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Mayoral candidate: Rebecca Kaplan

on November 3, 2014

Oakland city councilmember at-large Rebecca Kaplan was the first out lesbian elected to office in Oakland when she joined the city council in 2008. Now, at age 44, she has another goal for change: to become Oakland’s mayor.

Born in Toronto, Kaplan attended MIT, where she got her bachelors in psychology; Tufts, where she got her masters in urban & environmental policy; and Stanford, where she got her law degree. While an undergrad, she was involved in campus advocacy. Kaplan said her group successfully lobbied the administration at MIT “to divest from Apartheid-era South Africa” during the late 80s. Her first major political campaign was working for Ted Kennedy’s reelection campaign in 1994.

The newly married Kaplan (she wed this summer) moved to Oakland in the mid-1990s and is now a resident of North Oakland. She worked as a housing rights attorney in Oakland and served on the AC Transit Board of Directors before being elected to the city council. During her time as councilmember-at-large, she helped facilitate a 10-year lease deal with Oakland A’s. She also worked to restart the Oakland Pride Festival, which celebrated its 5th anniversary this year.

This is Kaplan’s second time running for mayor. She ran against many of this year’s candidates in the 2010 election, where she finished third under the ranked choice voting system. She accumulated nearly 29 percent of the total vote before being eliminated.

In this race, one of Kaplan’s top two issues is making neighborhoods safer. She says she plans to improve the relationship the Oakland Police Department has with the community, “so that they can solve crimes better, and so that you don’t have a negativity and tension between the police and neighborhood.”

Kaplan has two strategies to make that happen. One, she said, is to “to hire more Oakland residents to our police department so that you have more people that are from Oakland working in the police department.” Kaplan has been advocating for more Oakland resident officers, and in September proposed a hiring goal that 50 percent of new police academy graduates should be Oakland residents.

The other is to restore more beat officers to neighborhoods. “Instead of people only seeing an officer after an emergency has happened, after they call 911, that we would have officers walking a beat,” she said. “They would get to know people and the people would get to know them, and at the same time, when people see an officer walking around the area, then that would deter them from committing crime in that area.”

Another plan she mentioned is bringing better lighting to key corridors. “That improves two different kinds of safety,” Kaplan said, “because there’s safety in terms of not getting mugged, and then there’s a different kind of safety in not getting hit by a car.”

Kaplan also wants to bring businesses to Oakland. “In underserved neighborhoods, in addition to grocery stores, I would work specifically to bring banks and pharmacies,” she said. “[They] are two of the things people complain about the most beyond grocery stores in some of the neighborhoods that have been left out of some of the economic development.”

She said she also plans to court more retail businesses like stores selling clothing, furniture, and housewares, because “people who live in Oakland travel outside of Oakland to do that shopping. Oakland is losing those jobs, Oakland’s losing that sales tax revenue, because people who live here go elsewhere to shop for things.”

Kaplan also has plans to woo larger industries to Oakland. “Some of the larger industries I would work to expand in Oakland are food production and food processing, which Oakland was a center for in the last century. Oakland was a hub for canning and food processing and bakeries,” she said.

“We can restore those industries in Oakland,” Kaplan continued, “as well as healthcare, and some of the new technology sectors: Things like digital video editing, computer systems, and the music and video gaming industries—all of which are industries that are growing, and which have a strong capacity to grow in Oakland, in addition to healthcare.”

“Given the range of problems we have to solve,” Kaplan said, “we really need to bring to Oakland’s leadership an approach to win-win solutions.”


  1. Oakland Voter on November 3, 2014 at 10:12 am

    Rebecca Kaplan totally lost my vote when she completely ignored the homicide on her street. Eric Harvis was shot several doors down from her house on Oct 19. ( We who are her neighbors (I live two blocks over) have heard/seen nothing from her on this. Our councilman Dan Kalb is an active participant on our Longfellow community group- Rebecca Kaplan joined (conveniently) right when she declared her candidacy and has zero participation/engagement in her own neighborhood. I had hoped that she, as a resident of our community would be a strong advocate but I see no evidence of that.

  2. George on November 3, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    During her campaign for city council in 2008, Kaplan described herself on her website, on her campaign materials, and on the stump as a “civil rights attorney.”

    It looks like she’s still doing it, at least on Wikipedia.

    Was she out in the trenches fighting for civil rights– for minorities, for the LGBT community, for the disabled, for the poor. Filing lawsuits, being in-house counsel for a civil rights group– something like that. Something that civil rights attorneys do?


    There is no evidence of Rebecca Kaplan ever practicing law as a civil rights attorney– or as an attorney at all. She became a member of the California Bar on 12/15/1998. Since then, she was inactive or ineligible to practice law in California for 10 of the 15 years she’s been a member of the Bar. Only five years as an active member!

    The public court records I searched were equally empty: no court cases where Kaplan was an attorney of record. Can someone please show me her record as a “civil rights attorney?”

    When did she practice “housing law”? Was she eligible to practice at that time? What cases? What issues? Where is the evidence that she ever practiced law? I can’t find any.

    I discuss more character issues at my website: click on the link above.

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