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Political Intrigue Stirs Up Oakland’s District 6 Race By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Tuesday October 18, 2005

Is Peralta Community College District Trustee Marcie Hodge running for the 6th District Oakland City Council seat against incumbent Desley Brooks in next June’s election, and if so, whose idea was it? 

While Hodge says that she is not considering running—not yet, at least—many local political observers say that she is, and Brooks believes that she was recruited to do so by Brooks’ political enemy, Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente. 

De La Fuente denies that, and says that it was Hodge who approached him asking for support to run against Brooks. 

Both Brooks and Hodge are African-American women serving their first terms in elective office. Brooks defeated Oakland City Councilmember Moses Mayne in 2002, while Hodge won the open Peralta Area 2 seat last November over high school counselor Johnny Lorigo after Trustee Lynn Baranco chose not to run for re-election. 

While the Oakland City Council District 6 seat and the Peralta Trustee Area 2 seat are both in East Oakland, the boundaries of the trustee seat are mostly southeast of the council seat. A small portion of the two districts overlaps between Seminary and 73rd avenues. 

Asked last week if she was considering running against Brooks, as has been widely assumed, Hodge said “No. That’s not something I’m thinking about,” but added that “I might take a look at it at the beginning of next year.” 

But Brooks says that Hodge has been picked by De La Fuente to run for the Council seat, and that Hodge was not the Council President’s first choice. Brooks said that earlier this year, De La Fuente approached “several black women—maybe as many as 10—to run against me,” adding that De La Fuente turned to Hodge after the others turned him down. 

Brooks mentioned former Oakland City Clerk Ceda Floyd and Linda Handy, who serves with Hodge on the Peralta Trustee Board, as two of the women who had been approached by De La Fuente to run. 

Asked by telephone if he had approached anyone to run against Brooks, De La Fuente said. “That’s not true. Absolutely not. I have not approached anyone.” 

De La Fuente said that some months ago Hodge and her brother, former Oakland School Board member Jason Hodge, “approached me and said that she was interested in running.” 

De La Fuente said that he has also been approached recently for support by a male candidate considering running against Brooks, who he is going to meet with next week. He said he was not at liberty to release the name of the candidate. 

Handy, who lives in the City Council 6th District, said that she had “no comment” when asked about the De La Fuente overtures, and only said that “I am not running for the 6th District seat.” 

But another black political leader, who asked that she not be identified by name because “I still do some business with the city, and I don’t want to alienate anybody at City Hall,” confirmed that De La Fuente had approached her to recruit to run against Brooks. 

De La Fuente supported Brooks’ predecessor in the 6th District seat, Moses Mayne, both when Mayne was first elected to council and during Mayne’s unsuccessful run for re-election against Brooks in 2002. Brooks and De La Fuente have publicly clashed almost from the moment Brooks was sworn into her council seat. 

De La Fuente recently appointed Hodge to the City Council Budget Advisory Committee, a position that would give her visibility in city issues. Two local papers reported De La Fuente saying that he made the appointment at Hodge’s request, both of them linking the appointment with De La Fuente’s belief that Hodge was considering running against Brooks. 

And the Oakland Tribune reported that De La Fuente hosted a $1,000 a plate fund-raiser for Hodge in Oakland’s Fruitvale District last week. Hodge said she was using the proceeds of the fund-raiser to promote Peralta issues. She would not have to run for re-election to her Peralta Trustee seat until 2008. 

When Hodge was elected to the Peralta Trustee board in November, she was part of a board overhaul in which four of the seven trustees chose not to run for re-election. But while her three freshman board counterparts—Bill Withrow, Cy Gulassa, and Nicky Gonzalez Yuen—immediately became active and vocal members of the board, Hodge has been slower to have her impact felt. She does not serve on any of the board’s most powerful committees—Budget, Policy, or Technology—and until recent weeks, unlike Gulassa and Yuen especially, she largely remained silent during board deliberations. 

But last month, she received headlines in local newspapers when she called during a board meeting for the elimination of the Peralta District’s international studies department, charging that the department was wasting “millions of dollars.” The department recruits students to the four Peralta colleges from outside the country. 

In a later op-ed piece in the Oakland Tribune, Hodge called the international studies department a “rogue department,” writing that she has “asked Chancellor Elihu Harris why he has permitted staff from this department to spend so lavishly and travel the world while tuition for students continues to rise. My questions have not been answered, and the stonewalling on the part of the chancellor and his staff continues. After demanding an accounting of the expenditures of this rogue department several weeks ago, I was shocked by what I saw. The director of this department has, for years, been allowed to travel the globe and spend shamelessly. Receipts that I obtained show endless travel to such places as Singapore, England, South Africa and Beijing, along with stays in the finest hotels in the country.” 

Hodge said following a later board meeting that her criticism of the International Studies Department was part of her “fiscal responsibility to my constituents. It would be irresponsible for me not to raise these questions.” 

Harris and other board trustees—including Bill Withrow—quickly defended the International Studies Program, saying that because international students pay full tuition that goes directly to Peralta instead of being funneled through the state, the program generates funds for the district. And Handy was particularly critical of Hodge, saying that her charges against the International Studies Department were motivated by a desire to get publicity for Hodge’s run for the 6th District City Council seat. 

“Board members should be critical of what goes on in the district; that’s our job,” Handy said. “But I don’t think we should be tearing down the district for our own personal political purposes.” 

For her part, Brooks said she was not worried about a possible challenge from Hodge. 

“I’m not going to run my campaign based upon what an opponent is doing, I’m going to base it on what I’ve been doing for my district, and what I intend to do,” she said. “Hopefully, that will be sufficient.” 

Hodge is the second member of her family to show an interest in running for Oakland City Council after election to a school district board. In 2004, while still on the school board, her brother Jason briefly entered the race for the District 7 Oakland City Council seat after reports that incumbent Larry Reid was not running for re-election. Jason Hodge stopped campaigning when Reid announced that he was still running, but his name remained on the ballot. Reid easily won re-election to the District 7 City Council seat.