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Oakland Mayor’s Race Picks Up Steam As Candidates Start Campaigning By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Tuesday January 17, 2006

The three candidates for this June’s Oakland mayoral race—Oakland City Councilmember Nancy Nadel, Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente and former Congressmember Ron Dellums—have begun to increase campaign activity.  

Both Dellums and De La Fuente have opened up campaign headquarters at the same downtown Oakland office near 12th and Broadway, with De La Fuente on the 14th floor and Dellums two floors higher. It could not be determined whether Nadel had yet opened a campaign office. 

Nadel’s website lists a series of campaign house parties throughout Oakland, beginning last summer. 

A De La Fuente spokesperson said the candidate is also planning a series of house parties, as well as school visits throughout the city, and kickoff events in each of Oakland’s seven council districts. 

Dellums, meanwhile, has been on a series of speaking events in Oakland that highlighted his celebrity status, providing keynote speeches for Martin Luther King Jr. birthday events. This past weekend demonstrated the power of that celebrity at Rhythmic Concepts’ 5th Annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King at the palatial Oakland Scottish Rite Center, when Oakland Humanitarian Award recipient David Muhammad called Dellums a “living legend.” 

Dellums gave a 15-minute address to a packed audience, never directly mentioning the Oakland mayoral race. Instead, in outlining the relevance of Dr. King’s message of peace and social protest to today’s situation, Dellums mentioned several times what “we have to do in this city.” To a crowd packed with Oakland voters, the inference was clear. 

Reports of a poll putting Dellums far in the lead of the mayoral race surfaced at the weekend event. Oakland School Board member Greg Hodge, who entered the mayor’s race and then dropped out last fall when Dellums became a candidate, said that a poll recently commissioned by Nadel had Dellums at 52 percent and Nadel and De La Fuente trailing badly at “around 17 percent apiece.” 

Hodge said that he did not know which polling organization actually conducted the poll. He said the results of the poll showed the “difficulty” present for Dellums’ challengers. 

Last fall, before Dellums entered the race and before several other candidates dropped out, Oakland political activists had reported seeing two private polls which showed Nadel with a slight lead over De La Fuente. A notice on the front page of the “Nancy J. Nadel for Oakland City Mayor” website indicates that “recent polls taken on the mayoral election show [Nadel] as a frontrunner.” No date was given for the poll referred to on Nadel’s website, and only a voicemail message was available at the telephone number supplied for the campaign. 

Oraiu Amoni, a staff member in the De La Fuente for Mayor campaign, said that he was “not aware of any poll” showing Dellums with a significant lead over De La Fuente and Nadel, and said “I would be hard-pressed to talk about a poll I haven’t seen.” 

Before Dellums dramatic entry into the race last fall after a grassroots petition campaign convinced him to run, the Oakland mayoral race appeared to be a faceoff between two longtime members of the Oakland City Council. Nadel, who represents predominantly-black West Oakland and a portion of the downtown area, has long been seen as the council’s most progressive voice, frequently a critic of big development and pushing for more police accountability. De La Fuente, who represents the predominantly-Latino Fruitvale area, came to City Council from the labor movement, but has identified more closely in recent years with large development. 

The two candidates’ relationship to Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown—who is being termed out this year—demonstrates the sometimes insider, family warfare type campaign that the Oakland mayor’s race had been shaping up to be before Dellums’ arrival. 

In 1998, De La Fuente was a candidate for Oakland mayor against Dellums, and Nadel was Brown’s sole supporter on the Oakland City Council. De La Fuente lost in 1998, running fourth in an 11-member field with a little over 5,000 votes while Brown got almost 44,000. But following the election, Brown formed an alliance with De La Fuente, running the city in a triumvirate that included the mayor’s office, De La Fuente’s council presidency, and the office of then-City Manager Robert Bobb. 

Despite her support for Brown during the campaign, Nadel was frozen out. And until Councilmember Desley Brooks’ election to the 6th District Council seat in 2002, Nadel was often the sole dissenter to De La Fuente and Brown initiatives on the City Council.