Who will run against Oakland Mayor Jean Quan in 2014?
That burning question has been on many people's minds.
According to a March report by KPIX, 60 percent of the respondents to a Survey USA poll of 500 Oakland residents disapproved of the way Quan is doing her job, and 65 percent felt the city is headed in the wrong direction.
Yet regardless of how unpopular Quan may be, most of her better-known potential challengers have decided to take a pass.
Enter Bryan Parker.
A year ago this month, Quan appointed Parker, a former vice president at DaVita Inc., a kidney care company, to the Port Commission.
Now Parker has formed an exploratory committee to run against Quan.
Here's what's interesting: Parker, who many people in Oakland have never heard of, is using a crowdsourced fundraising site called Crowdtilt to generate name recognition and buzz around his candidacy. People use crowdsourcing all the time to raise money for social causes and individual projects. I have not heard of using one in a political campaign.
Last month, Parker said he would run if he could raise $20,000 in 10 days through individual contributions to the site. He pulled in $23,000 in 24 hours. Parker then set a new target of $50,000. When that deadline expired early Monday, he had raised $59,727 from 197 individual contributors.
Parker, whose campaign slogan is "Move Oakland Forward," says the idea came from a brainstorming session with members of his campaign team, which includes a lot of people in new media. "It's an example of the kind of innovation and leadership I'd like to bring to Oakland," he said.
It's obviously going to take a whole, whole lot more than $60,000 to be competitive in the mayor's race. The spending cap is $400,000, which does not include the bogs of money that will pour in from political action committees.
Political strategist Tom Clifford, who is advising Parker's campaign, said that crowdsourced funding is no replacement for the major ground game -- "shoe leather and dialing for contributions.""
He said it is an added element that allows people to directly participate in the political process. "
"Oaklanders are dissatisfied and want a new direction for this city," Clifford said. "Now all of a sudden you have this very public campaign where you can see who is giving the money, how it is being raised and an opportunity to create a dynamic future with a candidate who is very qualified.""
Crowdtilt only allows individual contributions of up to $700 in keeping with Oakland's campaign finance laws.
Parker has been holding campaign events that have generated excitement, especially among the diverse group of young, upwardly mobile professionals who frequent and live in Uptown.
"We're talking about what Oakland is now, versus what it could be," said Marquesa Finch, 29, one of the founders of Movement50, a group of young professionals supporting Parker's campaign.
"We have only been around for four months, and we've gone from three founding members to over 100 active members," she says. "These are people who have said they want to contribute time and are meeting regularly planning events and fundraising strategies.""
Parker, 44, has never held elected office. He is a former chairman of the Workforce Investment Board-- -- which had its share of issues, including having to return more than $600,000 in federal job retraining funds for not having disbursed the money awarded during Ron Dellums' administration according to federal guidelines.
Parker laid the blame for that fiasco on his predecessor, that he left the WIB with a strategic plan and on track to receive $900,000 in federal funds. "That's my record of being on the WIB," he said
Parker lives in District 1. He was born in Stockton and moved to Oakland as a child. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley and New York University Law School. He was a volunteer on President Barack Obama's campaign. Parker, who is African-American, attends Allen Temple Baptist Church.
Beyond that, little is known publicly about the man who would be Oakland's next mayor. As the months go on, he will have to develop a detailed platform.
Only time will tell if Parker can build on his early momentum.
But two things are for sure: The mayoral race just got a whole lot more interesting, and Quan must rue the day she selected Parker to serve on the Port.
Tammerlin Drummond is a columnist for the Bay Area News Group. Her column runs Tuesday and Sunday. Contact her at email@example.com