By G.W. Schulz
With all districts reporting, Sandré Swanson has overcome Oakland city attorney John Russo by 7 percentage points in his primary bid for the 16th Assembly District, which Wilma Chan has held since 2000 and is out due to term limits. District 16 otherwise looks to be uncontested in the general election.
Russo served on the Oakland City Council during the 90s before becoming that Oakland’s first elected city attorney after Jerry Brown’s strong-mayor initiative put the office out for a vote. He made a name for himself in part by filing a nuisance action against Caltrans to force the transportation agency to clean up trash and debris along its properties and by taking on “problem liquor stores.”
Russo did manage to snag endorsements from former San Francisco mayoral candidate Matt Gonzalez, S.F. city attorney Dennis Herrera and the Sierra Club, but none of it was enough to put him over Swanson, who has 30 years of political experience in the East Bay.
Swanson, a former chief of staff to Congresswoman Barbara Lee and one-time top aide to Ron Dellums, secured the backing of many Bay Area progressives. The now-powerful East Bay state senator Don Perata narrowly beat Swanson in an Alameda County board of supervisors race two decades ago for what was considered a black seat (Perata is white; Swanson is black) during a time when Perata couldn’t seem to win much of anything.
Swanson, nonetheless, received Perata’s backing this year in an endorsement. But combined with what appears to be a mayoral win for Dellums, and at least a run-off for Green Aimee Allison in the Oakland City Council District 2 race against Patricia Kernighan, the East Bay is beginning already to look a whole helluva lot more progressive.