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.
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.