OAKLAND -- In a surprise reversal, City Auditor Courtney Ruby has decided to jump into the Oakland mayor's race.

Her entry into an already crowded field precludes her from seeking re-election for city auditor, a post she has used to position herself as a government watchdog.

Ruby has mostly stayed above the fray in Oakland politics, but she found herself in the middle of a racially charged scrum last year after one of her audits targeted two African-American council members.

While Ruby's audits have focused on government spending and ethics, she said Wednesday that concerns about public safety prompted her to seek the city's highest office just months after saying she wouldn't run.

Courtney Ruby, left, is sworn in as the city auditor of Oakland, Calif., Monday, Jan. 3, 2011 at the Fox Theatre in Oakland. (D. Ross Cameron/Staff File)
Courtney Ruby, left, is sworn in as the city auditor of Oakland, Calif., Monday, Jan. 3, 2011 at the Fox Theatre in Oakland. (D. Ross Cameron/Staff File)

After putting her two young sons to bed one night last year, Ruby said she had to duck as she unloaded her car when gunfire erupted outside her now former home near the Eastmont Mall.

"Public safety will be my focus every day," she said. "We're going to develop a plan. We're going to get results. And we're going to hold people accountable to ensure that Oaklanders are safe."

Ruby joins a crowded field looking to unseat Mayor Jean Quan that includes Councilwoman Libby Schaaf, former school board member Dan Siegel, Port of Oakland Commissioner Bryan Parker and San Francisco State professor Joe Tuman.

Also Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who, like Ruby, holds an office elected by voters of the entire city, has not ruled out running for mayor. Recent polling shows Kaplan holding a lead nearly seven months before the election.


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First elected city auditor in 2006, Ruby hasn't shied away from calling out perceived government failures. Her recent audits have detailed poor police oversight of its technology programs, lax fire inspections in the hills, and a failure by city officials to return overpayments for parking tickets.

She faced criticism last year after releasing an audit that found council members Larry Reid and Desley Brooks -- during a period when they were the only two African-Americans on the council -- had violated the city charter's prohibition on interfering with the work of city staffers.

The Oakland chapter of the NAACP drafted a letter last May calling the audit "a racist attack and character assassination." NAACP chapter President George Holland said Wednesday he stood by the letter and wasn't surprised that Ruby was running for mayor. "I think that was her agenda," he said. "I thought she was setting the stage to run for a higher office."

Ruby defended the audit Wednesday. "What people know about me is I'm fighting for a more ethical and transparent government, and I will go where the facts take me."

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.