Under Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf the city is currently in the midst of a large building boom, primarily downtown. The appearance of construction cranes in downtown Oakland is a sign of revival for Schaaf’s supporters. To her opponents, a sign of further displacement of Oakland residents.
Despite relative popularity among most Oakland residents, according to various public opinion polls, Schaaf will face nine re-election challengers this November, led by civil rights attorney Pamela Price, and community organizer Cat Brooks. Price, only two months from a long and spirited campaign for Alameda County District Attorney, is making a quick return to local politics. Her campaign is buoyed by a strong electoral performance in Oakland during the DA race, when she captured a majority of the votes in the city over incumbent DA Nancy O'Malley. Earlier indications are she intends to tap into a similar theme from her DA race: including police corruption and various social equity issues.
Brooks, a co-founder of the Anti-Terror Police Project, maintains a similar platform and has been a critic of Schaaf for many years. Schaaf is also likely to see many familiar faces at candidate forums and endorsement meetings over the course of the next few months. That's because, including Schaaf, 5 of the 10 candidates also ran in the 2014 Oakland mayoral election. They include community organizer Ken Houston, Nancy Sidebotham, Peter Liu, and Saied Karamooz, who is self-financing his campaign this time around. According to mid-year finance reports, Karamooz contributed $181,000 to his own campaign. Outside of Schaaf's $315,000 cash reserves, Karamooz holds the second largest campaign war chest in the race, through June 30. Tatmon Marchon, Jesse “A.J.” Smith, and Cedric Anthony Troupe are also seeking to unseat Schaaf.
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 2
Oakland Councilmember Abel Guillen's re-election campaign will face two challengers this fall. The former Peralta Community College trustee, who won the open seat four years ago with support of labor unions, is not likely to receive the same benefit this fall.
Enter Nikki Fortunato Bas, currently the executive director of the Partnership for Working Families, and before that, the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE). A number of local labor unions, including the California Nurses Association and SEIU Local 1021, support her campaign. The pair of racial and economically-charged incidents recently in the district's Lake Merritt area is campaign fodder for Fortunato Bas, according to her website, but the third candidate in his race, Kenzie Smith, is one of the people who helped raise the profile of the incident known as #BBQBecky that reached nationwide-scale attention for brazen racism against a group enjoying a barbecue at Lake Merritt. Following the incident Guillen nominated Smith to the Oakland Park and Recreation Advisory Committee. He apparently now wants Guillen's job.
When Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington announced last spring that she would not seek re-election after just one term in office, it created a vacuum for a large number of interested candidates hoping to replace her.
Chris Young, a veteran of President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, appeared to be an early frontrunner. He received the endorsement of Schaaf and Campbell Washington and reported an impressive $113,000 in early fundraising. But after Young suspended his campaign last month citing considerations for his family, the field became even more wide-open.
Seven candidates will vie to replace Campbell Washington this fall. Charlie Michelson, the CEO of Oakland’s West Coast Ship Supply, quickly received Schaaf’s endorsement. Not unlike Schaaf, his early focus is on burnishing his Oakland roots. A trio of candidates hope to use ranked-choice voting to their advantage. The voting system in which Oaklanders rank their top-three choices is likely to come in play in this race.
Sheng Thao, who serves as Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s chief of staff; Nayeli Maxson, the executive director of the Alliance for Community Development; and Pamela Harris, a local Democratic Party activists, are running as a slate this fall. Joseph Tanios, an Oakland civil servant for 18 years, is also in the race, along with Joseph Simmons, and Francis Hummel, a member of the Oakland Cannabis Regulatory Commission, who ran for the Oakland at-large seat in 2014.
Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks' infamous fracas with former Black Panther icon Elaine Brown at a downtown Oakland restaurant resulted in the city paying Brown $2.2 million for damages related to the incident. Brooks is also on the hook for damages. Undoubtedly, the four candidates hoping to unseat Brooks will use the incident and the settlement as campaign cudgel this fall, although most are focusing on quality of life issues thus far.
Loren Taylor, a third-generation Oaklander, according to his website, has immersed himself in the city, serving on various local groups that focus on the homeless, and mental health, among other issues. Taylor is endorsed by Schaaf. Campaigns cost money and campaign to unseat incumbents are even costlier. Taylor raised $119,000 during the first six months of the year, according to finance reports, one of the largest hauls in all Oakland races this year. Brooks, who has served on the Oakland City Council since 2002, raised just $34,000.
Natasha Middleton, a former aide for Schaaf, appears more focused on public safety solutions for the district, while referencing the often irascible Brooks. "Oakland needs leaders who will fight our most serious problems, not fight amongst themselves," said Middleton. Registered Nurse Marlo Rodriguez and Mya Whitaker, a member of the Oakland Police Citizens Oversight Commission, round out the District 6 field.
By Steven Taveres
Steven Tavares is the founder of East Bay Citizen and a reporter chronicling politics in the East Bay.