Updated: There may four viable candidates running for mayor of Oakland, but judging from campaign ads to date, Councilwoman Jean Quan and ex-Senator Don Perata view it as a two-person race. Quan’s ads have either touted her candidacy or attacked Perata’s. And while all of Perata’s ads have lauded his achievements, those paid by a group with close ties to him have repeatedly gone after Quan. The most recent anti-Quan piece landed in Oakland mailboxes today.
Yet none of the ads from Quan or the Perata-linked group has mentioned the other top two candidates in the race: Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan and college professor/news analyst Joe Tuman. From Quan’s perspective, the repeated attacks on her by the Perata-linked group show that the senator fears her candidacy. “We’ve been told that the polls show that we’re close and that they believe we’re the ones they need to beat up on,” Quan said after the latest hit-piece arrived this afternoon from the Perata-linked group, Coalition for a Safer California.
Campaign finance records show that a second Perata-linked group, Oakland Jobs PAC, recently paid for a poll from David Binder Research. But neither the group nor Perata’s campaign has yet released the results. That fact has led to speculation in the Quan and Kaplan camps that the race is closer than Perata had hoped. If the ex-senator were leading by a comfortable margin, then his campaign would surely be trumpeting the poll.
The recent huge infusion of cash from Hollywood producer Bryan Zuriff and the powerful California Nurses Association also appears to show that Kaplan’s candidacy has legs. But from Quan’s perspective, the fact that Perata’s close associates are still targeting her and not Kaplan shows that the ex-senator views her as his main rival. Coalition for a Safer California did slam Kaplan with a hit-piece full of falsehoods in June, but has not funded a negative ad against her since.
Still, the barrage of negative ads could backfire for Perata and Quan, particularly in a race where such a large percentage of voters may still be undecided. In addition, the apparent high percentage of undecideds could mean that Perata and Quan have made a mistake only attacking each other. Finally, there's a significant amount of uncertainty in the campaigns about what will happen with ranked-choice voting. All or any of these factors could allow Kaplan and/or Tuman to slide past both Perata and Quan, since both have run mostly positive campaigns.
Update: In fact, the new group backing Kaplan is attempting to capitalize on Quan and Perata's obsession with each other. The group, Citizens for Rebecca Kaplan for Oakland Mayor 2010, just put out a two-page mailer that features Perata and Quan attacking each other's records. The mailer shows Perata slamming Quan for the police layoffs and Quan hitting Perata for the disastrous Raiders' deal. It reads: "Tired of politicians bickering and doing nothing for us?" Then the flip side of the mailer features a large photo of Kaplan and is titled: "Rebecca Kaplan is the change we need." Clearly, the Kaplan group is attempting to position her as the alternative choice to blood-sport politics.
Meanwhile, the latest attack against Quan from the Perata-linked group features the Oakland police union pounding on the councilwoman, blaming her once again for the layoff of eighty cops in July and the planned layoff of 120 more in January. The mailer, of course, doesn’t mention the fact that the biggest advocates for the layoffs were Councilmembers Jane Brunner and Ignacio De La Fuente, two of Perata’s closest allies. The hit piece also fails to note that the council voted for the layoffs after the police union refused to pay 9 percent of their pensions — like all other city employees — unless they were awarded a no-layoff guarantee. And finally, the ad fails to note that Perata has presented no viable plan for avoiding the 120 cop layoffs in January should the tax measures in Tuesday’s election fail.
The latest piece from Coalition for a Safer California cost $28,000, pushing the group’s total spending on behalf of Perata to $250,000. In all, spending for Perata is well above $1 million in the campaign, easily smashing previous Oakland campaign expenditure records.