Oakland’s Mayor Race Begins Today (for me)


You ever wonder what exactly marks the beginning of a political race?  Is it when Oakland’s candidates for mayor begin raising and asking for large amounts of cash? Is it when the filing deadline arrives (August)? Is it when local media starts to talk about dollar amounts raised and the editorializing and framing begins? Or is it when the candidates’ everyday talk begins to transform into stump-sounding speeches–when they start spinning their webs?

Not sure of the answer, but for me it starts today. Some undestandeably regret longer campaign seasons, but with the problems Oakland is facing and the opportunities at hand, we can better vet candidates and shape platforms with pointed questions.

With Rebecca Kaplan’s announcement yesterday of her forming an exploratory committee to run, it struck me how fascinating the next half year will be. First off, just take in the number of candidates. Kaplan joins Jean Quan, Don Perata, Don MacLeay, Terence Candell, Greg Harland, and Maya Dillard Smith and whoever else declares before the summer filing deadline. Ron Dellums hasn’t declared whether or not he will run for re-election.

We’ve got everybody from long-time politicos like former state senator Don Perata with big name recognition and decades of office-holding and campaign experience to those like Kaplan, just over year into her Councilmember-at-Large post. We’ve got some diversity among the slate too: independents, a green party candidate, a green party turned democrat candidate, a councilmember, native Oaklanders, a retired entrepreneur, a lesbian, a school administrator.

Add to this Oakland’s first run-through with Instant Run-Off Voting (IRV). The final winner necessarily will have a majority of the votes.–no more taking into office with 40% of the vote with a sweeping “mandate.” The IRV allows more candidates and less-moneyed candidates to not only enter the race, but to have a decent chance at winning if the conditions are right. Some have been resisting this for obvious reasons. But IRV is here, it’s a good thing, so get used to it. In fact, it’s likely to inject extra energy into this election and turn out more people.

I’m not even going to pretend to know all the platforms yet, let alone take sides, but I certainly will be paying close attention. Because one thing is sure, Oakland is in need of serious leadership with a vision and a mission to deliver on promises and tackle gritty issues–like job creation, violence reduction (among both citizens and officials), housing, revenue generation, infrastructure repair, etc. We need someone who is not only interested but has innovative ideas on how to build an economically and ecologically resilient Oakland.

Rarely do I beg, but for the love of all things “hella”, my one great hope over the next 200 days is that the spot lights get razor sharp on the issues that Oakland is facing along with concrete solutions. So the following asks go to the citizens, the media, and candidates themselves.

Let’s not obsess over how much money the candidates have raised. It’s important, sure, but we’re going to hear enough of that at the state level in the race for governor. If you are know those numbers keep them to your self, because I’m more interested in the ideas.

Also, please let’s not focus on the personalities of the candidates nor on the sound bites and sexy slogans. So the final ask goes to the candidates. As they spin that silky web, we’re going to hear a lot about “creating jobs” and “revitalizing” economic development. We’re going to be treated to testaments of bold visions and being pragmatic and “getting the job done.”  I’m sure “crime reduction” will spill forth from not a few lips.

Great, now tell us how–specifically. What we want to know is not only your priorities, but the nuts and bolts of how you are going to achieve them. We will be spinning our own webs. After you explain that, if you have it in you, then add some lofty rhetoric and some passionate diatribes. Additionally, you will have a tendency to dismiss the other candidate as being too old, too young, too entrenched, too inexperienced, too disconnected, overly self-interested, or what ever dismissive adjective comes to mind.  They may or may not be those things, but how does your policy and management ideas differ? How are they stronger? How will you catch the goods that Oakland needs?

Once those silky campaign threads have cast their intricately designed web, we want to see what juicy insects have been caught.

Because if there aren’t any juicy bugs at the end of the day, Oaklanders are the ones who get caught.

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