In Oakland mayoral race, Quan takes lead over Perata

Jean Quan

Jean Quan speaks at her campaign party on Tuesday. Quan is currently leading by 3 percentage points with 15000 ballots left to count. Photo by Shirley Lau.

Oakland mayoral candidate Jean Quan overtook fellow candidate Don Perata Friday afternoon in the computer-run calculation of second and third-choice votes in Oakland’s new ranked-choice voting system. Although several thousand votes remain uncounted, Quan said she’s “feeling very good” about the latest results.

With all votes except county mail-in ballots tabulated and redistributed among the leading candidates, Quan currently has 51.09 percent of the vote and Perata 48.91 percent of the vote. The Alameda Registrar of Voters has said that there are still 15,000 uncounted ballots remaining throughout the county and with only a 1,876-vote difference between the two leading candidates, the race is still undetermined. It is unknown what percentage of the uncounted Alameda County ballots were cast by Oakland voters. Dave Macdonald, Registrar of Voters, said that complete results will be announced by Monday at 4:00 pm.

“We thought it was close,” Quan said late this afternoon. “I didn’t know I’d be quite this correct.”

The Perata campaign issued a short press release this evening, calling ranked-choice voting a “mystery” but reserving further comment for the final tally. “It appears there might be a reversal of fortune,” the release read. “We’re unclear about Alameda County’s processes and await a final and accurate count.”

The newest results varied from the preliminary count on Election Day that showed Perata with a sizable lead. The first-choice results, released Tuesday night, showed Perata with 35.13 percent of the vote, a double-digit edge over Quan, but still short of the majority required to win the election outright, prompting a run-off that the registrar began to tally at 4:00 pm Friday. Quan received 24.3 percent over the vote, followed by Kaplan with 20.82 percent.

Though candidate Joe Tuman placed fourth with 11.95 percent of first-choice votes, he said he was proud to have garnered over 10,000 votes despite never having held a prior elected office. He said that he would consider running for mayor in a future election. “The door is open for many opportunities,” Tuman said. “I’m really committed to the city so I’m focused on doing anything that will help Oakland.”

Candidate Don Macleay, who received 1.37 percent of first-choice votes, said that he was glad Quan was currently leading and planned to offer his assistance if she were to become the next mayor. He praised Quan’s commitment and dedication, saying she would bring positive changes to the mayor’s office. “Of my opponents, Jean Quan has to be the hardest working,” Macleay said. “And that’s one thing that will be a change from Ron Dellums. She’ll be a breath of fresh air in that department.”

A spokesperson for Rebecca Kaplan’s campaign said they did not have any comments at this time.

With Quan pulling ahead in Oakland’s race for mayor, a hard-fought battle for the city’s top office has entered its final lap.

After current mayor Ron Dellums announced that he would not run for reelection in August, 10 candidates emerged to vie for the mayor’s office, many without prior political experience. Candidates Terence Candell, Arnie Fields, Greg Harland, Marcie Hodge, Don Macleay, Joe Tuman, and Larry Lionel Young, Jr. were relative unknowns in Oakland politics, but each put forward a unique plan to transform city government. Candidate and former state senator Don Perata had a long political history before entering the mayoral race, including four years as state senate president pro tem. Candidates Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan campaigned for mayor while sitting on the Oakland city council, positions they have held since 2003 and 2008, respectively.

Major issues of debate included improving public safety, overhauling the budget, and creating jobs and educational opportunities for Oaklanders. Perata promised to be an active and present mayor and to bring the budget in line through strong negotiations with public employee unions. “We’re going to have to negotiate,” Perata said in an interview with Oakland North in late September. Quan said her top priorities as mayor would be to improve public safety through the education and employment of Oakland’s young people. “Stabilizing the situation with education and jobs for our young people is at the root of our safety issue,” Quan said in an October debate at Holy Names University. Kaplan said she would focus on creating a more responsive government for the citizens of Oakland. “If you call 911 and you get no answer, that’s a responsive government problem,” Kaplan said at the same debate. (You can use this Oakland North interactive project to compare candidates’ campaign positions at a glance.)

The campaign season was often frantic and rattled by controversy. The Quan campaign leveled charges that Perata had sidestepped the Oakland Campaign Reform Act rules limiting each candidate to spending $379,000. If a candidate receives more than $70,000 from an “independent expenditure committee” they are no longer bound by OCRA restrictions, and Quan’s campaign charged that Perata’s campaign intentionally took advantage of this loophole by accepting a $70,000 donation from the Coalition for a Safer California, an independent expenditure committee composed of California correctional officers, on whose behalf Perata himself has lobbied.

Though this also lifted the spending cap for all other candidates, Perata was the only one who reported spending over the limit, and was therefore the only one who benefited from the cap’s removal.

The question of who could participate in mayoral forums also sparked debate after several local organizations adopted guidelines developed by the League of Women Voters limiting participation to “viable” candidates. Viability standards included having a dedicated campaign phone number, a physical campaign office, and campaign bank account and treasurer. Those excluded from forums for not meeting viability standards circulated frustrated emails, attributing the exclusion to political favoritism and racism.

On Tuesday, residents of Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro voted with a ranked-choice ballot for the first time. Under the rules of ranked-choice voting, a system approved by Oakland voters in 2006, voters rank their top three choices for mayor on the ballot. First-choice votes are tallied, and if no candidate receives a majority—more than 50 percent of the vote—then the last-place candidate is eliminated. The ballots that ranked an eliminated candidate as their first choice will have their second choice counted instead. The process continues until one candidate reaches a majority and officially wins the election.

Although Registrar of Voters spokespeople have said that ranked-choice voting (RCV) was implemented smoothly, Perata campaign spokesperson Rhys Williams said that the new system was an obstacle while campaigning. “RCV branding—‘voting made easy’— short-changed the public,” said Williams. “Voters we met door-to-door didn’t understand RCV. We had to dedicate campaign resources to explain a basic right: how to vote.”

Anne Spanier, a ranked-choice advocate, said that the new voting system made financial sense for Oakland, sparing the expense of a primary election, and hoped that its application in the mayoral race would increase the acceptance of the voting method. “Hopefully ranked-choice voting will be perceived as an acceptable and democratic system for choosing elected officials,” Spanier said.

Only the first-choice votes for Oakland mayor were tabulated on the night of the election. Oakland voters watched with anticipation as results began to trickle in on November 2. At 8:20 pm, the Alameda Registrar of Voters published the vote by mail results, showing Perata ahead, with Quan in second place and Kaplan in third. By a little after midnight, the registrar had reported complete results from all 254 Oakland precincts and, although the vote percentages had changed slightly, Perata maintained his lead.

The ranked-choice algorithm was run November 5 at 4:00 pm—a computer at the Registrar’s office ran the calculation—and results were announced minutes later. The results released by the Registrar are very close and Macdonald spoke about the possibility of a recount. “Anybody can request a recount,” Macdonald said. “If you want a hand count, that’s very expensive.”

Macdonald said none of the candidates had technically been eliminated and, depending on the votes on the uncounted ballots, a knocked-out candidate could come back into play. Macdonald said that nothing is certain until the final vote is certified. “It just depends on the distribution,” Macdonald said. “Who knows what could happen?”

Karmah Elmusa, Alyssa Fetini, Laura Hautala, and Shirley Lau contributed to this article.

Check out all of our Oakland elections coverage on our Campaign 2010 page.


  1. Yay = Oakland gets the tax ‘n’ spend mayor it deserves!!

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