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Selling Ignacio?

More reflections on the East Bay Express cover story on Ignacio De La Fuente. Here, I’m going to focus on the depiction of Ignacio’s campaign. For my impressions of the relative portrayal of the candidates, see my previous post, Ignacio De La Fuente vs. Ron Dellums in the East Bay Express.

While I thought the portrayals of the candidates were accurate, I was slightly confused by the overarching theme of the article – the notion that Ignacio De La Fuente is waging a nearly impossible battle. Will Harper claims that “many political insiders consider [Ignacio's campaign] an exercise in futility.” I am far from being a political insider (and admit to having an absolutely abysmal record at predicting election outcomes – I doubt I will ever live down my insistence on opening bottles of champagne around 6 PM on November 2, 2004), but this just seems wrong to me. I have no access to any kind of special information, but I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people around town about this, and I’ve seen the reactions of attendees at multiple debates. My observations have given me a fair amount of confidence that the concensus among concerned and informed Oaklanders is strongly in favor of Ignacio De La Fuente, and that he is going to win outright in June (although I think Ron Dellums’s newest stunt with the voter information packets will definitely hurt Ignacio’s chances).

So I have to wonder what political insiders know that I don’t. Or am I just completely out of touch? I’m not living in a vacuum. My optimism stems from my observations. For example, at the Rockridge NCPC debate, when the candidates were asked about road maintenance, Nancy Nadel insisted that we needed more money from the state, proposed a state bond, invoked the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, and proposed more fee increases to augment our city budget. Ron Dellums said that we need to find ways to bring in other resources, and insisted that the state and federal governments should be contributing more money towards our infrastructure. Ron Oz started talking about how he invests in the stock market and how we need more police. And Ignacio De La Fuente got slightly flustered while plowing through a diatribe about how the source of our problem is resource management, the need to allocate our money towards resources rather than salaries, his proposed 311 call center to monitor the effectiveness of city services and ensure accountability from City Hall, and the necessity of focusing on a “back to basics” approach to city government. The crowd went wild! Most of his responses were far and away the most well recieved. I left the debate confident that an overwhelming majority of attendees were firmly in Ignacio’s corner.

And I see unexpected, yet fervent, support coming from so many of the people I talk to. I see the Ignacio signs proudly displayed all over downtown. This morning, while walking down to the lake, I decided to count the signs I saw just on one street. On 14th Street downtown, from Broadway to Lakeside, there are 15 proudly displayed Ignacio De La Fuente signs in shops and restaurants, and only 4 for Ron Dellums. And I look at the candidates’ endorsements (see my series of blogs), and see Ignacio winning to endorsement battle in every single area.

So what am I missing? What makes him such an underdog and tough sell? Is it because he swears? Is that something anyone in Oakland really actually cares about? Or is all the speculation based on the one poll, the one taken in January, before Ron Dellums launched his non-existant campaign and before voters started paying attention to the race? What evidence is there that Ron Dellums is gaining support? I just don’t see it – it seems to me that he bleeds voters at every debate (which I think he knows, and is why he refuses to attend very many and rails about their uselessness at every opportunity). While I see more Ignacio signs downtown all the time, I’ve noticed that three shops I walk past every morning have recently removed the Ron Dellums signs they had been displaying for months.

In the end, I’m not sure if this image will end up helping or hurting De La Fuente’s campaign. On the one hand, it could be seen as positive in that it helps to counteract the idea many people have of him as a “machine” candidate. On the other, it (I think mistakenly) implies that there is some kind of broad-based consensus for Ron Dellums. Will people who read the article decide that they want “Mr. Law and Order” running City Hall and be more motivated to vote for him? Or will they feel that this is such an uphill battle that their vote is worthless? I really don’t know.

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Posted in delafuente, elections, oakland.

4 Responses

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  1. deckin says

    V Smoothe,

    An interesting reaction from your friend in the previous thread. I think their thought about the fence rider actually is a positive here though. Because, you’ve got to think that if anyone is one the fence, it’s for a reason. So if any of that reason for being on the fence was deal making or the like, then I honestly think this article goes a long way towards moving that off the table. I doubt voters in Oakland are completely ignorant of DLF or his record, so I think the undecided voter is probably looking for a reason to like DLF or looking for some account of whatever misinformation is out there, and I think in that sense, the article is a big positive. That it gives them reason not to like Dellums is an added bonus.

  2. Zennie Abraham says

    I was at the same RCPC debate and I totally disagree. At first, De La Fuente had good responses, and claps from aides and friends, but toward the middle of the debate, Ron gave answers from a perspective none of the others matched. The response was better for him at the end; outside, more crowded around Dellums than De La Fuente.

    I also have the debate on video.

  3. V Smoothe says

    Zennie –

    You definitely came away from that debate with a much different impression that I did. I went in expecting the crowd to be Dellums or Nadel backers, so I was genuinely shocked at the level of applause Ignacio was getting – from my position in the back of the room, it sounded noticeably louder and lasted longer than that for the other candidates.

    The only time Ron Delllums really got a big response was when he answered his final question by listing all the pork he brought to Oakland when he was in Congress. That got a standing ovation, but at the same time, he didn’t answer the question he was asked, and his answer wasn’t really relevant to the Mayor’s race. I don’t think there’s anyone in Oakland who doesn’t respect his Congressional career – the issue is that he’s ill-suited to the role of Mayor.

    At the end of the debate, I noticed one attendee near me who had arrived wearing a Ron Dellums button remove it. Certainly not everyone in the audience felt this way, but Ignacio winning the debate was the impression I left with. In fact, it was watching the audience at that event that made me feel confident, for the first time, about Ignacio winning in June. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

  4. Oakland Native says

    The RCPC debate was a huge win for Iggy. An old friend of my family was there and she said she was completely convinced for Ignacio after leaning Nadel. Regarding the guy taking his Dellums pin off, has anyone else noticed that Ron Dellums signs are much sparser downtown than they were a month ago?

    The tide is turning. While Dellums may get an advantage out of the voter guide, most people are informed enough to be totally disgusted with all the favoritism shown to the lobbyist throughout the campaign.

    And his long-awaited “platform” is pathetic.