Alameda County Supervisor District 1
This race has already been the East Bay’s most punishing for months. The Alameda County race for District 1 supervisor pits candidates from both halves of the roughly equal east county and Fremont district. Amazingly, it’s the first time the District 1 seat has been contested since retiring Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty first won the seat in 1996. Fremont Councilmember Vinnie Bacon won the March primary in a surprise to some. He’s using a tried-and-true slow-growth platform that has won him great support over the years among Fremonters worried about the influence of developers, overcrowded schools, and traffic congestion. Somehow Bacon is the progressive in this race, despite echoing NIMBY themes. Dublin Mayor David Haubert’s appearance in the November runoff is also a surprise. He’s overseen rapid growth in Dublin fueled by a formerly humming economy and market-rate housing developments. Bacon has labeled Haubert a reformed Republican. Haubert has reframed his opponent’s “clean-money” pledge as a ploy to cover up Bacon’s attempt to buy the election with family wealth. These two don’t like each other.
Oakland City Council District 3
If there’s a major upset on Election Night, the West Oakland District 3 seat is where it will likely occur. Oakland Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney has earned the ire of labor in Alameda County for several years now, in addition, to frustrating housing activists in Oakland. In Carroll Fife, McElhaney has a nightmare challenger who draws strength from labor and affordable housing movements, not to mention community activists, which could be important in this ranked-choice voting contest. This race could get ugly over the next month. East Bay insiders have been lodging a whisper campaign for some time deriding McElhaney as a former registered Republican. That’s the kiss of death in Oakland, but somewhat tempered by the fact McElhaney has been endorsed by local Democrats in the past, but notably, not this year. If Fife is successful, it would be a second consecutive election that a candidate from the city’s potent activist community has upset a sitting councilmember, following Nikki Fortunato Bas’ defeat of Abel Guillen in 2018.
Hayward City Council at-large
Hayward’s rapid move to the left over the past two years will be tested this November. Seats for a majority of the seven-member city council is up-for-grabs. Councilmembers Elisa Marquez, Mark Salinas, and Francisco Zermeno are part of a 13-candidate field that includes three young progressive upstart campaigns. One new councilmember is guaranteed after Councilmember Al Mendall announced last February that he would not running re-election. The progressive tandem of Lacei Amodei and Elisha Crader, along with Nestor Castillo, are among the candidates with the best chances of gaining a seat, including Planning Commissioner Angela Andrews. The winds of change appear to be blowing strong in Hayward led by progressive Councilmember Aisha Wahab. But the movement on the streets in Hayward has yet to translate into seats on the city council.
AC Transit Board Ward 1
AC Transit could also be in the midst of a sea-change this November. Three long-time incumbents are up for re-election at a transit agency that typically avoids the political limelight shined often on the BART Board of Directors. The race in the Richmond area Ward 1 is the headliner as Board Director Joe Wallace faces a well-known and well-funded challenger in former Richmond Councilmember Jovanka Beckles. She also hold significant name-recognition in the area after her unsuccessful campaign in November 2018 for the state assembly. It’s difficult to find a candidate in this fall’s local elections that is more progressive than Beckles. Her plan for free bus service is one of the most interesting and radical ideas this election season.
Berkeley City Council District 2
Berkeley Councilmember Cheryl Davila upset of long-time Councilmember Darryl Moore caught some by surprise four years ago. But a perception among her colleagues that Davila does little to promote cohesiveness on the Berkeley City Council has attracted a push to unseat her in 2020. Berkeley Transportation Commissioner Terry Taplin’s resume and his sterling list of big-name local supporters puts Davila’s re-election on shaky ground. Like Oakland and San Leandro, Berkeley using ranked-choice voting and this race could be decided by it.
Oakland City Council District 7
Whether or not long-time Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid would finally retire has been a parlor game in the city’s politics for most of the past decade. Larry Reid finally made the move official this year. His indecision over the years had forced his daughter, Treva Reid, to patiently wait in the wings since at least 2014. Her time has finally arrived in a five-candidate race that appeared for most of the summer to be much larger. At candidate forums, Treva Reid appears much more progressive than her father, who often labeled his district “the killing fields.” She appears well-funded and confident about her chances. Perhaps, too confident. Family dynasties in East Bay politics are not common, neither are religious leaders running for office. Bishop Bob Jackson of Oakland’s Acts Full Gospel Church is a main challenger. Keep an eye on Marchon Tatmon, who held his in own in the 2018 Oakland mayor’s race and is offering an interesting proposal this fall to transform the Hegenberger Road area between the Coliseum and Oakland Airport into an entertainment and tourist zone.
San Leandro City Council District 2
Four years ago, Ed Hernandez versus Bryan Azevedo in San Leandro’s District 2 was one of the East Bay’s most intriguing matchups. Hernandez won the open seat as Azevedo struggled to piece together a coherent platform. They return for a rematch this November in which dislike between the two candidates and their supporters has only increased. While Azevedo has expanded his social media presence in recent years to the point some San Leandrans might believe he’s the incumbent and not Hernandez. But Azevedo has done little to shore up his lack of policy experience. Nevertheless, Hernandez, like Davila and McElhaney, has attracted distrust in high places. Hernandez wasn’t even considered for the Alameda County Democratic Party’s endorsement. In addition, individuals who stoked anti-developer sentiment in 2018 to unseat incumbent Councilmember Lee Thomas are focusing their energy on taking out Hernandez in 2020 with a similar strategy.
Alameda City Council
Alameda Councilmembers Jim Oddie and Malia Vella would not seem to be endangered incumbents, but the at-large council race for their seats will rekindle the tumult at City Hall starting in 2017 that followed accusations of political interference by each against the Jill Keimach, the city’s former city manager. Recall that Oddie actually lost his bid for re-election in 2018. But Alameda’s City Charter allows the runner up in its at-large elections to win a seat when a sitting member advances to higher office in the middle of their term. That happened in 2018 when Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft became mayor. Technically, Oddie is serving out the remaining two years of Ashcraft’s council term. This does not bode well for Oddie this year. There appeared to be little anger towards him in 2018 and he still lost, and it doesn’t appear readily visible this time around, either. However, Oddie and Vella remain favorites for another four years, in part, because the three challengers in the race, including former Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer, may split “Old Alameda” voters who generally detest local government and pine for the idyllic Alameda of the past. Spencer, Amos White, and Gig Codiga, however, do not support Measure Z, the charter amendment to remove language that hindered new housing in the city since the early 1970s. Measure Z appears to be a winner, so candidates opposing it probably won’t benefit by being labeled anti-growth, along with the stigma that the former Measure A, approved by Alameda voters in 1973, is racist.
Fremont Mayor Lily Mei’s re-election doesn’t appear in doubt, but this race could be a proxy for the 2022 primary in the 10th State Senate District, at this point, the most anticipated future campaign in the entire East Bay. As mayor of the second-largest city, Mei has raised the stature of Fremont on the countywide level, where she has advocated for solutions to the homelessness problem. But her recent registration from No Party Preference to Democratic still has some skeptical about her political ideology. The elevation by some local Democrats of Justin Sha, who ran for the Fremont City Council in 2018 and has a growing list of fibs on his resume during this election, suggests jockeying for the state Senate seat being vacated by termed out Sen. Bob Wieckowski has already begun. Mei could be a strong candidate for the seat, in addition, to Hayward Councilmember Aisha Wahab, along with potential councilmembers in Hayward, Fremont, and Milpitas, pending state redistricting of the seat’s borders, which currently stretches to North San Jose.
Big changes at City Halls in Dublin, Pleasanton, and Livermore are assured this November. All three Tri-Valley cities are guaranteed to elect new mayors this fall. Dublin Councilmember Melissa Hernandez, fresh off an unsuccessful campaing for Alameda County supervisor last March, faces fellow Councilmember Arun Goel, who ran for Dublin mayor two years ago against Mayor David Haubert. In Pleasanton, Alameda County’s last bastion of conservative municipal government, two sitting councilmembers, Karla Brown and Jerry Pentin, are seeking the top job in a five-candidate race. Livermore Councilmember Bob Woerner also wants a promotion to the mayor’s office this fall. He faces retired police officer Mony Nop.