OAKLAND -- In a stunningly successful political debut, Barbara Parker trounced Councilmember Jane Brunner to become Oakland's second elected city attorney.
Parker was leading early Wednesday morning 68 percent to 31 percent with nearly all votes counted.
"I am so honored that the people of Oakland support having a professional city attorney with independence and integrity," Parker said. "They spoke resoundingly."
Parker, who has worked in the city attorney's office for 21 years, was appointed to the top post last year, after John Russo left to become Alameda city manager.
Brunner, who had hoped to win the appointment, gave up the council seat she's held for the past 16 years to challenge Parker.
The race was feisty to the wire.
Mailers produced by both Brunner and the police union accused Parker of wasting money on a bloated department and accepting contributions from attorneys at law firms that have contracts with the city.
When Parker hit back late in the race with a mailer stating that Brunner had been suspended from the bar, Brunner threatened to sue her for libel.
Oakland's city attorney oversees a roughly $12 million budget and staff of 30 attorneys plus support staff. The office defends the city against lawsuits, gives legal advice to the council and mayor and plays a key role in negotiations, including ongoing talks about potentially handing control of Oakland's embattled Police Department to a federal
It's also a political post that can pit the city attorney against the mayor and council.
Russo, who sat on the council before he was elected city attorney 12 years ago, feuded with several council members, who often felt his actions were guided by political calculations.
Parker said she had restored trust in the office by staying above politics and that Brunner would plunge it back into partisan battles and petty bickering.
Brunner countered that her two-year term as council president and recent work on the redevelopment of the Oakland Army Base showed she could work with council members and community members of all stripes.
Both candidates listed public safety as their top priority.
Parker pointed to her success in shutting down two motels notorious for child sex trafficking as well as a code enforcement unit she created to deal with problem liquor stores, foreclosures and blight.
Brunner said she would improve public safety in part by cutting the office's budget so that the city can spend more money on police and other pressing needs. She said the office spent too much on outside attorneys and could save money by getting a handle on lawsuits more quickly.
The city attorney's office has not been spared during the two economic crashes of the last decade. Since 2004, the office has seen its funding drop by one-third, forcing it to eliminate 19 attorney and 14 support staff jobs.
Parker said Oakland has several issues that require it to spend a lot on legal services, including numerous police-related complaints and an activist council that puts forth initiatives requiring legal analysis.
Parker also said that budget cuts enacted by the City Council led to the rise in outside attorney costs, which she said had been reduced by 40 percent since her appointment.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.