The Express' November 2018 Endorsement Guide 

We endorse Schaaf, Ezzy Ashcraft, and Butt; along with Fortunato Bas, Thao, Middleton, and Whitaker for Oakland council and Knox White and Oddie for Alameda council.

click to enlarge election2018_bug_banner.jpg

Here are our endorsements for the Nov. 6, 2018 election. We begin with races for local offices and ballot measures, followed by statewide races and propositions:

Oakland Mayor: Libby Schaaf

We endorsed Libby Schaaf for mayor in 2014, and we're endorsing her reelection bid this year for two main reasons: She's been a better mayor than many people have given her credit for and because none of the candidates running against her has the experience and qualifications needed to run a complex city like Oakland.

click to enlarge Libby Schaaf.
  • Libby Schaaf.

Schaaf, no doubt, has faced her share of problems and missteps: most notably, the 2016 Oakland police sex exploitation scandal and the tragic Ghost Ship fire that same year. But she also has had successes for which she doesn't often get her due: The city is in better financial health than when she took office and has operated more efficiently and competently under City Administrator Sabrina Landreth; violent crime has continued to trend downward; police shootings and use of force cases have declined; and the city is finally starting to build much-needed housing.

We've been disappointed at the slow pace of affordable-housing construction, and we think it took Schaaf too long to address the city's growing homeless issues, but we believe her 17K/17K plan to provide 17,000 new units of housing in Oakland and protect 17,000 residents from displacement by 2024 is worth pursuing.

We're also impressed by the transformation of Cat Brooks, who has gone from being perhaps the most militant activist in the East Bay to a thoughtful and measured candidate. But Brooks has never held elected office before nor run an organization with thousands of employees like the city of Oakland. We also have doubts about her judgment. A year ago, for example, she was advocating to defund the Oakland Police Department by half — a position she now admits was a nonstarter. Still, we hope Brooks stays in politics and runs for council in two years in her West Oakland district.

Pamela Price, the other top candidate in the race, chose not to seek the Express' endorsement (and we didn't endorse her for district attorney in June).

Oakland Council Dist. 2: Nikki Fortunato Bas

click to enlarge Nikki Fortunato Bas.
  • Nikki Fortunato Bas.

This was one of the toughest decisions for us, because we like both incumbent Councilmember Abel Guillen and challenger Nikki Fortunato Bas. Indeed, we think either is a great choice, but we give Fortunato Bas the slight edge. We think the former nonprofit leader is one of the smartest and impressive council candidates in this election. We also think she'll be stronger than Guillen in pushing for tenant protections and tougher rent control in Oakland if Proposition 10 passes and will be a powerful advocate for affordable housing.

But, having said that, we also have much admiration for Guillen and his ability to work pragmatically with an often-fractured council to work out viable compromises.

Oakland Council Dist. 4: 1st Choice: Sheng Thao; 2nd Choice (tie): Pamela Harris and Nayeli Maxson

Oakland's City Council District 4 is blessed with three of the best candidates running for any office in this election: Sheng Thao, Pamela Harris, and Nayeli Maxson. All three are extremely smart, and we think all would make fine additions to the council. But we think one stands above the rest: Thao.

click to enlarge Sheng Thao.
  • Sheng Thao.


A longtime aide to Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, Thao was the most prepared council candidate we interviewed this fall. Her command of the many issues facing Oakland is impressive, and we think she could step into the job and be successful on Day One. We also agree with her policy platform: She's pro-tenant, pro-housing (both affordable and market-rate), and a strong advocate for police reform.

Maxson, who used to work for outgoing councilmember Annie Campbell Washington, and Harris, a political newcomer, are also great candidates, and we recommend that D4 voters select them as their second or third picks on their ranked-choice ballots.

Before he dropped out of the race on Sunday, Charlie Michelson was our distant fourth choice in this contest.

Oakland Council Dist. 6: 1st Choice: Natasha Middleton and Mya Whitaker; 3rd Choice: Marlo Rodriguez

click to enlarge Natasha Middleton.
  • Natasha Middleton.

In this contest, candidates Natasha Middleton, Mya Whitaker, and Marlo Rodriguez are running as a slate, urging voters to select them first, second, or third in ranked choice voting. And we agree that they're the top three candidates and that all would represent a significant upgrade over incumbent councilmember, Desley Brooks.

But we give Middleton and Whitaker the slight nod for our co-endorsement for first choice. Middleton, a management analyst at the Alameda County Probation Department, is extremely thoughtful, and we believe she will especially effective in helping Oakland deal with its homeless issues. And we think Whitaker, an East Oakland native and political newcomer, would be a fierce advocate for District 6.

Brooks, who cost the city $2.2 million earlier this year for her assault on ex-Black Panther Elaine Brown, declined to seek the Express' endorsement.

Oakland Auditor: Courtney Ruby

This was by far the easiest choice for us. Courtney Ruby, who served as Oakland City Auditor from 2006 to 2014, was one of the best auditors in the region during her tenure. By contrast, Roberts, who has been city auditor since 2014, has been the worst (see "Watching the Watchdog," 10/11/17).

Oakland School Board Dist. 4: Clarissa Doutherd

We're endorsing Clarissa Doutherd of Parents Voices Oakland, because she clearly understands the serious financial problems that charter schools have inflicted on Oakland public schools. A recent study by In The Public Interest, an Oakland-based watchdog group, revealed that charters siphoned about $57 million in funds from regular public schools last year.

Although we have great respect for her opponent, Gary Yee, a former longtime Oakland school board member and ex-interim superintendent, we think Yee has too often acquiesced over the years to the charter school industry.

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