Progressive power in Oakland

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By G.W. Schulz

All of Alameda County’s precincts have now reported, but absentee and provisional ballots are still not counted. The Alameda County Registrar of Voters couldn’t confirm for us how many such ballots remained.

So we won’t know for a week or two whether or not there will be a runoff between former congressman Ron Dellums and Oakland city council president Ignacio De la Fuente for the mayor’s office. But the race hardly feels tight at this point. Nancy Nadel’s 13 percentage points would likely go to Dellums in the event of a runoff, and Dellums remains 17 points beyond De La Fuente with all precincts reporting.

Mayor Jerry Brown, who’s now on his way to a November election battle with unrivaled Republican primary winner Chuck Poochigian for the state attorney general’s office, rarely shied away from corporate developers in Oakland. Entire neighborhoods have been transformed in just a few years with swanky artist loft spaces and corporate box stores sprouting up everywhere.

De La Fuente was viewed as the candidate who would continue that trend. Dellums offers a very different vision.

The victories of Dellums and his former aide, Sandre Swanson, who won the 16th District Assembly primary, are an immediate and direct blow to the powerhouse political operation of state Sen. Don Perata, Mayor Jerry Brown and De la Fuente. Dellums creates a new center of political power in the East Bay – and when he was in Congress, his political operation was actively involved in electing progressives to local office and passing progressive legislation.

When it comes to policy, though, he now has to deal with the City Council.

The City Council is still a bit unpredictable: Aimee Allison, a green and a big Dellums supporter, lost in District 2 by 10 points to Patricia Kernighan, who typically woted with Brown (Allison will now face Kernighan in a November runoff election). Dellums still has support in District 6 with incumbent winner Desley Brooks, who helped inspire Dellums to run in the first place. And uncontested District 4 winner Jean Quan could see the writing on the wall and become fast friends with Dellums, even considering her occasionally chummy past with pro-developer pol and East Bay state senator Don Perata.

Dellums’ challenge now is to bring economic development to Oakland – but avoid gentrifying the city half to death with yet more Starbucks locations and wealthy, white empty nesters who fortify city coffers, but have a tendency to edge out poorer minority residents. The sooner Dellums can outline in detail how he’s going to do it, the better Oakland will be.

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