The polls have closed after Oakland’s first Election Day under ranked-choice voting, and it may be a few more days before residents will know who their next mayor will be, but with just over half the city’s precincts reporting, former California State Senate President Don Perata has taken the lead.
At 11:30 tonight, the Alameda County Registrar reported Perata in the lead with 35.6 percent of the vote, City Council member Jean Quan in second with 24.7 percent, and City Council member Rebecca Kaplan in third with 19.8 percent. The registrar is updating its vote tallies every 20 minutes as precincts are counted, with a more detailed vote count released on Friday, November 5.
With blues and country music reverberating through the high-ceilinged Z Café and Restaurant in downtown Oakland, supporters Tuesday evening celebrated the end of a long campaign. Perata, who represented Oakland in the State Assembly and State Senate from 1996 to 2008, tapped into his network of supporters to knock on doors and make phone calls in the months leading up to the election.
“I’m supporting Don because when he says he’ll do something, he gets it done,” said Oakland Unified School District board member Alice Spearman. “I was out in District 7 (East Oakland) today, and everyone I talked to—with one exception—voted for Perata.”
Under Oakland’s new ranked-choice voting system, voters can indicate their three top choices for mayor and other city offices. When all the votes are counted, the mayoral candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated. The registrar then consults the ballots cast for the last-place candidate and redirects them to those voters’ second-place choices. This process continues until one candidate has more than 50 percent of the votes, which probably won’t happen until Friday.
“If it’s a runaway vote, we’ll know the final result sooner,” Alameda County Registrar Dave MacDonald said earlier today. “But I don’t think anyone’s expecting that with ten candidates in the race.”
If Perata wins, he would be the third consecutive mayor to return to Oakland after holding office in Washington DC or Sacramento. Incumbent Ron Dellums, Oakland’s Congressman from 1971 to 1998, will complete his term as mayor in January. Jerry Brown, who served as Oakland’s mayor from 1999 to 2007, had served as California’s governor from 1975 to 1983. At age 72, Brown won the governor’s race this evening, which will make him California’s first governor to serve nonconsecutive terms. Brown endorsed Perata in the race, and Oakland should benefit from having a former mayor in the governor’s office.
Perata capitalized on name recognition to raise more money than his opponents. He spent $668,785 through Oct. 16, compared to $275,000 for Quan and $157,413 for Kaplan. Perata also benefitted from spending from outside groups, including $222,179 from the Coalition for a Safer California, a group funded by the California Prison Guards Union that sent mailers to Oakland voters criticizing Kaplan and Quan. Once this organization spent $95,000, Oakland’s election law stipulated that all spending limits in the campaign were lifted. Perata took advantage of this ruling, outspending his rivals on campaign staff and mail. Ads for Perata also ran on local cable television.
Several of California’s leading Democrats backed Perata, who dealt with many state leaders during his twelve years in the State Senate, including six as the State Senate president. In addition to Brown, Senator Dianne Feinstein and San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom supported Perata’s candidacy. He also benefited from endorsements by unions, including the Teamsters, Oakland firefighters and the Oakland Police Officers Association.
Oakland laid off 80 police officers in July, and Perata has made restoring the city’s police force to pre-layoff levels a centerpiece of his campaign. He’s also talked about attracting more business to Oakland and making City Hall employees more responsive to constituents’ needs.
John Grennan’s reporting is courtesy of the California News Service.
Check out all of our Oakland elections coverage on our Campaign 2010 page.