Despite a clear leader, Oakland’s mayoral race is not over.
Don Perata holds a 13 percent lead over his nearest competitor, but he is about 14 percentage points short of a “50 percent plus one” majority, meaning the race will be determined Friday by a ranked choice voting run-off.
The run-off scenario leaves hope for three candidates—Jean Quan, Rebecca Kaplan and Joe Tuman—who trail Perata but garnered significantly more votes than the race’s other six candidates.
“I think if it’s close between me and Mr. Perata,” Quan said late Tuesday night, “the ranked choice voting is going to help me.” Throughout her campaign, Quan has been confident that she and fellow candidate Don Perata would be the top two frontrunners—and she was right.
As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, Quan was in second place, with 24.7 percent of the vote, followed by Kaplan, with 18.8 percent, and Tuman with 12.8 percent. The other six mayoral candidates each had 2 percent or less of the vote.
Kaplan’s third-place standing has not dimmed her campaign’s optimism. Kaplan, 40, appeared confident and relaxed as she addressed supporters from a low stage framed with green and purple balloons on Tuesday night. “It’s been an amazing ride thus far. We want to build Oakland’s stronger future and that doesn’t end tonight. It will continue.”
Tuman was less hopeful of emerging victorious. The college professor was more focused on a competitive finish. “I think it’s about what we expected,” Tuman said at his campaign headquarters on Grand Avenue. “The question is, as we go forward, is what the seconds and thirds look like.”
Tuman’s election party was in full throttle by the time the results of the first count of absentee ballots were announced. “Wait, wait, we’ve got something here,” Tuman said, huddling over a small laptop in the corner of the room as100 or so supporters crowded around to hear the soft-spoken college professor announce his standing.
“I think my campaign has really resonated with people who are sick of machine politics in this city and tired of people who run for office for a living,” Tuman said.
Quan spent most of Election Day handing out campaign flyers and literature in an attempt to sway last-minute voters. To ensure she met a diverse group of residents, she visited at least one location in each of Oakland’s districts, determined to spend an hour at each spot.
“This is a really close race,” Quan said this afternoon outside of a Trader Joe’s in Oakland. “If I lose, I’ll be sad that I’ll be out of politics for a while. But it was worth it—it was the right thing to do.”
Quan’s political service in Oakland has included three terms on the District 4 school board and two terms as an city councilmember, including the last three years as chair of the council’s budget and finance committee.
If the rank choice were to propel Quan to victory, she would become the first woman and first Asian-American elected mayor of Oakland.
A Kaplan win would be similarly historic, as she would also be the first woman to head the city’s government. She would also be the first openly gay mayor of a major Bay Area city. One of the city’s biggest proponents of legalizing and taxing marijuana, Kaplan campaigned for a centralized city government service phone line, reforming police pensions, and streamlining local business permits.
Kaplan currently serves as the citywide representative on the Oakland City Council and spent six years on the AC Transit Board of Directors. Often characterized as the candidate of choice for Oakland’s younger voters, she has ranked in third in most local polls, behind Don Perata and Jean Quan. In October, Kaplan earned the endorsement of the Oakland Tribune and has stayed close throughout the race against the deeper pockets of her rivals.
A diverse crowd of Kaplan supporters danced, laughed and strolled through the party room at the Jack London Square Everett & Jones, holding plates of barbequed ribs and macaroni and cheese. This is Oakland’s first ranked-choice election, and Kaplan acknowledged that none of the top three candidates would have a true victory party Tuesday night.
“They say you can’t have a celebration until all the votes have been counted,” said Kaplan dressed in a black suit and purple dress shirt. “Not true. This is a celebration no matter what.”
Check out all of our Oakland elections coverage on our Campaign 2010 page.