Oakland’s mayoral picture changes, San Jose’s goes as expected

This isn’t Rebecca Kaplan’s first rodeo. She ran for Mayor of Oakland in 2010 on a platform of pragmatism and hope. In the end she was considered a bit young for the job, placing 3rd next to political stalwarts Jean Quan and Don Perata, who got the plurality of first-place votes. Quan famously ran the “Anyone-but-Don” campaign to the mayoral seat, and the rest is history.

I went to a Kaplan campaign event that summer, to get a sense of what she was like on the trail. She was everything I had heard she was – friendly, eager-to-please, and not the kind of same of political operator that many in Oakland were. Eventually, she’d get her chance again when the 2014 election came around. With Quan flailing away on the job and flagging in favorability and job approval, today Kaplan became the 16th candidate to run for Oakland Mayor in 2014. Like the last election, this will be ranked choice voting in November, with everyone running their own version of “Anyone-but-Quan” to some degree.

During that August stop, Kaplan outlined a few things about her pro sports platform, which even then were much more fully-formed than what Quan has proffered throughout her term. From that post in 2010:

  • She’d like to keep the A’s in town, have a rebuilt Coli be the home for both NFL franchises, bring a WNBA team to town, and attract more international soccer matches.
  • Kaplan talked up the potential of TOD developments, citing the Coliseum as a distinct site with potential. She joked about the BART bridge being a “walkway of chain link doom.”
  • She did not say it specifically, but I inferred that she would push for a A’s ballpark solution at the Coliseum, with new ancillary development around it to make it feel like a proper urban ballpark feel.
  • She did not mention any of the JLS sites. She tried to make a distinction between what she called the “Possible Dream” (something that is feasible) and the “Impossible Dream” (something that people simply keep talking about in circles). Does this mean that she’s not a shill for the JLS-area developers that want/need the ballpark to boost their ROI?

Obviously things have changed a bit since 2010. There will be no joint 49ers-Raiders stadium in Oakland, not with Levi’s Stadium set to dominate the landscape in the fall. Coliseum City, which Kaplan has touted from the beginning, has become more crystalized as a plan, though it still has numerous question marks. The “Impossible Dream” remark was about Victory Court, which within a year quietly died. Kaplan has chosen to put most of her arrows behind Coliseum City. Five months from the election, nothing about the project will happen that can sink her campaign. If she successfully negotiates the lease extension with the A’s, the act will most certainly boost her campaign, even if the net result is simply pushing the issue a few years out (again).

Lew Wolff praised Kaplan in code during the Bloomberg interview. We’ll see how real any support is when campaign donation records are released later. Remember that Wolff and John Fisher donated to Perata’s 2010 campaign as when the former State Senator said that putting up public funds to keep the A’s in town was a bad idea. For now, it sure appears as if Wolff has a horse in the mayoral race – then one that can get him the lease he wants. Beyond that lease, there’s no telling what can happen. Once some dominoes fall at Coliseum City, we can get a better sense of how everything else will project.

Mayor Quan has also supported Coliseum City, but at a distance. Kaplan’s position as a JPA commissioner (board member) allows her to take a hands-on approach.

Over in San Jose, the expected frontrunners, County Supervisor Dave Cortese and San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo, were the top two candidates to emerge from the primary. Cortese is also a former SJ City Council member. Both are members of Baseball San Jose, which should mean that the effort to get the A’s and push MLB/Giants will continue unabated. But while Liccardo is a Chuck Reed disciple, Cortese is more his own guy, forging an alliance with Reed’s biggest nemesis, labor. If elected, it’s possible Cortese could take a different approach from Reed in approaching MLB. Madison Nguyen ran competitively on Tuesday, eventually falling short to Liccardo 25% to 21%.


While the San Jose mayoral race looks like a classic labor-vs.-business battle, the Oakland race is much harder to peg, and could reach circus-like proportions with the amount of horse trading that could occur. That’s what happened last time, and guess who won the election?

One thought on “Oakland’s mayoral picture changes, San Jose’s goes as expected

  1. It looks like Rebecca Kaplan has a good chance to win, that would be good for Oakland’s chances to retain the A’s. If it can’t be San Jose, for whatever reason, she gives Oakland and the rest of the Bay Area a much better chance at something actually getting done.

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