OAKLAND -- After all the precincts reported, former state Sen. Don Perata led the race for Oakland mayor with 35 percent of first-place votes, followed by Oakland City Councilmember Jean Quan with 24 percent.
But because no one candidate has yet grabbed the brass ring of 50 percent plus one vote, the official results may not be known for days, after the flood of late-arriving absentee ballots are tallied and the ranked-choice voting program is tabulated on Friday. When that happens, the candidates with the fewest first place votes are eliminated and their second place votes distributed to the folks still in the race.
At-large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan drew 21 percent of votes cast and trailed Quan by a mere 3 percentage points. Tuman, a college professor and political analyst, garnered 12 percent of the votes cast. Reallocating both candidates' second-place votes could give a major bump to someone.
Perata, 65, and Quan, 61, were the front-runners among the 10 candidates running to replace outgoing Mayor Ron Dellums, who decided not to seek re-election. The rivals went head-to-head the past few weeks, with Quan tapping her own campaign cash to counter negative messages paid for by a Sacramento-based committee on behalf of Perata.
Perata, plagued by laryngitis and barely able to speak, thanked his supporters at his election night party at Z Cafe Tuesday and promised, if the initial returns held up, to fill the leadership vacuum of the Dellums administration.
"Oakland is big enough to care about, small enough to manage," he said.
Quan waited for the results to change Tuesday night and said she hoped that the late absentee ballots -- particularly in Chinatown -- would make a difference of a percentage point or two. But she said that given the gap, her best chance for victory relies on the second-place votes of other candidates.
"Obviously, (the picture now) is not as good as I had hoped," she said early Wednesday. "A (recent phone poll) showed that I got 2/3 of second-place votes. We're not giving up. We'll just have to see if adds up to 50 percent."
Win or lose, Quan will give up her District 4 council seat. Kaplan's at-large seat on the council is not up for two more years.
No matter who is elected, the new mayor will have to hit the ground running. The city has slashed costs in every department, laid off workers -- including 80 police officers -- reduced hours at libraries and shuttered City Hall several days a year. Still, it faces a $50 million budget deficit next fiscal year, with larger projections in years to come. The new mayor must also grapple with the more immediate loss of 120 more police officers if a collection of tax measures are rejected by voters. Measure BB, a fix for Measure Y that continues funding for 63 community policing officers, won 70 percent of the votes. A new $390 parcel tax that would fund police, however, went down in flames.
With crime the number one issue for many residents in this city of 400,000, you can be sure that the honeymoon period accorded a new mayor will end fast if a deal cannot be worked out with the police union over their pensions.
The new mayor must also fill a leadership vacuum at City Hall. Dellums, a celebrated former congressman who has used his connections in Washington to land millions in federal stimulus funds to help Oakland, was nonetheless criticized for being absent and out of touch when critical issues needed his attention and leadership.
Perata said Tuesday that his first priority is to rehire the 80 police officers who were laid off July 13. He also he would find a way to avoid laying off more officers -- something the council voted for as a budget balancing act -- if tax measures to fund police failed at the polls. "The first thing I'll do is bring back the 80 police officers," Perata said. "It's important to make a dramatic statement, to show that things are going to be done differently. I'll also make sure that (Police chief) Tony Batts implements his strategic plan."
Batts' strategic plan cites a need for more than 900 officers to adequately meet Oakland's needs.
The other candidates, in order of votes, are Marcie Hodge, Terence Candell, Don Macleay, Greg Harland, Larry Lionel Young Jr., and Arnold Fields.