Rebecca Kaplan announces her run for mayor of Oakland from a garbage-strewn sidewalk on International Boulevard. (Andrew Stelzer / KQED)
Rebecca Kaplan announces her run for mayor of Oakland from a garbage-strewn sidewalk on International Boulevard. (Andrew Stelzer/KQED)

Just five months before the November election, Oakland City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan formally announced her candidacy for mayor this week, citing frustrations with Mayor Jean Quan and her administration.

“Oakland isn’t ungovernable, just ungoverned,” Kaplan said in her first 2014 campaign video. “We need strong, stable leadership for safe neighborhoods, for local jobs and for a fresh start for our city.”

Her announcement is a reversal of her statement in 2012 that she would not challenge Quan this year, and though it is later in the campaign season than expected, the news is not a surprise.

Last November, Kaplan led a mock race with 26 percent of the vote, according to a survey of about 400 voters commissioned by the Oakland-based Jobs and Housing Coalition. Without Kaplan in the running, Quan was ahead in both the November poll, with 32 percent of the vote, and again in the most recent study released a couple of weeks ago, with 20 percent of the vote.

University of San Francisco politics professor Corey Cook said Kaplan’s entrance shook up the mayor’s race.

“The fact that she has been ahead in some of these polls when she isn’t in the race shows that voters want her to run,” Cook said. Before Kaplan entered the race, “There was not a lot of shape to the opponents,” he added.

Kaplan joins a long list of 16 other mayoral hopefuls, including Port of Oakland Commissioner Bryan Parker, Oakland City Councilwoman Libby Schaaf, and former Oakland school board member and civil rights attorney Dan Siegel.

“Frankly, if anybody out there is a supporter of any of the other candidates, my message to them is not that they’re wrong,” Kaplan told the East Bay Express. “I respectfully ask that they vote for me as their second choice.”

This statement sounds similar to Quan’s winning 2010 campaign tactic.

“When Jean went out and canvassed, she said, ‘vote for me first, but if not, vote for me second,'” Sue Piper, Quan’s 2010 campaign manager, told Oakland North just after the 2010 election. Piper said Quan relied on ranked-choice voting to beat Don Perata’s expensive campaign.

In ranked-choice elections, voters list their first, second and third choices. If no candidate has more than 50 percent of the first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated, and ballots cast for them are transferred to voters’ second choice.

Third choices are counted only if a voter’s first- and second-choice candidates have been eliminated. The process of elimination continues until one candidate has more than half the vote and is declared the winner.

In 2010, Don Perata took the majority of first-choice votes, by about 10 percent, in Oakland’s first ranked-choice mayoral election. But Quan won the mayoral seat after receiving more of the second and third place votes.

Had Kaplan not entered the 2014 campaign, the second-choice votes could have fallen anywhere among the 16 other candidates, giving Quan the lead even without a high approval rating, Cook said.

“Kaplan is the most credible threat to Jean Quan being re-elected,” he added.

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