The June Election Beyond the Oakland Mayor’s Race

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday May 05, 2006

The race to replace Jerry Brown as mayor of Oakland in the June 6 primary has gotten the lion’s share of local media and public attention so far. Meanwhile, Alameda County residents will have the opportunity to vote on a number of candidates and issues that will have a great affect on the shape of their government, fiscal policy, and the direction of area education. 

Below is a preliminary rundown of some of the local June 6 races: 


16th Assembly District 

This is the race to succeed Wilma Chan, who cannot run for re-election as 16th District Assemblymember because of term limits. 

KPFA Radio program producer Edward Ytuarte is running unopposed in the Peace and Freedom Party primary, and the Republicans have not bothered to operate a primary in a district dominated by progressive-liberal interests (typical for what you would expect from a district made up of the heart of Oakland, the 16th District is 30 percent African-American, 27 percent white, 21 percent Latino, 19 percent Asian, and 62 percent registered Democrat). 

Piedmont School Board and Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board Commissioner Ronnie Gail Caplane and Alameda City Councilmember Tony Daysog are running in the Democratic primary, but their campaigns have been overshadowed by the two heavyweights in the race, Oakland City Attorney John Russo and Sandre Swanson, Chief of Staff for Congressmember Barbara Lee. 

Both Russo and Swanson have considerable experience in progressive and liberal politics in the area, and the race between them is expected to be close. You must live within the 16th State Assembly District to vote in this race. 


Superior Court Judge, Alameda County, Seat 21 

Almost always the most overlooked in local elections is the elected office of Superior Court Judge, even though such judges may have considerable power over individual lives. 

Judge elections tend to be an insider’s game within the legal community, and little campaigning is done with the general public. Since a requirement for this position is ten years of law practice in California or service as a judge of a court of record, it is not surprising that the six candidates for this open judge’s seat are practicing attorneys. 

Running are deputy Alameda County Counsel Sandy Bean, Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Mike Nisperos, Jr., AC Transit Director Dennis Hayashi, civil law attorney and former Deputy District Attorney Kathy Mount, and attorneys Frederick Remer and Philip Knudsen. 

Bean, Nisperos, Hayashi, and Mount all have background information listed on the League of Women Voters Smart Voter website (www.smartvoter.org.) All Alameda County voters are eligible to vote in this race. 


Alameda County Board of Supervisors District 3 

Alice Lai-Bitker is running for re-election in a crowded race to represent a Board of Supervisors district that includes the Fruitvale, San Antonio, and Chinatown portions of Oakland as well as the cities of Alameda, San Leandro, and San Lorenzo. 

Lai-Bitker was appointed to the board in 2000 to succeed Wilma Chan, and then elected to a full four-year term in 2002. Chan, who is being termed out of her 16th Assembly seat, briefly considered running against Lai-Bitker for her old District 3 Supervisor’s seat while waiting for the District 9 State Senate seat to open up when Don Perata runs out of terms, but then decided against it. 

Opposing Lai-Bitker is San Leandro Mayor Sheila Young, Alameda business analyst Jim Price, San Leandro City Councilmember Glenda Nardine, and multiple candidate Lou Filipovich (Filipovich is simultaneously running for mayor of San Leandro and the Republican nomination for the District 10 State Senate seat; he also ran for the 18th Assembly in 2004). 

You must live within the 3rd County Supervisorial District to vote in this race. 


Alameda County Superintendent of Schools 

The website of the Alameda County Office of Education lists the duties of the county superintendent as “chief administrator of the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) whose primary mission is to promote teaching and learning, provide fiscal oversight to all county K-12 public schools, and to educate at-risk students not served by districts.” 

It is the fiscal oversight function that makes this seemingly-obscure position one of the most powerful education posts in the county—because of that function, the county superintendent has had a role in state intervention in the Berkeley Unified School District through the Fiscal Crisis Management Team (FCMAT) as well as a the state takeover of both the Oakland and the Emeryville school districts. 

Incumbent Sheila Jordan is running for her third term as Alameda County Superintendent of Schools. She is being opposed by current Newark School Superintendent John Bernard. All Alameda County residents are eligible to vote in this election. 


Oakland Unified School District Director District 6 

Since the 2003 takeover of the Oakland Unified School District by the state, the Oakland school board has functioned only as an advisory body to the state-appointed administrator, Randolph Ward. 

Without any policy-making power, the board still serves as a way to focus citizen opinion on the operation of the Oakland public schools, and when and if local control of the school system is returned to Oakland citizens, the board will resume a powerful place in district activities. 

In addition, the school board is often a steppingstone to higher office (Jean Quan left her Oakland school board seat to win her present position on Oakland City Council, for example). 

With incumbent Dan Siegel choosing not to run for re-election, this race pits two educators against each other: Wandra J. Boyd (who ran unsuccessfully against Gay Cobb for the Alameda County Board of Education in 2004) and Chris Dobbins for the East Oakland area district. Neither Boyd nor Dobbins have served in elective office before. 

Only 6th Oakland School District residents are eligible to vote.  


Oakland Auditor 

The Oakland City Charter reads that, among other things, the city auditor “shall have the power and it shall be his or her duty to audit the books, accounts, money and securities of all departments and agencies of the city.” 

Just as with the office of the Alameda County school superintendent, the Oakland city auditor’s post can be a powerful political position when it turns its fiscal spotlight on various aspects of city government. 

Two-term incumbent auditor Roland E. Smith has significant opposition including a member of his own staff, Deputy City Auditor Michael J. Kilian. Also challenging are East Bay Conservation Corps C.E.O. and Director of Administration Courtney Ruby and Port of Oakland Internal Auditor Stewart Bolinger..