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Non-Comformist Oakland?

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Rebecca Kaplan: first openly gay mayor of Oakland?

Curious about what form the anti-incumbent sentiment is taking in the San Francisco Bay Area? The take a gander at the mayor’s race in Oakland — that “no there, there” city on the eastern end of the Bay Bridge.

All things being normal, the contest should belong to Democrat Don Perata. He’s a past president pro tem of the California State Senate, an Assemblyman, a former member of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, and a public-school teacher to boot.

All told, that’s more than two decades in office and a lot longer on the public payroll — a strong c.v. for a Democratic stronghold like “Oaktown”.

Moreover, at age 65 and no longer a sitting politician, Perata fits the model of the last two Oakland mayors.

The current guy, Ron Dellums, was elected in 2006 after 8 years of retirement– after nearly 30 years in Congress. He succeeded Jerry Brown, who took over the top job in Oakland in 1999 after a 16-years hiatus in California elected office. Brown was 60 in his first year; Dellums, 72. Perata is right in the retirement-age middle.

But in this, the year of the anti-incumbent, anti-politician, anti-you-name-it, a career pol like Perata is in trouble.

Or so we learned this week when the Oakland Tribune gave it endorsement to Rebecca Kaplan.

Ok, so Kaplan isn’t exactly a non-incumbent — at least, not in the purest sense. She’s a freshman on the Oakland City Council, and served on the county transit board prior to that.

But she is a pioneer and a non-conformist, in several regards.

1) No woman has served as mayor in the Oakland’s nearly 160-year existence. If elected, Kaplan, who’s 40, would be Oakland’s youngest mayor (there have been 45 in total) since 33-year-old Joseph Edward Smith’s ascension in July 1947 (he was chosen by a 7-1 vote of the City Council).

2) She’s quirky, as defines many a Bay Area hopeful. A former rabbinical student, she likes to travel with a gold-trimmed Bible — and isn’t shy about referring to it, as she did at a recent stop during which she read from Psalm 118: “The rock that the builder rejected shall become the topmost cornerstone, and Oakland will become the most desirable place to live.”

3) Oh, I almost forgot. Rebecca Kaplan is a lesbian — hoping to becoming the first openly gay mayor of a major Bay Area city.

Don Perata: right age, right resume?

For this to happen, Kaplan has to be one of the top-two finishers on Nov. 2, assuming no candidate gets a majority of the votes and a runoff follows.

Most likely, that would be against the well-financed Perata, thus creating a two-Democrat race featuring all sorts of contrasts — the main one being generational.

Here’s a link to Kaplan explaining why she decided to run.

And here she is again, in a column about how the fight over Proposition 8, and tensions between the gay community and the Mormon church, became overheated in the East Bay.


Written by Bill Whalen

October 15, 2010 at 7:43 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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