OAKLAND — The first Oakland mayoral debate, set for today, will be noteworthy not only for who will be there but also for who won't.
Candidates Jean Quan, Terence Candell, Don Macleay, Greg Harland, Orlando Johnson and likely candidate Rebecca Kaplan all are expected to participate in the event. Candidate Don Perata is not.
Perata, the former state Senate president pro tem, has been holding fundraisers and other campaign events for a year. However, in a letter dated Monday, he said he will not participate in debates until the full candidate field is known, calling it "undemocratic and misleading to voters" to do so.
Perata's campaign website initially indicated he would participate. Campaign spokesman Rhys Williams said in a statement that in the case of today's debate, "there is an incumbent" — Mayor Ron Dellums — "who has not indicated what he will do. There are also people who may participate in the forum that may not actually file for election."
The period during which candidates may file the paperwork to run for mayor in the Nov. 2 election runs from July 12-Aug. 6, with an extension to Aug. 11 if Dellums decides against running.
Today's event, set for 6 p.m., will be held at the First Unitarian Church, 685 14th St., and is expected to last three hours. Admission is free.
Perata's absence leaves City Council members Quan and Kaplan as the leading mayoral aspirants participating in the debate, which was organized by 100 Black Men, 100 Black Women, OaklandSeen and Black Women Organized for Political Action.
The event also gives Candell, Harland, Macleay and Johnson a public forum to make their case to voters.
Organizers said questions will focus on the city's budget, crime and safety, education and economic development.
Dellums spokesman Paul Rose said the mayor has not ruled out a run even though he will not participate today.
"He has not made a decision on whether or not he is going to run, so it wouldn't make sense for him to take part in a political debate at this time," Rose said.