Oakland News: Libby Schaaf’s Oakland’s Mayor-Elect; Campbell-Washington Earns D4
Oakland will have a new mayor, and it’s the first white woman ever elected to lead Oakland: Libby Schaaf. Meanwhile, Annie Campbell-Washington scores a massive landslide upset of the projected front-runner Jill Broadhurst in the Oakland City Council District Four Race to replace Schaff, who’s the new Mayor-Elect.
I’ll focus on Annie and Jill in the follow-up to this, but for now, I’ve got a lot to share about the Oakland Mayor’s Race.
The now-former Oakland District Four Councilmember swept aside her campaign foes with a dramatic 62 percent first pass Rank Choice Voting (RCV) result. And while Alameda County Registrar Tim Dupuis will wait until all ballots are counted to make it official, there’s no mathmatic way anyone can catch Libby. But, right now, it’s not official until Tim Dupuis, the Alameda County Registrar, says it is:
Libby Schaaf, Made-In-Oakland, is Oakland’s next Mayor.
As I predicted when I first raised the spectre of her possible run for Mayor of Oakland on April Fool’s Day, 2010, Libby rode the wave of a combination of support from long-time friends, Skyline High School grads (as Libby went to Skyline and graduated in 1983) Oakland District Four constituents, women, and some young, but mostly middle-aged and older Oakland voters to the top. And most notably from an RCV perspective, Schaaf drew voters from every other candidate, without fail. Even Bryan Parker, who I tried to pair with Libby myself in a blog and video post that riled both campaigns, wound up giving most of his votes to her in the final analysis of the RCV data.
Libby’s victory also followed the standard rule that the campaigner with the most money, wins. Last year, Mr. Parker was the one with the most money and momentum, but Libby managed to turn that around by July of this year of 2014, and then her campaign staff made a number of very good spending decisions, most notably in the area of television commercial ad buys. By Sunday of this week, her TV commercials were seemingly everywhere, and on many major cable stations. By contrast, of the candidates, I only saw Rebecca Kaplan’s as much, and it’s no wonder that she’s come in second place: television matters.
So does GOTV: Getting Out The Vote. Libby’s staff, led by Peggy Moore, was able to mobilize many of her over 1,300 donors into a force that walked the whole of Oakland to back her. And when they weren’t doing that, they were coming to the campaign headquarters to phone-bank. I know this, because I phone-banked for two candidates: Parker and Schaaf, and what I noticed when I left Libby’s HQ on Monday was a sudden small surge of people, 80 percent women and all black, who walked in, ready to work. That scene alone ran counter to the idea that Libby’s base didn’t include African Americans, and also smashed the obvious little smear attempts against her. Anyone who knows Libby is completely aware that she draws a good, racially mixed crowd – always has.
What Kind Of Mayor Will Libby Schaaf Be?
I’m still processing this, but one thing is certain: Libby Schaaf will be a tough mayor of Oakland who will work to defend it from the kind of slights that have plagued it in the past. Ok, let me cut to the chase: expect Mayor Schaaf to send a legal message to the owners of the Golden State Warriors that they can’t just walk out of Oakland and over to San Francisco without paying the $60 million in rent owed to the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority. I know this because Libby said as much at my Oakland Sports Forum – and she said it in a way that can only be described as pugilistic. It’s that fighter side of Libby that will surprise many people, but not me.
Before I turn to the Oakland Mayor’s Race as a whole, I’ll also say that Schaaf has a mandate that Jean Quan lacked. In 2010, Quan was the surprise winner; when the first place votes were tallied, Don Perata had a large lead, but RCV vote transfer data worked to reveal the success of a campaign where Quan got many to make her their second and third choice, and while she did that with Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, it was Quan who worked the message far more than Rebecca did. Jean won in the one way that was seemingly impossible – but that came with a price: a huge number of people who were able to say they didn’t vote for her, and did vote for Don Perata. By contrast, Libby started out the vote tally Tuesday night as the front-runner and never looked back. Thus, there’s no large built-in constituency against her.
Sizing Up The Oakland Mayor’s Race On First Pass: Bryan Parker Wins In A Way
The Oakland Mayor’s Race 2014 had the largest field of candidates in Oakland’s history. I thought the nine people who ran against then-Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris in 1994 was huge, but this year puts that to shame. And there was a vast difference: then, the nine mostly ran because they didn’t like Elihu, pointing to some imagined slight from him; by contrast, the 15 ran, for the most part, because they believed they could beat Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. None had anything against Jean on a personal level, but politically, as Libby said at her campaign place Tuesday night, the polls indicated that she was vulnerable, and she was.
Mayor Quan had a growing list of errors that added up to the words “She’s beatable.” If it wasn’t the Occupy Oakland Encampment and the riot that took place in 2011, it was the giant number of examples of how she said the wrong thing to someone in a meeting, the revolving door of City Administrators (Lindheim, Ewell, Santana, Blackwell, Gardner, and basically adding up to less than a one-year job tenure over her four years), gaffes like the 100-blocks program messaging, and the over-politicization of Oakland’s sports team problems. Who can forget Quan famously claiming that the Prince of Dubai was to invest in Coliseum City, only to come away with egg on her face when it was revealed that wasn’t the case? Jean was so eager to rush Coliseum City that the effort backfired on more than one occasion.
Quan’s political murderers row of problems became blood in the water attracting sharks, and the one with the biggest bite, at first, was Bryan Parker. Parker got out of the gate, raised $24,000 in one day, and shocked Oakland. For a good, long time in 2013, Bryan had the look of the next person to run Oakland. Forgetting where the campaign went wrong for a moment, consider this: of the top six candidates, Schaaf, Kaplan, Quan, Tuman, Siegel, and Parker, only Bryan had no previous name recognition. He took an idea that started in his living room to a point where for a time it looked like he was going to pull off an incredible win.
And at the time I met Bryan in March of 2013, Libby told me she wasn’t going to run for Mayor – and as the guy who has known her for 23 years, is very close to her parents, told her she should run for mayor back in 2009, then wrote a blog post that was an April Fool’s Joke many believed to be real, reporting that she was going to run in 2010, I called her to ask after I was introduced to Bryan by Oakland developer and friend Phil Tagami.
That meeting was at Cesar on Piedmont Avenue on a Sunday, and it was Phil, Bryan, former Oakland City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente, and myself. We talked for a good three hours, and then Bryan and I met again later in the month at Paragon in the Claremont Hotel. That was where our friendship was cemented. So, with Libby saying she was out, I felt safe in backing Bryan – then the wheels got out from under Mayor Quan, the polls turned against her, and the blood was in the water. There went Libby, six months later, announcing she was going to run.
To close that part of this recap, some of you may be taken aback that I freely talk about who I’m backing. But look, I am a news publisher. That’s what news publishers do. I’m often compared to reporters on the field, but I’m not that, and I’m not a journalist. I’m a blogger and vlogger. I’m openly partisan, but when I interview candidates, I don’t bring my bias against that person’s campaign to bear on my video talk with them. It’s a cornerstone of my media operation, and such that you can’t find one example video of me trying to make Mayor Quan look bad in an interview I did with her. That’s not the way I roll.
But the way I roll is to talk to everyone, and that’s something a number of media people don’t do. It’s become a huge campaign issue amoung the group of Oakland Mayor’s Race Candidates called ‘The Bottom Eight”, or Shake Anderson, Ken Houston, Nancy Sidebotham, Saied Kamarooz, Eric Wilson, Peter Liu, Sam Washington, and Patrick McCullough. ‘The Bottom Eight” believed that the mainstream media, or in this case the Oakland Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and East Bay Express, should give them time equal to the “Top tier candidates.” The problem wasn’t the mainstream media, but how they ran, or did not run, their campaigns. I’ve said this to many of them before, but it bears repeating that as a group, they, themselves did not take their own campaigns seriously.
I told many of them (many have asked for advice and I’m not shy in giving it) that when they’re not asked to be part of a candidates forum, they should not only go to the forum, but make noise at it. I mean the kind of noise that draws media attention. None did that. See, what they all have in common is low name recognition and when you’re running for an office like the Mayor of Oakland, you have to do actions that get you to be the subject of a viral video. That didn’t happen, and even Peter Liu’s being made the butt of the joke and comic relief of the Oakland Mayor’s Race by Jimmy Kimmel on his show had zero effect on the campaign because it came late in the season, last week. The attention Liu got was from people outside Oakland, and who had no way of significantly impacting a race that was already on its way to being decided.
Let’s go down the line and do a quick-and-dirty-recap of how “The Bottom Eight” handled their efforts:
1. Shake Anderson: Didn’t focus on fundraisers, getting a headquarters venue, or forming a staff, which he could have done by working to draw volunteers from Green Party organizations. Had first press conference as the leader of “The Bottom Eight” last week – when it was too late to make an effective impact.
2. Ken Houston: Also did not fundraisers or getting a headquarters venue, and managed to give his small staff fits because he would not take their advice. Ken, and I say this lovingly, was too caught up in the idea that he was the only person running who was ‘from the streets’. The message he sent, consistently, was that he was fearful of success, and so failed to do those things that would bring him a win, or close to it. At the end of the day, no one really cares where you start from in a political race, but where you end up. Ken started late, did so because he was upset with how Kaplan came into ‘his neighborhood’ and announced her run for Mayor, spent a ton of time on matters related to the Oakland Garbage issue, and didn’t try to tie that into running for Mayor.
3. Nancy Sidebotham: Nancy openly said she did not expect to win, and wasn’t running to win, but to make a statement. While she did well, all things considered, Nancy did a lot of complaining about being left out of forums, but didn’t make any rabble-rousing noise to be in them until she was part of “The Bottom Eight” press conference – last week, when it was too late. Watching her was a study in seeing the growth of a person’s self-esteem.
4. Saied Kamarooz: A good man, Saied, at first, tried to run a political campaign totally devoid of money. Think about it: a political campaign without bucks, which is the mother’s milk of politics. That means, no fundraisers or getting a headquarters venue, and no staff or volunteers, because some do expect to be paid. It means no money for TV commercials or lawn signs. And since their was no alternative medium of exchange, he wound up with nothing. Then, at the last moment, Saied told me he injected $400,000 into his campaign, but guess what? He wasn’t going to spend a dime – so he was effectively still back to where he was when he started.
5. Eric Wilson: No one has seen Mr. Wilson out on the campaign trail or in forums, and so for a time I wondered if he was real. So did others in The Bottom Eight. Wilson finally surfaced in an Oakland Tribune article.
6. Peter Liu: Mr. Liu had a gun, ammo, a website, and a horrifying photo of himself brandishing said gun – but no fundraisers or getting a headquarters venue, and no staff or volunteers (I’m repeating that text to make a point). On top of that, he managed to use social media to try and piss off other candidates, hitting his mark with Bryan Parker, who should have avoided getting into the Facebook mud with him, and stayed above the fray. The self-proclaimed ‘smartest candidate’ was anything but that, because he could not get over the ego need to express himself and actually build a political organization. He didn’t win the election, but he did score a small place for himself in American Pop Culture, thanks to Kimmel. Let’s see what he does with it.
7. Sam Washington: Sam also ran (and I told him this) a passive campaign where he expected not to get calls from the media or be invited to forums. If Sam used the damn phone and, here we go again, held fundraisers and got a headquarters venue (which he could have done with the money he used to buy billboard space), he may have got to the levels Bryan Parker reached. But he didn’t do that. You can’t run for office expecting others to reach out to you just because you’re running for Mayor of Oakland – it’s a constant job of selling yourself to everyone from the dog catcher to the bus driver. In the end, Sam failed a signature check of his backers, tried a write-in campaign, and got no votes.
8. Patrick McCullough: Pat’s small measure of fame came from his 2005 encounter with gang members in front of his house, where he shot one of them (but didn’t kill the person) when the person would not leave his property. Pat is a great guy who’s plain-spoken way could, under the right circumstances, have gained him a lot of votes. But here we had the wrong situtation: Pat just plain didn’t spend time day-and-night politicking. Pat was more interested in telling me about a deck he was building at his house or something like that, than any advance on his campaign. I once asked him if he was still running and it was after he told me about the home improvements. In a perfect World, Pat could have used some part of his home as the campaign headquarters. What Pat wanted was help, but did not know that the way you get that is to hold house parties and then ask for help at those happenings. He needed a champion, but expected that person to just appear, rather than asking for one, as Bryan Parker and others in the top tier six did.
So, that rounds out The Bottom Eight and leaves us with six at the top, and one in the middle: Courtney Ruby. Courtney never could solve the riddle of her poor polling numbers, and that comes from the fact that her name was not out in public a lot at al, and over her time as Oakland Auditor, didn’t do a lot that put herself consistently in the public eye, and finally didn’t seem to have a real message that would get someone off the couch and out to help her. Ms. Ruby relied too much on the shrinking mainstream media, and did almost nothing with social media. Plus, when she did do something, and that was the ill-advised report that some regarded as racist against two of Oakland’s black elected officials, it gained her more negative press from the wrong place: The Oakland Post, which is one of the main media organs of Oakland’s black community.
All of that leaves us with Libby, but how did she prevail over the apparent polling front-runner Rebecca Kaplan? The fact is that Councilmember Kaplan is a popular figure in Oakland politics, but what she could not overcome was the overwhelming base of support of long-time friends that Libby was able, and did, draw from. Joe Tuman suffered from not hitting a message that was attracting people. He was great at house-parties, but perhaps too, well, professorial. Dan Siegel did a great job of hammering out a place for himself as the Liberal Lion of the race. But he had no TV exposure that I could see, his social media work was underwhelming at best, and he didn’t come with the appropriate jobs message that I expected. Dan needed a TV spot that used the 2011 Occupy Oakland experience as its base, because that was when he quit working for Jean Quan – done right, it would have been a hit, and would have propelled him higher in the vote tally.
Then, there’s Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who looked, for a time this year, like she might wind up getting reelected, but became the first incumbent Mayor in Oakland’s post civil rights era history to lose reelection (remember that Dellums didn’t run for reelection). Jean simply tried so hard she wound up tripping over herself. But given her negatives, Mayor Quan managed to put up a really good fight. And where were her TV commercials? Again, television played a massive role in this race – don’t discount it.
In closing, my hats off to Bryan Parker for running a campaign that started to get legs in the end. He had successfully overcome the little media about his domestic issue (and I say “little” because it never hit television and there were no attack mailers on it), and build an effort that started to look formidable.
Some (most notably Oakland businessman Carl Hackney) got on me for sticking with Bryan during his problems, but (and as I told Carl), I’m not spineless, and I can’t stand people who are. If you make a promise in politics, you don’t break it and for two reasons: one, it’s wrong, and two it will come back to haunt you. It’s the test of a good supporter. Its called loyalty.
Some also blasted Bryan’s Bitcoin promotion efforts, but I thought the approach was a good one that should have been expanded into an effort to help Oakland’s poor. After all, Bitcoins were created by programmers who were short on cash – why not help the poor with them?
When I had the dilemma placed before me regarding he and Libby in 2013, I told him about it and what I was going to do: hence, he number one, Libby number two, and Tuman number three. Bryan understood. Libby is like family to me, but I wasn’t going to turn my back on Bryan because she entered the race later, after saying at first she was not going to do so.
I watched Bryan grow from a corporate exec type to a real, concerned, representative of every-person in Oakland and not just us Buppies. Bryan took time to fix many of his political problems and as my good friend Mario Juarez observed, just needed more time. But even with that time, I’m not sure he could overcome the huge flood of support for the Oakland-grown Libby Schaaf, now our Mayor-Elect.