With former Congressmember Ron Dellums setting a self-imposed deadline of Oct. 1 to announce whether or not he will run for mayor of Oakland in next year’s elections, organizers of a “Draft Dellums” campaign have announced that they will conclude their petition drive at a Wednesday morning press conference at the Ron Dellums Federal Building in Oakland.
According to petition campaign worker Kitty Kelly Epstein, an Oakland teacher and education activist, Dellums has not been invited to the press conference.
“We want to show the congressmember and the public the groundswell of support for his candidacy, including petitions and letters from leaders of various constituencies and organizations throughout the city,” she said. “We want the congressmember to take all this information in, and then give him the space to make his decision by October 1st.”
According to Oakland Black Caucus chair Geoffrey Pete, another petition drive organizer, “there’s been no coordination of the petition campaign” with Dellums.
“He didn’t ask for it,” he said. “I haven’t talked with him directly since the campaign began, and there’s been no association with him.”
Pete said that he expects the number of petition signatures “will be in the thousands.”
Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown must leave office next year at the end of his second term, and several candidates have already announced that they are running to succeed him, including Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, Oakland City Councilmember Nancy Nadel, Alameda County Treasurer Donald White, and Oakland School Board members Dan Siegel and Greg Hodge.
But earlier this summer, saying that he was dissatisfied with the choices, Pete stood up at a meeting of the Oakland Citizens Committee for Urban Renewal (OCCUR) and started the crowd in a chant of “Run, Ron, Run.” Shortly afterwards, Pete and several other friends and associates began the petition campaign, calling for Oakland residents to sign up to ask Dellums to run for mayor.
Over the summer, members of such organizations as the Oakland Black Caucus and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 790 have been volunteering as individuals to get signatures at public events throughout Oakland, including this month’s Art & Soul Festival.
At times, the petition campaign has appeared more like an election campaign, with “Draft Ron Dellums” posters showing up on telephone posts and inside storefront windows. At Councilmember Desley Brooks’ Unity In The Community free concerts at Arroyo Viejo Park this summer, SEIU members set up a petition-signing booth, complete with campaign banner.
Epstein said that she spoke with Dellums last week in Washington about the petition campaign, “and he’s really moved by it. He said it was putting a lot of pressure on him and his decision.” Epstein said she got no indication from Dellums as to what his decision might be.
“I hope he does, of course,” she added, “but whether he runs or not, this movement has already had a positive effect upon the future of Oakland politics. We’ve had Latinos and Black Caucus members and union organizers getting together in a more of a dialogue than I’ve seen in quite a while. Whatever happens, things aren’t going to be the same.”
Dellums, who once served on the Berkeley City Council, resigned as the 9th District U.S. Congressmember from California in 1998 after 28 years in Congress. He continued to live in Washington D.C. after his retirement, and in recent years has worked both as a corporate Congressional lobbyist and on issues relating to the AIDS epidemic in Africa.
Geoffrey Pete is the cousin of the author of this article.