OAKLAND — First-term Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan is "very seriously" considering a run to become the city's next mayor, she said Friday.
Kaplan's entry into the race would jolt the dynamic of a 2010 contest that, for now, pits former state Sen. Don Perata and Councilmember Jean Quan against each other as the two front-runners.
"I am thinking about it very seriously," Kaplan said. "I have not made up my mind yet. There are a variety of people I need to talk to before I finalize a decision. ... I plan to be ready to say something by April."
Kaplan, 39, the council's only citywide representative, said supporters are urging her to run, including many people in the faith and LGBT communities. She said she will continue talking with people close to her before making a personal and political decision about whether it is the right time for her to run.
"When I look at what's going on in Oakland right now, it's clear to me that we need a significant effort around economic development and jobs as well as public safety," she said. "And that there is a lot that needs to be done in terms of the functioning of City Hall itself and the way we provide services to the public."
Should Kaplan decide to enter the race, the central knock against her would almost surely be her level of experience in a campaign in which she would go up against Perata, who was arguably the most powerful Democrat in state government when he presided over the Senate, and Quan, a seven-year City Council veteran who served on the school board before that.
"Anybody who is in this race is going to have to deal with the realities of Oakland," Perata said. "She's been on the council for a year now. She's going to have to defend her record — whatever that record is."
Other candidates seeking the office include Don Macleay, a Green Party activist and businessman, and Terence Candell, director of Candell's College Preparatory Academy. Maya Dillard Smith, who sits on the Oakland Fund for Children & Youth Planning and Oversight Committee, said she is "seriously considering" running. And Mayor Ron Dellums has not said whether he intends to seek re-election.
Kaplan defeated a Perata-backed candidate, Kerry Hamill, a former school board member, for Oakland's at-large council seat in 2008. The one-time Green Party and AC Transit board member ran with the support of the Central Labor Council of Alameda County and the Democratic Party, and eventually won over the support of some business groups, including OakPAC, the political arm of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.
Garnering the support she had running for council will be tough in the mayor's race in which both Perata and Quan already have significant support lined up. One of Kaplan's backers from her council bid, Pamela Drake, who lives in the Lakeshore area and is active in city political circles, said she does not believe Kaplan is ready to be mayor.
"I still support her in the at-large" council position, Drake said. "I think she needs to get a little more experience before she runs for mayor. Running a campaign is a whole different animal than governing."
Drake is backing Quan, who could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
Kaplan believes if she runs she will have a broad base of support. She served on the AC Transit board from 2002 to 2008, before assuming her spot on the council in January 2009.
She said she has used her position on council to work with other governmental agencies — to help Bayer remain in Berkeley, for example, while brokering a deal where Oakland residents get hiring preferences at the facility. She also helped land a grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for a shuttle bus service between Jack London Square and the city's uptown area, she said.
"Our capacity to improve is significant," she said, adding, "We're going to have to do new things. It isn't just that we're going to have to do old things better. "... We're going to have to do new things that have not historically been as big a part of Oakland's government."
Geoffrey Pete, vice chairman of the Oakland Black Caucus, who helped recruit Dellums to run for mayor in the 2006 election, said he will support Dellums if the mayor chooses to run again. If Dellums doesn't, however, Pete hopes Kaplan will.
"She's young," he said. "She can generate enthusiasm with the younger voters. I think she can be solid enough on the African-American issues to win a sizable portion of the African-American constituency. "... I think she is the candidate for the future of the city of Oakland."