By Matthew Artz
The kumbaya portion of the Oakland’s mayor race appears over.
After weeks of nothing but positive mailers from candidates extolling their virtues, a group calling itself Citizens for Oakland sent out a flier to 68,000 homes this week that appears intended to benefit Councilwoman Libby Schaaf at the expense of her two biggest rivals: Mayor Jean Quan and Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan.
The mailer uses unflattering photos of Quan and Kaplan and instructs people to vote for them if they “like the direction the city is going.” Then it shows official photographs of Schaaf, Joe Tuman and Bryan Parker, and instructs people to vote for them in any order if they’re not happy with the city’s direction.
Recent polling shows that if residents selected that slate, under Oakland’s ranked-choice election system, their vote would ultimately go to Schaaf who is polling better than Parker and Tuman. Polls also show one of Schaaf’s biggest obstacles to winning the election is that Kaplan is outpolling her for second and third place votes.
“They’re trying to tell you not to put Kaplan and Quan as twos and threes,” said Ralph Kanz, a former chairman of Oakland’s Public Ethics Commission.
The mailer cost $50,968 to produce and was funded by 13 people, several of whom have also contributed to Schaaf’s and Tuman’s mayoral campaigns. The largest donation was $9,500 from Oakland resident Karen Banks, who has given to both Democrats and Republicans in prior elections.
Peter Smith, the treasurer of Citizens for Oakland and himself a Schaaf donor, said the group includes supporters of Schaaf, Tuman and Parker and wanted to stress to voters the importance of filling out their top three choices under Oakland’s voting system.
“Our goal was to retain a high degree of credibility and help people understand ranked-choice voting,” he said.
Quan’s campaign adviser Michael Colbruno called the mailer a hit piece but said it could backfire considering an Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce poll released this week found that Oakland voters actually think the city is heading in the right direction for the first time since 2005.
“Despite their intention,” he said, “this is a great argument for why people should vote for the mayor.”