In this Oakland News, we take a look at the meaning of a small set of recent endorsements in the Oakland City Council District Three Race. It’s logical to think that these gestures of support are largely a sign of love for the candidate. It’s not. It’s actually a signal that the backer hates someone else who’s running. Remember, this is Oakland, where the crab-barrel mentality flourishes. Someone’s not happy unless they’re taking down someone else. Classy? No. Fact? Yes.
First, some may think that incumbent Oakland City Council Member Nancy Nadel’s backing of the relatively newish Oakland politicos Nyeisha Dewitt and Alex Miller Cole is something of a coup for both of them. Really, it’s not. It’s Nancy’s way of trying to make sure the current front-runner in the race, Sean Sullivan, doesn’t win. Sean ran against Nancy in a bitterly contested 2008 battle that Nancy won, gaining 51 percent of the vote, versus Sean’s 27 percent of the vote.
And yes, this blogger did back Nadel at the time because she reached out and communicated what she would do for District Three, whereas Sean did not at the time. Fast forward to 2012, and we have a new Mr. Sullivan who understands what it means to actually sell his case for the job. That’s why he’s doing so well.
But the fact is Nancy and Sean can’t stand each other. Sean has taken Nancy to task for everything from her city council style, to who donated to her campaign. And that was in 2008 – it hasn’t gotten better.
But considering that Nancy Nadel helped oust Margaret Gordon from her seat at the Port Of Oakland Board Of Commissioners (and blaming Margaret for the Oakland Army Base Project’s issues with the California Transportation Commission and the $242 million grant that was in limbo for a time), it’s surprising that Ms. Gordon would want to be on the same side of anything with her, including an endorsement of Alex Miller-Cole. That can only happen if Gordon doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Sean, and if Miller-Cole, along with another Oakland City Council District Three Candidate Gordon endorsed, Derrick Muhammad, is more active in the areas of concern for Gordon: specifically West Oakland environmental issues – they are.
So, while Sean’s the leading money raiser, he comes with something of an enemies list. Given the range and spread of endorsements for Dewitt, Miller Cole, Muhammad, and Sullivan, it’s hard to call this race as in the bag for Sean. Still, if the level of applause given for Sean’s presentation at the Z Cafe Oakland City Council District Three Debate is any indication, he’s still the favorite as of this writing.
What muddles the deal is Ranked Choice voting, where one can vote for their first, second, and third choice. If two of the candidates team up, any two, it will alter the race in such a way as to render it unpredictable. Look at what happened with the Oakland Mayor’s Race. Then-councilmember, now Mayor Jean Quan liked Oakland At-Large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan enough to team up with her, and vice versa, such that Quan’s second-place votes pusher her ahead of the first-place vote winner Don Perata. Quan is now Mayor Quan for that reason.
The question here is do any of the District Three Candidates like each other enough to team up in that way. So far the answer would seem to be “no.”
Welcome to Oakland.