labor movement. In a video released on Labor Day, Fife spoke lovingly of the labor movement and credited her father’s membership in the union as providing a stable environment for her to thrive.
Housing advocates in McElhaney’s West Oakland district also view her as being too friendly with landlords and developers. Fife told Alameda County Democrats on Saturday that Oakland residents are being asked to carry the city through its budget woes by pushing forward tax measures. “I believe solutions should come from business and wealthy corporation that are not paying their fair share of taxes,” Fife said.
McElhaney responded by attacking Fife inexperience in local government over the weekend. “It’s difficult to move the systems when you don’t know the systems,” she told local Democrats.
Perhaps recognizing her audience, likely the most progressive body in Alameda County, McElhaney advocated for Universal Basic Income, a guaranteed monthly stipend given by the government to residents.
In Berkeley, Taplin has amassed one of the most prolific endorsement lists in the East Bay, a major accomplishment for a candidate facing an incumbent Democrat. Davila called herself the “true progressive” in the ranked-choice race that also includes two other challengers. She urged local Democrats to support Black women leaders like herself.
But Davila has frustrated many Berkeley politicos and often sits on the outside of the city council’s mainstream. Her penchant for histrionics has also ruffled feathers over the past four years. Taplin referenced Davila’s actions when he pledged tangible legislation, if elected, rather than “grandstanding resolutions.”
San Leandro Councilmember Hernandez has faced growing skepticism over whether his somewhat moderate record on housing is an offshoot of his pragmatism or an indication that he favors landlords and developers.
The Alameda County Democrats’ also appeared uncertain about Hernandez, in addition, to his challenger, Bryan Azevedo. The Alameda County Democratic Central Committee executive board initially declined to place either candidate on its consent calendar earlier this month. Those who participated in the committee’s earlier interview, voiced concerns about Azevedo’s proclivity for answering questions with platitudes.
Azevedo, who lost to Hernandez in 2016, was later nominated for the endorsement last week, leading to his interview on Saturday before the entire committee. Hernandez was not considered for the endorsement. In receiving the party’s backing, Azevedo grasp of San Leandro political issues were not evident. In addition, at one point, he referred to Black Lives Matter as “Black Lifes Matters.”
ACTransit Board Director Greg Harper is the fourth Democrat who failed to gain the party’s endorsement. Party leaders, instead, backed Jean Walsh, an advocate for sustainable transportation, for the transit seat representing Oakland, Berkeley, Piedmont, and Emeryville.
In several other races, Alameda County Democrats did not endorse incumbents, but found no suitable replacement, and the party offered voters no recommendation for November.
They include Fremont Mayor Lily Mei; Hayward Councilmembers Francisco Zermeno and Mark Salinas; Union City Councilmember Gary Singh; Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker; AC Transit Board Director Joe Wallace; and BART Board Director John McPartland.