Oakland City Council District Three: RCV Reveals Race Split In Voting

Zennie Abraham / Zennie62
Zennie Abraham / Zennie62

Let’s take a hard look at what happened in the voting distribution tallies for the Oakland City Council District Three City Council Race.   We have to start with the first choice votes, listed below.

Rank Choice Voting – First Choice Votes:

est # of Votes % of Total
NP – Sean Sullivan 3664 26.03
NP – Lynette Gibson-McElhaney 3368 23.93
NP – Nyeisha Dewitt 2448 17.39
NP – Derrick Muhammad 2005 14.24
NP – Alex Miller-Cole 1353 9.61
NP – Larry Lionel Young, Jr. 1215 8.63
Write-in 24 0.17

Lynette Beats Money In Election Race

Here we see the seed of Lynette Gibson-McElhaney’s win.  Contrary to fundraising totals that had Sean Sullivan and Alex Miller-Cole ahead of the other candidates, Gibson-McElhaney was the second place first choice voter getter, and she wan’t far behind Sean Sullivan at all.  In fact, she was just three-points behind him.

There are several reasons for this.  First, and I continue to assert this point, the vast majority of the electorate in District Three had not known of the candidates or paid any attention to what was going on.  The reasons for this are that much of what was happening wasn’t televised and there wasn’t a concerted online effort to counter that fact.  What few bloggers who paid attention in Oakland were not of the taste for teaming up, and videos from debates were few and far between.  And the local races don’t make enough money for a TV network to find a person to go and cover them before the election.  That’s the sad truth.

Thus, if campaign money wasn’t spent for media to some degree, it was dumped in the garbage – that was the case for all candidates.  Sean was able to gain his votes via social media, relationships and word of mouth, walking precincts, and lawn signs.

But even with all of that, there was also a kind of “Anti-Sean” vote, and that whisper campaign, one that was reflected in comments made to me by Ken Pratt and Steve Lowe in identifying the existence of such a problem for Sean (but not the substance of it), the fact that one Oakland City Councilmember I will not name started talking up Lynette as an alternative to Sean, and just the simple fact that much of how people respond to you is based on what others say and how you present yourself.   Then there was Lynette’s getting out there and in the face of voters – literally pulling them aside in cafes and on the street – made the difference.   She took over Lakeview Cafe during the Summer, in an impressive display of selling ones self.

All of that got her to within 3 percent of the front runner – Sullivan.

Then came the distribution.

It took six rounds of RCV voting distributions before a winner could be declared.  Sean was ahead for most of the rounds; that there would be another winner would not be evident until the fifth round.  Basically, Lynette can thank Derrick Muhammed for her win, as his vote distribution of 572 to her, pushed her to a 4,429 to 4,581  voting difference with Sean in the lead.

Nyeisha DeWitt Made The Difference In A Racial Split

To round out the voting distribution, it appears from the RCV numbers that Nyeisha’s fans selected Lynette rather than Sean and after Derek’s votes were added, that pushed Lynette to the lead, and to the win.   As Lynette, Nyeisha, and Derek are all African American, it seems that a good portion of Nyeisha’s and Derek’s voting support was black, and those voters went for the other black candidates, rather than Sean.

What About Larry Lionel Young?

In this, I have to explain why Larry Lionel Young didn’t make a better showing, because he’s African American.  The answer’s simple, yet controversial.  Larry just plain did not try and when he did, it was within the context of running his real estate business and not actually running a campaign.   Thus, Larry had so little support, even with his name recognition because of his business activities, that he did not place himself in a way to pick off any votes from anyone, let alone the other black candidates.   He was less likely to be anyone’s second or third choice.  It’s not enough to have your face on “for sale” home signs – a key part of his strategy – you have to walk the area, hand out fliers, make videos, get on Twitter, get on TV, and run!

Larry Lionel Young didn’t do that.

How Sean Could Have Won

What Sean Sullivan could have done to upset the dynamic I pointed to was make a deal to have his supporters back one of the African American candidates, so long as that person had their supporters select him. Why Sean didn’t team up with any of the other candidates, particularly Lynette, is a mystery. But also Lynette didn’t team with Sean, but given the numerical spread, I think she may have been the better for not having done so. Still, Sean’s selling point could have been “I can bring you the established vote” – it may have worked.

Lynette Set The Standard

Lynette set the standard for how to win: go out and talk to everyone and sell yourself. For that, she wins and it’s well deserved.

Stay tuned.

About the Author

Zennie Abraham
Zennie Abraham | Zennie Abraham or "Zennie62" is the founder of Zennie62Media which consists of zennie62blog.com and a multimedia blog news aggregator and video network, and 78-blog network, with social media and content development services and consulting. Zennie is a pioneer video blogger, YouTube Partner, social media practitioner, game developer, and pundit. Note: news aggregator content does not reflect the personal views of Mr. Abraham.

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