Fresh Face Or Old Guard? 

Jean Quan, Rebecca Kaplan, and Joe Tuman hope to defeat Don Perata on Nov. 2 and end Oakland's love affair with career politicians.

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To create more jobs for Oaklanders, Kaplan wants to increase local hiring requirements for businesses that contract with the city. Her policy positions also have helped her win the support of several prominent Oakland black leaders and groups. Geoffrey Pete of the Oakland Black Caucus has endorsed her, as has the influential Black Women Organized for Political Action.

Pete, a longtime nightclub owner and Dellums supporter, said he was impressed with Kaplan when he first met her and asked her for help in revising Oakland's outdated and regressive nightclub and cabaret regulations. Kaplan eventually led the effort to reform them. "She's quite impressive, and she's really, really smart," Pete said. "She's smarter than everybody in the race — although Tuman is very bright, too."

A Canadian by birth, Kaplan graduated from MIT, and earned a master's degree from Tufts University before obtaining her law degree at Stanford. She recently turned forty and is the youngest of the four major candidates in the race. She also is the most friendly and gregarious. She often greets friends and acquaintances, alike, with a big hug.

But some of Kaplan's critics contend that she panders for votes. They note her switch from the Green Party to the Democratic Party several years ago. And her decision earlier this year to keep open a black ex-cop's North Oakland liquor store that neighbors wanted to close drew allegations that she was angling for black votes. Kaplan denied the accusation, but admitted that she should have done a better job explaining her decision. Kaplan said she questioned whether the city had the legal right to close a liquor store that wasn't a magnet for crime.

In recent polls, she's been running third, behind Perata and Quan, but still within striking distance. Along with environmentalists, progressives, and transit advocates, her core constituency includes young urbanists and developers who share her smart-growth vision and are uncomfortable with Perata's style of pay-to-play politics. In fact, the recent poll commissioned by the chamber revealed that Kaplan's entrance in the race likely is costing Perata more votes than Quan.

Until recently, Kaplan had been reluctant to criticize the ex-senator, saying she wanted to run a positive campaign. Going negative also is a risk in a ranked-choice voting election because you can lose vital second and third place votes if you anger your opponent's supporters by attacking him. In recent weeks, however, Kaplan has been increasingly willing to go after Perata after it became clear that he was trying to buy the election.

Perata revealed last week that his campaign had broken the city's $379,000 spending limit in the mayor's race because an "independent committee" had said it did so, too. Perata contends that he can now spend as much as he wants to win the election. But Kaplan and Quan have noted that the independent committee that supposedly helped lift the spending cap is run by the ex-senator's Sacramento friends and is funded by the state prison guard's union. Kaplan strongly questions whether the committee, which also funded false attack ads against her, is truly independent from Perata as required by state and local laws. "When a committee is funded by the candidate's employer, it doesn't pass the smell test," she said late last week.

In terms of the November ballot measures, Kaplan also is a strong advocate of community policing and supports Measure BB — the so-called Measure Y fix. But she opposes Measure X. She voted against the police layoffs and believes the $50 million parcel tax is unnecessary. She says there are more creative ways to solve the police budget problem.

For months, Kaplan has contended that the city could have saved money and avoided the layoffs by offering early retirement incentives to senior cops. She notes that older cops receive much higher salaries and are more costly for the city than the newer officers who were laid off in July.

She also argues that Oakland police officers are paid too well. The average cop costs the city about $188,000 annually in pay and benefits. She notes that police officers in other cities, from New York to Baltimore, make much less. And she points out that Oakland could have more cops on the force if it paid them lower salaries. "We have fewer police officers than other cities because we pay them more," she argued. "But making the costs so high so that you don't have adequate finances, in my mind, is not a pro-public safety position."

Joe Tuman is the true dark horse in the race. The polls show him running fourth, but he's gaining momentum. Tuman lawn signs have sprung up in recent weeks throughout the city — particularly in wealthy Montclair, which is in Quan's home district and is a traditional Perata stronghold.

Tuman also is also an excellent public speaker. In fact, he's the most polished and powerful orator in the campaign and has performed well in the numerous mayoral debates so far. It should come as no surprise. Along with being a longtime political science professor at San Francisco State University, he worked for years as a TV news analyst for KPIX-Channel 5 and KCBS radio. He also was the coach of the highly successful San Francisco State debate team for many years, leading the squad to four national collegiate championships and routinely besting Ivy League schools.

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