.Endorsements and Predictions

Our picks on who should win — and who will — in this Tuesday's election.

Before the February presidential primary, we published our first-ever list of political endorsements. Our previous corporate masters frowned on such things, and taking political sides was simply not the philosophy of Express co-founder and longtime editor John Raeside. But times change, and now that we’re independent again, we get to do what we want. In this edition, we’ve decided to spice up our recommendations with some predictions of who we think will win.

Fittingly, our first endorsement comes in the race to decide who will succeed Don Perata in the state Legislature. We’re glad to note that both leading candidates vying to take over his District Nine state Senate seat should be vast improvements over a politician who spent far too much time doing favors for friends and donors, spending his campaign cash on expensive meals and posh getaways, seeking revenge on those who crossed him, and keeping a step ahead of the FBI. In fact, we’d be happy with either former Assemblywoman Wilma Chan or current Assemblywoman Loni Hancock taking over for The Don.

But our choice is Chan, mainly because of the groundbreaking work she did in Sacramento, attempting to eliminate nasty toxic chemicals from our everyday lives. Also, we consider it a badge of honor that Perata recently revoked his dual endorsement of her and Hancock, and is now just supporting Hancock. That’s not to say we don’t like the former Berkeley mayor, because we do. In fact, we think she’s going to win, because she’s raised far more cash in the final weeks of the campaign and because of the key endorsements she’s received, from US Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Barbara Lee to the state Democratic Party and the Sierra Club. In a tight race, as this one looks to be, money and endorsements matter.

So who’s going to take over for the termed-out Hancock in her Fourteenth Assembly District? Again, we’re blessed with some solid candidates — former Berkeley City Councilwoman Nancy Skinner, Richmond City Councilman Tony Thurmond, Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington, and Berkeley physician Phil Polakoff. Our pick is Thurmond, though we also like Skinner and Worthington. Polakoff, on the other hand, just doesn’t have the proper experience, and we don’t think the Assembly should be a training ground.

Thurmond gets the nod mainly because the Fourteenth District has been considered the Berkeley seat over the years, leaving Richmond on the short end of the stick in Sacramento. We think Thurmond is a solid candidate who will finally provide Richmond with the respect, recognition, and representation it so desperately needs. But having said that, we suspect Skinner will win, primarily because Hancock remains hugely popular in this district and Skinner has her full support. In the Fifteenth Assembly District, our pick is Joan Buchanan, and we think she’s going to win. Same for incumbent Mary Hayashi in the Eighteenth.

On the statewide ballot, we support Proposition 99 but not its stepbrother, Proposition 98. Both would limit the power of local governments to seize private property and give it to another private property owner in the name of eminent domain. Our staff was torn over the Prop. 98 provision that would also phase out rent control statewide. But none of us like the notion that Prop. 98 could make it harder and costlier for governments to enact environmental safeguards. Moreover, we like Prop. 99, because it’s limited to prohibiting local governments from seizing owner-occupied homes, and leaves open the option of taking blighted rental units or dilapidated businesses and redeveloping them.

As much as we like the candidates running for statewide office, unfortunately we can’t say the same for many of the people running in the five Oakland City Council races. For the at-large seat, we’re convinced there will be a November run-off between the two top vote-getters, so we’re recommending two candidates (we’re also doing it because we can’t come to unanimous agreement on one). Our picks are anti-crime activist Charles Pine and Oakland school board member Kerry Hamill. We like Pine’s laser focus on crime, and think it’s appropriate for the at-large councilperson, who represents the entire city, to zero in on one issue and make it his own. Hamill also has remade herself as a law and order candidate, but we like her because she has an independent streak, despite her continued ties to her former boss, Perata. For example, we thought Hamill was right – and courageous — to support the proposed sale of the Oakland school district headquarters for $65 million back in 2006.

As for who will make the run-off, we predict it will be Hamill and AC Transit board member Rebecca Kaplan. Pine just doesn’t have the name recognition to gain enough votes citywide, and former city planning commissioner Clinton Killian doesn’t possess the financial acumen required to serve on the council (see “Chamber’s Candidate Has Quite a History in Business,” 4/23/08). As for the little-known management consultant Frank Rose, we see him coming in fifth. Hamill, on the other hand, has a solid track record and lots of money behind her, while Kaplan has captured some significant endorsements, most notably, the Alameda County Democratic Party and the county labor council.

In District One, Rockridge-North Oakland, our choice is incumbent Jane Brunner, and we think she’ll win easily. Although challenger Patrick McCullough has fared better in debates and on the campaign trail than we expected, he still has no experience and his only true claim to fame is that he shot a fifteen-year-old thug in apparent self-defense. Brunner, on the other hand, has increasingly showed a willingness to act independently, and we were impressed with her efforts to strike a deal earlier this year on affordable housing and condo conversions.

In District Three, Downtown-West Oakland, we’re recommending Oakland school board member Greg Hodge over incumbent Nancy Nadel and challenger Sean Sullivan. We think Hodge, who is an inspiring speaker and all-round smart guy, can champion progressive ideas and get things done. His political views are not that much different from Nadel, but he possesses neither her prickly personality nor her penchant for holding grudges, which have harmed her effectiveness and alienated parts of her constituency. As for Sullivan, he has received some significant support in this campaign, but he’s also given indications that he may turn out to be another rubber stamp for the council majority.

Regardless, we think there’s going to be a run-off in this race too because we don’t see any of the candidates capturing the 50 percent needed to win outright. We think Nadel and Hodge will split the liberal/progressive vote, with Nadel coming out on top because of name recognition and the loyalty of her supporters. As for who she’ll face in the run-off, we think that’s up for grabs.

In District Five, Glenview-Fruitvale, our choice is incumbent Ignacio De La Fuente and we think he’ll win in a walk. This endorsement must be hard for close readers of this column to believe, considering the critical stories we’ve published on the council president over the years, but in this case, we just don’t think any of the candidates running against De La Fuente are qualified to take his place (see “Council Candidate Has a Troubled Past,” 5/21/08, our story last week on his main challenger Mario Juarez).

And finally, in District Seven, Elmhurst-East Oakland, we’re recommending incumbent Larry Reid, and we think he’ll win it going away. Political newcomer Clifford Gilmore is just no match for the veteran councilmember, and we don’t think he’s ready to help lead the city. We’re also impressed with Reid’s independence of late, especially his close but unsuccessful bid last year to supplant De La Fuente as council president.

In the Oakland school board races, we like Jody London in District One, Jumoke Hinton Hodge in District Three, and incumbent Alice Spearman in District Seven. Incumbent Noel Gallo is running unopposed in District Five. London is an active parent in the school district and was co-chair of Measure B, a $435 million school facilities bond approved by three quarters of Oakland voters. Also, Hinton Hodge possesses an intimate understanding of the district’s issues and problems because of her marriage to current board member Greg Hodge, while, as far as we know, her competitor, Olugbemiga Oluwole, hasn’t even attended a school board meeting in the past decade. We also think our four school board picks will win.

As for the Alameda County Board of Education, our picks are Newark Superintendent of Schools John Bernard and Oakland businesswoman Conchita Tucker. We also think those two will come out on top, and that’s good news, especially in the case of Bernard, who has had a stellar career and will bring a wealth of experience to the county board, while hopefully counteracting the fiscal incompetence of county Superintendent Sheila Jordan.

Finally, on the local measures, we support Alameda’s Measure H, a $120 annual parcel tax to help the city’s public schools, and we think it will win, because most Bay Area residents know that California schools are badly underfunded. We also support Measure F, the county utility users’ tax extension, which only applies to unincorporated areas, and Measure J, the telephone utility users’ tax extension in Oakland. Both measures are non-controversial and should win easily.


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