Quan’s mayoral campaign starts early, picks up endorsement
on December 19, 2009
It’s almost Christmas. It’s not even an election year. But Oakland City Councilwoman Jean Quan is already on the campaign trail. Some time next year, she’ll be showing up at your door in North Oakland to ask for your vote for mayor.
“I love campaigning, because I will know more than anyone about the city of Oakland when I’m done,” Quan told a group of supporters at a December 16 fundraiser at the Montclair Women’s Club. “I’ve talked to so many people. Every door is a different experience.”
Quan was elected to the Oakland School Board in 1990 and City Council in 2002 after extensive door-to-door campaigning in a district that includes Montclair, Laurel and Dimond. She has talked about following the Obama campaign’s neighborhood organizing strategy for her mayoral run, and said one of her goals is to knock on every door in North Oakland.
“Organizing beats money,” she said. “It’s not sexy, it’s hard day-by-day organizing. But surveys show we have a chance to be on top, and there’s a clear movement for a different kind of mayor in Oakland.”
The mayoral election is still 11 months away, but Quan received an early vote of confidence from Sandré Swanson, one of Oakland’s State Assembly representatives.
“I appreciate being able to come forward and support Jean at this very important time,” Swanson told Quan’s supporters at the Montclair Women’s Association. “I think Jean’s going to be Oakland’s next mayor because she follows up on issues. She cares about this town and is willing to work for it.”
Swanson cited his work with Quan on returning Oakland schools to local control earlier this year as one of Quan’s tangible accomplishments on City Council.
“Against great odds in Sacramento, we kept pounding on the issue, embarrassing the state at every turn,” he said. “We showed them that the people of the city of Oakland feel very passionately about their children and wanted to make sure decisions were made locally.”
Quan also worked with Swanson on what he described as California’s “landmark legislation” protecting minors from sexual exploitation. He said the bill helps authorities halt teenage prostitution on Oakland’s San Pablo Avenue and International Avenue, an issue he said few politicians were willing to acknowledge, let alone confront.
Quan’s supporters cited her knowledge of Oakland city government as one of her main qualifications for mayor. She has served as chair of the City Council Finance Committee, which has had to make difficult decisions in cutting close to $100 million from the 2009 city budget, with a projected $25 million of budgets cuts still to come in 2010.
“She’s the one who knows the city of Oakland inside and out,” said Claudia Falconer, president of the Montclair Village Association. “It’s a troubled time, and cities across the country are having fiscal problems. Jean knows the Finance Department of the City of Oakland better than anyone else.”
City Council has not traditionally been a springboard for the Oakland mayor’s office, however. The last time an incumbent City Council member was elected mayor was in 1960. The three City Council Members who ran for mayor most recently—Ignacio de la Fuente, Nancy Nadel and Wilson Riles Jr.—lost to Ron Dellums and Jerry Brown, politicians with fundraising advantages from higher state and national recognition.
Dellums has not announced whether he intends to run for a second term in 2010. He would face challenges from Quan and Don Perata, the former State Senate president who wants to return to his native Alameda County to run Oakland’s City Hall. Perata, who rattled political sabers with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger during State Capitol budget battles, is a well-known political figure throughout California and is expected to have an advantage in raising money.
Swanson joked that his colleagues—and Perata’s former colleagues—in the State legislature in Sacramento ask him about the Oakland mayoral race “all the time.” He called Perata a political “Goliath,” but said that Quan’s persistence and attention to detail will make her very competitive. He told Quan he’ll be walking precincts with her closer to the election.
“This campaign will be won in the neighborhoods, and there’s no one who campaigns better in the neighborhoods than Jean,” he said. “People will vote for substance and for someone who pays attention to detail.”
There’s a new wrinkle to the mayoral race next year. In 2006, 69 percent of Oakland voters approved instant runoff voting, which has since survived various legal challenges. With instant runoff voting, Oakland voters will rank their choices for mayor rather than voting for one person. This eliminates the need for party primaries in the spring, when city elections in the heavily Democratic Oakland have usually been won and lost.
Quan hopes this new system, which grants an additional five months of campaign time, will help her raise money and her public profile for a run against Perata and possibly Dellums. She insists that on-the-ground knowledge of Oakland neighborhoods and city government experience are essential prerequisites for the city’s next mayor.
“Anybody can promise you that they can end crime or improve schools,” Quan said, “But if they don’t do it together by organizing the neighborhoods block by block, they’re lying to you. We’ve had a series of people [in Oakland] who were supposed to come in and fix things for us, but real change happens when people are involved.”
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