In an elated victory declaration that culminated with her departure inside a rolling, flame-snorting metal snail, the still-unofficial mayor-elect Libby Schaaf was all smiles at a Lake Merritt celebration this afternoon.
“Let’s hear it for Oakland’s awesomeness,” she said to a large gathering of supporters carrying orange “Libby for Mayor” signs and gear, following her victory — which has yet to be formally confirmed by the Registrar of Voters — as Oakland’s newest mayor.
“Today is a day of thankfulness, of appreciation, of saying how glad we are to live in the incredible city of Oakland,” Schaaf told the crowd. Although she was celebrating, she said she recognized that there is a lot of work to begin immediately. She said her first priority is safety. “We need more police, but we also need better policing,” Schaaf said. “We need to invest in successful intervention and prevention programs and also go after those root causes of crime — and that’s jobs, better wages…better educational outcomes for our children, that is all part of the public safety equation.”
The city councilmember-turned mayor-elect said incumbent Jean Quan had phoned her this morning. She said Quan did not formally concede, but during the “gracious” morning call said she wanted to meet with Schaaf Thursday.
Schaaf also said she was proud of the tone of the entire mayoral race. “I’m so proud of everybody’s campaign this season,” she said. “Everybody ran a clean, positive, constructive campaign, and I thank everyone who was in this race for doing that. And I thank our current mayor Jean Quan for all the work she has done over the last four years.”
After speaking to the crowd, Schaaf waved, shook some hands, and pulled strings on her Oakland-made metal snail chariot to make it blow fire before she climbed in and rode off inside the contraption.
Alameda County Registrar of Voters Tim Dupuis has urged caution about declaring winners in races across the county. “We still have 30 percent of the votes to count,” Dupuis said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.
The unofficial results posted just after midnight Tuesday were based on 229,228 ballots countywide. Oakland ballots with mayoral votes then went through the ranked-choice voting algorithm more than a dozen times. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were still more than 100,000 ballots to be counted: vote-by-mail ballots that arrived at the Registrar’s Office on Monday afternoon or Tuesday; vote-by-mail ballots dropped off at polling stations on Tuesday; and 24,000 provisional ballots, which, as Dupuis explained, are those submitted while voters’ qualifications need to be checked.
Dupuis said his staff will begin tallying the rest of the votes Thursday morning, and will post updates daily starting 5 p.m. Thursday. “Any votes picked up [in the rest of the count] for the mayor’s race will start the algorithm again,” Dupuis said. “I know everyone is very anxious to declare a winner, and it’s a tough one.” In past elections, Dupuis’ office has typically finished counting every vote by next week, with official certification of the results coming a few days after that.
In Tuesday’s election, Schaaf led after the first round of vote-counting, with 29.11 percent— a clear lead over Quan, who gathered 15.81 percent of first-choice votes, not yet enough for Schaaf to declare victory. Schaaf’s percentage of the vote began to climb as she picked up votes from residents who had supported other candidates with their first or second-choice votes. In the final iteration, Schaaf won 62.79 percent of the vote, and Rebecca Kaplan came in second with 37.21 percent of the vote. Quan eventually dropped off to third.
Incumbent Quan announced congratulations to Schaaf and posted her concession around 12:30 p.m. on her social media pages. “Thank you Oakland voters for passing our local measures,” she wrote in a tweet, “& congratulations to @libbyformayor.”
In a fuller Facebook post, under a photo of Quan and her family, the now-outgoing mayor wrote a longer message. “(Schaaf) inherits a city where crime is down, unemployment is down, city finances are strong, police reforms are near completion, and the economic renaissance is well under way,” the post read. “I have been proud to be Oakland’s first woman and Asian-American mayor and I thank Oaklanders for the opportunity to bring the City through these tough times.”
Quan went on to say she will collaborate with the mayor-elect during the transition between leaders. She reflected on her past 24 years working in Oakland and wrote, “I plan to work hard during my remaining weeks to move projects forward and will always be active in the city I love.”
City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan remained quiet Wednesday on her social media and campaign websites, neither remarking on the results nor responding to repeated requests for comments, until issuing a statement at 6 p.m. that conceded and congratulated Schaaf on her victory. “Mayor-elect Schaaf and I share a deep and profound commitment to making Oakland stronger, safer and more prosperous,” Kaplan declared. “I’m excited to partner with her on a wide variety of ways to improve the city that she and I both love.”
Kaplan said she had run because she believed the city needed a “fresh start,” and said she was proud of her campaign for mayor. “As City Council President Pro Tem, I’ll continue to put Oakland first every single day,” she said.
Many other candidates in the crowded field of 15, not including the unofficial canine entrant, also reacted Wednesday to Schaaf’s victory declaration and the end of a long campaign season.
Attorney Dan Siegel said he regarded the outcome of the race, even including his fifth-place finish, as progress for Oakland. “Libby ran a very good campaign,” he said. But the fact that she was the first choice of only a third of voters means, he said, that “she’s going to have to work with other people in order to be effective as mayor.”
Siegel said the vote struck him as a confirmation of progressive politics in Oakland. “If you look at the totals for me, Quan, and Kaplan combined,” he said, “that’s a large part of the electorate that supports political leaders who are progressive.” He plans to continue working on issues that defined his campaign, he said, including increasing the minimum wage, improving public education, and reforming the police department. “A lot of the people who worked on my campaign are eager to continue together to create some type of city-wide organization,” he said. “There’s going to be plenty of work to do!”
Bryan Parker, an Oakland port commissioner, who finished sixth in the race, said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon that he had congratulated Schaaf earlier and was conceding. He said his finish was a “disappointing result” after he put his “heart and soul” into a campaign that focused on changing Oakland, turning around the cycle of poverty, and making the city safer.
Parker said he would remain committed to serving Oakland and the port, and offered to help Schaaf any way he can. “I do think I have a calling of service and leadership,” he said. As for future campaigns to lead Oakland, he added: “Do I think this is my last election? No, probably not.”
Joe Tuman, the San Francisco State University politics professor who took fourth place, with 12.4 percent of first-choice votes, said he is ready to call Schaaf his mayor. He congratulated her this afternoon on her “magnificent race.” Tuman also ran for mayor in the 2010 election. He called this year’s race more complicated, and much longer for him. “I’m exhausted,” he said about his 16-month campaign, which included countless debates, house meetings, door-knocking and phone-banking sessions. “You obviously would like to see it end differently,” Tuman said. Despite the defeat, Tuman said he is confident Schaaf is committed to the same issues as him and she will work on public safety.
City Auditor Courtney Ruby, the seventh-place finisher, put up a thank-you post on her website and on her social media pages this afternoon. In her online letter, she wrote, “Last night was a disappointment for all of our supporters. And yet I am deeply inspired by the amazing journey we undertook together.” She thanked her supporters and congratulated her fellow candidates. “Putting yourself out there on the campaign trail, day after day, is tough,” her letter read. “But it’s the willingness to engage in public service at that level that makes our democracy stronger.”
Ruby’s post did not identify a victor in the race. Instead she wrote, “Once the winner is finally determined, we need to come together as Oaklanders and work with our new mayor so that Oakland succeeds – and yes, remind the new mayor and city council that accountability and results matter.”
Ruby said she remains committed to serving Oakland “in whatever capacity.” Her unsuccesful mayoral bid marks the end of her tenure as city auditor. In that election, Brenda Roberts was ahead by with more than 77 percent of the vote in the first round of ranked-choice voting, outpacing her opponent Len Raphael.
Toward the bottom of the pack, candidate Jason Anderson said that to him eighth place felt like a victory. “For me to be…the top [of the candidates] that don’t have big money behind them, I think I did really well,” he said. “I think it’s a great base to start a career in politics.” Anderson reported having spent $0 on his campaign. “People now recognize me as a serious political candidate with a future,” he said. “I might not be the mayor, but I definitely proved that I’m the ‘town mayor’ — which is when you have the attitude of someone that doesn’t have money, but wants to make a change.”
Anderson said he hopes Schaaf will move Oakland in a more inclusive direction. “I don’t want her to be the Mayor of the Hills,” he said. He urged Schaaf to move beyond her power base to unify the city, and to “work to make Oakland more inclusive, work to make the flatlands just as attractive as the hills are.”
The sole canine candidate, Einstein, not officially on the ballot but campaigning as a write-in, was honored Tuesday night at a post-campaign party at the house of Einstein’s human campaign comrades, many veterans of Occupy Oakland.
This afternoon, Einstein’s campaign manager Mike Wilson said the pooch “intends to see the day when Oakland becomes a model city for democratic innovations in direct access, greater income equality, de-militarized policing, financial security, and a better social and physical environment for every creature in the city.”
On his official Facebook page, Einstein’s campaign team declared that “The Einstein Campaign Committee would like to thank all its supporters and the uncounted voters of Oakland.”
Text by Sasha Lekach and Molly Pierce. Video by Jacqui Ipp and Hanna Qassis. Additional reporting by Jacqui Ipp, Hanna Qassis, Nina Zou, Alissa Greenberg and Joshua Escobar.