OAKLAND — City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan took a key step toward running for mayor, announcing Tuesday that she formed an exploratory committee that will allow her to begin raising funds for a possible campaign.
The first-term council member has not said definitively whether she will run, but a statement released Tuesday gave strong indication that she might do so.
"I'm willing to roll up my sleeves and tackle the issues that face Oakland at this important crossroads for our city's future," Kaplan said.
Kaplan, 39, Oakland's only citywide council representative, would join former state Sen. Don Perata and Councilmember Jean Quan as the leading candidates in the Nov. 2 election campaign. Mayor Ron Dellums has not said whether he will seek re-election.
Kaplan's top priorities in a mayoral bid would be public safety, economic revitalization, and making City Hall more efficient and responsive, she said.
She would have to play some catch-up. Perata and Quan have been campaigning for months. However, with the city's switch to a November-only election format — in which voters rank candidates by choice, eliminating the need for separate primary elections — she has the chance to jump into the race late and build a viable campaign.
"I think as long as I do a good job of explaining to people what my goals are and what my experience is and what my vision is for the city of Oakland, no one is going to make their decision based on whether or not someone was running for mayor six months ago," Kaplan said Tuesday.
She served in an elected capacity on the AC Transit board of directors for nearly seven years before joining the council in 2009. She won 62 percent of the vote against former school board member Kerry Hamill in the 2008 at-large council election.
Kaplan did not say when she plans to make a final decision, only that the exploratory committee will help her in "organizing supporters in order to make a responsible decision."
Other mayoral candidates include Don Macleay, a Green Party activist and businessman; Terence Candell, director of Candell's College Preparatory Academy; and Orlando Johnson, a member of the Oakland Community Action Network.
Perata first said he would run for mayor more than a year ago. Quan announced in September that she had formed an exploratory committee and then officially kicked off her campaign last month.
Kaplan could draw backing from Perata's and Quan's supporters. As a left-leaning council member, it's possible that Kaplan could pull more first-choice votes from Quan under the city's ranked-choice voting system.
Perata and Quan have said they are more focused on their own campaigns than the competition. Perata did not return a phone call Tuesday. Quan said she will continue "grass-roots organizing, walking precincts and holding house parties."
"People were saying Robert Bobb was going to run, and then they were saying Van Jones was going to run," she said. "Obviously, I'm a little concerned that (a Kaplan campaign) might split up the anti-Perata forces or the progressive forces, but it's not going to change what I do."