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Eileen Pippins, watches the television screen at Z Cafe and Bar in Oakland as President Obama was declared the winner. Photo by Angela Hart.

Oakland reacts to presidential, local elections

on November 7, 2012

As Alameda County Democrats celebrated the reelection of President Barack Obama, late night returns on local races showed apparent victories for City Attorney Barbara Parker and at-large city council candidate Rebecca Kaplan.

As of 11 p.m., with about half the precincts reporting, Kaplan was beating Ignacio De La Fuente 45 to 31 percent. In the race for city attorney, Barbara Parker was beating Jane Brunner 66 to 33 percent. These results reflect only the first choice votes under the city’s ranked choice voting system, and final results were not available Tuesday night.

As of 11 p.m., the District 1 City Council race was too close to call, and under ranked choice voting it must proceed to a run-off because no candidate won more than 50 percent of the votes outright. With slightly more than half of the precincts in District 1 reporting, of the seven candidates, Dan Kalb was leading with more than 30 percent of the vote, followed by Amy Lemley close behind with 26 percent, Richard Raya at 19 percent and the other 4 candidates considerably farther behind.

In the most closely watched and highly contested state ballot initiative races—with fewer than third of the state precincts reporting—as of 11 p.m. schools tax measure Proposition 30, which had been narrowly losing, made a slight increase to lead 50.1 to 49.9 percent. Proposition 37, which would mandate the labeling of foods made from genetically modified organisms, was losing 44 percent to 56 percent, and Proposition 34, which would repeal the death penalty, was losing 45 to 55 percent. Proposition 36, which would reform California’s “Three Strikes” law, was up 68 to 31 percent.

As of 11:45 p.m., Oakland Zoo parcel tax Measure A1 was ahead with 62 percent of the vote, Alameda County transportation tax measure B1 was ahead with 64 percent of the vote, and Oakland schools bond Measure J was passing with 82 percent of the vote.

Throughout the day, supporters of both national and local candidates had campaigned up to the last minute. At the Obama campaign headquarters near Frank Ogawa Plaza, the sounds of bells rang out every few minutes, as volunteers called independent and undecided voters. Every time a caller became an Obama supporter, a volunteer rang a bell. “We’re feeling very optimistic,” said one volunteer while speaker to a potential supporter by phone.

For some, this wasn’t their first campaign. Suzanne Gautier, from Oakland, campaigned four years ago for Obama in Nevada. “There’s always this sense of anticipation mixed with a little bit of fear,” Gautier said. “This is probably the most committed and most enthusiastic group I’ve experienced in the last five or six years.”

Around 6:30 p.m., phone banking wound down at the Great Oakland (GO) Public Schools offices in Jack London Square, three or four people in their two offices still making calls as the rest migrated to Miss Pearl’s Jam House at Jack London Square to celebrate the end of the campaign. GO Public Schools, a nonprofit focused on education reform in Oakland, endorsed school board candidates in the District 3, 5 and 7 races: Jumoke Hinton Hodge, Rosie Torres and Alice Spearman. Staffers estimated that the organization had made about 6,000 calls by the time the party rolled around. Over the course of the campaign, about 300 volunteers helped reach 64,000 voters by this past Sunday.

Marc Tafolla and his girlfriend, a pediatrician, helped to arrange childcare at the GO offices for parents with kids who wanted to phone bank. “I’m really excited about the results,” Tafolla said of the early campaign returns for school board scenes. “Having interviewed the three candidates we endorsed, I really like them and I really trust them.”

Later on, as state-by-state results starting coming in, at the Z Cafe and Bar on Broadway, a crowd of exuberant Obama supporters cheered each time the commentators on television called another state for the president. The crowd grew from 100 to 300 as the networks began predicting an Obama victory, and the revelers spilled out onto the sidewalk, chanting “8:10 and it’s over!” People waved balloons as television trucks from NBC and Telemundo pulled up to the goings-on.

Eileen Pippins of Oakland started crying when Ohio’s clinch was announced. “I feel a lot of hope, I’m overwhelmed right now,” Pippins said. “I expected him to win, but to see it so quickly was a surprise. He needed a second term. I’m so fortunate to witness this.”

“I don’t know if there are words to how I feel tonight. I feel so much emotion. I feel relief, I feel redemption,” added Mildred Thompson, 62, of Oakland. “It is absolutely the best thing for the country. It shows that you cannot buy yourself an election.”

The crowd, Thompson included, erupted as CBS called Florida for Obama. “We need to give him a chance to finish,” she said. “It’s been the worst economy since the Great Depression, he’s had a storm to deal with–it’s the country that benefits from his leadership.”

Mayor Jean Quan was also present at Z Bar. “Our president has four more years to open more doors,” Quan said. “We still have a chance to give him a democratic house.”

Both incumbent City Attorney Barbara Parker and the group Africans for Obama held parties at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle on 14th Street. Prior to Obama’s re-election, several people at the party expressed anxiety about the results. “I’m really nervous,” said Cheryl Moore, 61, an Oakland resident who sported a “Grannies for Obama” pin. “But I’m an optimistic person and I think it’ll be okay and Barack Obama will win when the night is over,” she said.

Diane Lewis, an Oakland resident, said she traveled to Nevada last weekend for last minute campaigning. “This is so huge,” she said at Geoffrey’s, wearing a sequined shirt emblazoned with Obama’s face on it. “I’m believing he’s going to win, but my heart’s still thumping.”

Cheers, whistles and claps pierced the air as Ohio was called for Obama, and then minutes later, when CNN announced the projection that Obama had been re-elected. The noise was deafening.

“I’m feeling good to see Obama back as president,” said Milton Johnson, 43, an Oakland resident at the party, only minutes after he danced and pumped his fist in celebration of Obama’s victory. “It’s going to be a change. I know there’s going to be a change.”

Barbara Parker, who is waiting on the results of her own race for reelection, also celebrated Obama’s victory with stomps of her foot and upward pumps of her fist. “I would have been so afraid for America if Romney had been elected,” Parker said. “The election of Obama is an affirmation that America is moving forward.”

In regards to her own apparent win, she said, “It is extraordinary to see that the people of Oakland have spoken loud and clear that they wanted a professional city attorney that’s not a politician. It really restores my faith in the American people and the people of Oakland. They were not fooled by negative attacks.”

After the news of Obama’s re-election had sunk in at Geoffrey’s, Virginia Izon scooped up her young daughter Noelle in her arms. “I’m so happy,” she said to her two-year-old in a hushed voice, pointing to a cardboard cutout of Obama at the front of the room. She would later get a photo in front of it her with daughter. “I’m ecstatic, it’s unbelievable,” Izon said. “I can’t even describe the emotions going through my head right now.”

Others at Geoffrey’s were surprised that election results were finalized so quickly. “Looks like it was not as close as everyone predicted,” said Obama campaign volunteer Eric Behrens, 64, of Piedmont. “He didn’t even need Florida.”

The mood was equally as ecstatic and as jovial at a party for Oakland Rising at The New Parish. “I think [Obama] won because he spoke on issues more relevant to working people than Mitt Romney did,” said Nefertiti Altan, 28. She added, “the threat of Romney being president was a real threat for people of color.”

But some said they wouldn’t be sure of a Obama win until they saw Romney’s concession speech. When news broke early in the evening on CNN that Romney wasn’t quite ready to concede yet, New Parish-goer Keith Brower Brown, 24, said, “I don’t think the results in the electoral votes are surprising. I hope [Romney] concedes soon and I hope he concedes hard.”

Added Keyvan Kashkooli, 38, “I won’t see it until I believe it.”

The room at Geoffrey’s was largely quiet during Romney’s eventual concession speech, except for some occasional boos and calls of “You lie!” Party-goers waved at the television screen and shouted “Goodbye!” as Romney conceded the election.

Results for Alameda County’s elections continued to trickle in throughout the evening. Ben & Nick’s pub in Rockridge was packed and noisy for District 1 candidate Amy Lemley’s party as spectators watched results from a single TV located over the bar. Chants of “Amy! Amy!” could be heard from booths nearby.

At his campaign headquarters, at-large candidate Ignacio De La Fuente, who currently represents District 5 on the Oakland city council, anxiously waited the results of his campaign with friends, family, and constituents — including members of a local firefighter’s union– at Mua Bar on Webster in Oakland as Sly & the Family Stone’s “It’s a Family Affair” played in background.

Henry Chang, who served on the city council for 15 years and attended the party, said it will take some time for the Oakland election to come in owing to the city’s ranked choice voting system. “With a lot of people running, the public always has to wait,” Chang said. “We are expecting the results to be in around 10 pm. It will be a long night for Ignacio. But Oakland really needs someone like him right now. He is the right person for the job.”

Oakland North will continue to update local and state ballot measure election results Wednesday morning. Reporting for this story was done by Lauren Kawana, Steve Fisher, Vanessa Rancano, Angela Hart, Samantha Masunaga, Theresa Adams, Debora Silva and Charles Berkowitz.

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