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Elections, endorsements, and ideology – oh my!

As the elections come closer, voters are deluged with mailers and get many calls from politicians and volunteers seeking their support. Candidates and their literature trumpet endorsements, which the organizations issuing find very important. Endorsements are thought to be representative of the various interests that make up the endorsing groups. Curiously, the County Central Democrat Committee, Alameda County Sierra Club, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Central Labor Council had strikingly similar endorsements: Rebecca Kaplan for at-large, Jane Brunner and Nancy Nadel for reelection, and against Ignacio de la Fuente and Reid for their own reelections. Given the supposed influence of incumbents, particularly the Council President, it’s unexpected that supposedly establishment organizations are joining many issue-oriented or simply rebellious voices to produce what can be termed a slate.

All of these endorsements are contradictory. Let’s look at blogger bete noire Nancy Nadel and her endorsements, which she trumpeted in a recent colorful mailer. She has the endorsement of the Bay Guardian, which looked like she wrote it (no journalist could be out-of-it enough to believe she’s a hard worker). The Guardian, as a supposedly youthful voice, consistently stands up for artists and musicians. Yet Nancy Nadel called the cops on the Art Murmur, shut down a dancehall concert and attempted to kick artists out of live/work in industrial West Oakland. Without mentioning her Gen X competitor, homeless shelter director Sean Sullivan, the Guardian stood on the wrong side of their carefully-cultivated generation gap. This also goes for the East Bay Young Democrats.

The Sierra Club’s endorsements were also bizarre, and not just regarding District 3. Nadel is attempting to limit transit-oriented development in the DTO, held up the City Council’s endorsement of the more environmentally-friendly Altamont Pass bullet-train route, and is nowhere on Bus Rapid Transit (and stood by idly as the Broadway Shopper Shuttle was ended in 2003). She did author the plastic bag ordinance but it was struck down in court, which isn’t very impressive. Ignacio de la Fuente has been an outspoken voice on transit and transit-oriented development, and he and Larry Reid have been the city’s most successful creators of new urban open space. Jane Brunner is also nowhere on transit, considers Transit-Oriented Development to be only government-sponsored mid-rise developments immediately adjacent to BART stations, and I can’t think of anything she’s done that seems very green.

The Central Labor Council endorsed Nadel for the first time, and declined to endorse Ignacio even though he is vice-president of a union, author of Oakland’s Living Wage and Local Hire ordinances, and reportedly did very well in their interview. The Alameda County Democratic Party declined to endorse incumbent de la Fuente, and gave Green-turned-Democrat Rebecca Kaplan the endorsement over longtime elected Democrats Clinton Killian and Kerry Hammill. The teachers’ union, Green Party, and ACORN also followed the slate, though without an interview process.

The Central Democratic Committee endorsements can be partly explained because the current committeemembers were elected when Dellums was elected mayor, so were part of his slate and therefore enemies of Ignacio. But Nadel has always voted for Ignacio for Council President, and Sean Sullivan had an early endorser in Desley Brooks (and is endorsed by Kathy Neal of the DCCC and Mario Juarez’s campaign). The Sierra Club didn’t give Sullivan an interview, explaining that they routinely endorse incumbents they’ve worked with before. But they had an interview in D5. Many of the Guardian’s endorsements were entirely out-to-lunch, but they certainly got the memo Brunner and Nadel should be reelected, Ignacio and Reid unseated, and Kaplan elected. If internal Council President politics don’t explain it, and it doesn’t fit with the agendas of the endorsing groups, what else is left?

Misplaced ideology is the common thread that links this slate. Though most Council business is conducted unanimously, and there is a strong consensus in Oakland over the general outlines of the future of the city, there have been a few policies that have split the Council and possibly the electorate. The main issue is Inclusionary Zoning, which the Council deadlocked on way back in October 2006. Mario Juarez, despite being a realtor and former ally of Ignacio de la Fuente, now supports a 25% mandatory set-aside. Nancy Nadel (and Jean Quan who is campaigning for her) keeps trying to bring up IZ, to little apparent success, and she also said last week people should vote for Rebecca Kaplan because she supports IZ (though I don’t really get that impression).

Beyond IZ, many of these groups are made up of non-Oaklanders (like the DCCC, East Bay Young Democrats, the Guardian, and the Sierra Club) or are dominated by the public-employee unions (the OEA teachers’ union, the County Central Labor Council, and arguably ACORN because they get a lot of help from EBASE). The unions want compliant councilmembers, and out-of-towners are easily swayed by ideology and abstract issues like IZ and don’t know anything about blight and food access.

I agree with the “slate” choices regarding the reelection of the four sitting Councilmembers. At least, I agree that Ignacio de la Fuente and Larry Reid stand for something different than Jane Brunner and Nancy Nadel. I outlined above how many of the endorsements, particularly the East Bay Young Democrats and Sierra Club, are counter to what the groups ostensibly represent. This election is a particularly good example of why it’s important for voters to make informed judgments for themselves. An environmentalist could mistakenly think that the Sierra Club’s endorsements have something to do with a politician’s ideas and track record on the environment, or a hipster could assume the East Bay Young Democrats are a proxy for forward-thinking and youth-friendly leadership. That would be entirely wrong.

Posted in california, citycouncil, delafuente, dellums, elections, endorsements, iz, nadel, oakland.

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17 Responses

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  1. Matt Lockshin says

    You have a really limited understanding of the East Bay Young Dems. Maybe if you actually attended our meetings you’d understand some important things like:

    1) The East Bay Young Dems is full of Oakland residents including our President, VP, and a number of Board Members including Peralta Trustee Abel Guillen who represents tens of thousands of Oakland residents.

    2) The Young Dems don’t exist to simply support young candidates. We believe that Nancy Nadel is a strong advocate for issues that affect young people. That’s why we are supporting her. The idea that we’d support Sean Sullivan, who we gave full consideration to, because of his age is hopelessly naive.

    I know it’s really easy to just make stuff up and then pretend that somehow it’s political analysis. But you don’t aren’t discovering anything, you’re simply stipulating it. Junk in, junk out.

    Matt Lockshin
    At-Large Board Member
    East Bay Young Dems

  2. oakie says

    Geesh. Who can take any organization seriously that calls itself a “Central Committe.” What’s next, the Politburo? Their opinions stink as badly as their names. Today, Oakland is the fourth most dangerous city in the nation. New York is the safest. At the time our bozos came into office, New York had a worse crime rate than Oakland. But they did something about it, we did not. They reduced their crime rate by 80%. In the time that Nadel/Brunner have been in office, we have had more than 1,000 human beings murdered because we have chosen to ignore the policing policies that New York did. 80% reduction in crime, folks. That’s a lot of dead bodies on the hands of those people in charge for ignoring how to tame crime. That would be a pretty high pile in my front yard. Do something about it or it’s on our hands, also. Vote for Patrick McCullough in District 1 or Sean Sullivan in District 3. Ignore those fools who give us the same rhetoric and false solutions for the last 15 years. They are wrong and they ignore reality. They refuse to see beyond their dogms, and they haven’t had a new idea in 30 years. We can turn this city around and make it a safe place to live and work. Yes We Can!

  3. V Smoothe says

    Matt Lockshin -

    I think the point of this post is that if the Easy Bay Young Democrats were actually informed about the candidate positions and records, they would never support Nancy Nadel. Nadel has hindered the interests of transit users, artists, bicyclists, small businesses, late night workers, and nightlife patrons. A careful consideration of her record would show that she is not an advocate for young Oaklanders whatsoever.

  4. Edie Irons says

    What Matt said.

    And re: Rebecca Kaplan – it sounds like you’re saying that because she recently switched her registration back to Democrat, that she doesn’t deserve to be supported by Democratic clubs and organizations. I see it differently.

    Rebecca is progressive, probably more progressive than the Democratic Party as a whole, as I am. The fact that she was inspired by what’s happening in the party, by the candidates we have for president, and wanted to come back in the fold is a good thing. I hope that by endorsing her, the Central Committee, the East Bay Young Dems, the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, and the other Democratic organizations that have supported her send a message to other young progressive people that there is a place for them in the Democratic Party. If we want the Democrats to move to the left and start standing up for what they should, this is how we begin to make that happen. And for the record, Kerry Hamill didn’t show up to the young dems candidate forum, or return a questionnaire to us.
    Having been present and involved in the processes of many of these organizations (ACDCC, EBYD, Wellstone, and others), I think actually the individuals voting on these groups’ endorsements make their decisions based on their best assessment of the candidates records, history, prospects, and positions. Certainly there is rarely enough time to research as much into each candidate as anyone would like, but that is always the case.

    Two other things: I am young, I go to Art Murmur from time to time, and I don’t blame anyone for calling the cops on it. It is loud, and there are a ton of apartments right above it. If a city councilmember gets multiple complaints from their constituents about noise (as I imagine Nadel has), it’s appropriate to respond. It’s not like the event is shut down.

    Finally, re: your line: “The Central Democratic Committee endorsements can be partly explained because the current committeemembers were elected when Dellums was elected mayor, so were part of his slate and therefore enemies of Ignacio.”

    This tells me you don’t understand how the committee works. First of all, the committee is made up of people from throughout the county. Those from Oakland represent way less than the votes needed to reach an endorsement. Secondly, the committee members from the 16th AD (Oakland and Alameda) were not on a Dellums slate. Some of them may have supported Dellums, but he had nothing to do with their candidacy directly that I am aware of. At least four of the six were on the committee before 2006.

    Edie Irons
    Past President
    East Bay Young Dems
    and candidate for the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee from the 14th AD.

  5. Matt Lockshin says

    V Smoothe, I know it must be eminently gratifying to pretend that people who reject your analysis only do so because of ignorance, but you know some of us pay attention and still think you’re wrong.

    Part of the problem with this post is that actually suffers from a problem it attributes to us “out-of-towners” — namely, the inability to see past ideology. It treats political actors as caricatures so that they can be neatly disposed of in a way that simply reinforces the pre-conceived notions of the author.

    For example, the explanation the author offers for the actions of the Democratic Central Committee is simply absurd. The vast majority of members of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee are longtime incumbents. The idea that somehow they were elected on a slate with Ron Dellums and therefore “enemies of Ingacio” evidences an ignorance so profound it is almost laughable.

    It’s clear that the author doesn’t know who the players are, what their motivations may be, or how to fruitfully seek out answers to these questions. This fundamentally cripples the analysis that touches on the larger political context of these city council elections. Rather it is though the larger political context is nothing more than city council politics writ large.

  6. V Smoothe says

    Matt -

    In that case, can you please explain how Nancy Nadel, who has delayed pedestrian improvements, advocated for legislation that harms the nightlife industry, claims that she doesn’t want work/live for artists and tradesmen in West Oakland, allowed the City to decimate bicycle parking, allowed the First Time Homebuyers program to wallow in failure, supported defunding sports programming for teenagers in West Oakland (while at the same time spending $850,000 on an empty building that she claims will be a teen center when in fact she has no money at all to turn it into a teen center), and has done nothing to help small businesses is a “strong advocate for issues that affect young people”? Inquiring minds want to know.

  7. dto510 says

    Honestly, East Bay Young Dems, I don’t see how you’re refuting any of my points. You don’t deny that many of your members are from outside of Oakland, just like the DCCC, and you have failed to make a case that Ms. Nadel serves the interest of young people. You do seem to condone her calling the cops on the Art Murmur, though the police were called by Ms. Nadel, not the neighbors, and she was upset about drinking outside, not noise.

    Please enlighten us as to how the East Bay Young Dems came up with the idea that Ms. Nadel, despite the terrible positions outlined above, would be better for young people than Mr. Sullivan, half her age.

  8. dto510 says

    Ms Irons,

    Thank you for explaining that one of the reasons for the similar endorsements is that the membership of these groups overlaps quite a bit. Your own flyer for the DCCC contains endorsements from many of the people that endorsed Ms. Nadel – is this a clique? And thank you for explaining the central role ideology is playing in these endorsements: “if we want the Democrats to move to the left and start standing up for what they should, this is how we begin to make that happen.” Most people believe that the DCCC represents the mainstream Democratic Party, apparently that is not the case.

  9. dto510 says

    If the East Bay Young Dems (and any other group I discussed) wants to show how accurate their endorsements are, they are invited to release their questionnaires. We can then see what the basis of their decisions were, if it’s not abstract IZ policy or misplaced ideology.

  10. Chris Kidd says

    Nice job, DTO. Scary big words and lofty, clique-y claims of “you just don’t understand” would shut up less determined individuals.

    I can understand the groups referenced wanting to clear the air (and their records) in the comments section. I applaud it, even. Some of the concerns have been addressed pretty well; good for you. Some of them have been avoided through snooty elitism and name calling. Throwing ad hominem attacks at DTO really doesn’t solve anything or make you look any better for it.

    What I’d like to see (if you wouldn’t mind indulging me) is a defense of endorsements based solely on real-world performance. You claim it’s not based on IZ? Fine, then what the hell drove you to these confusing positions?

    Particularly confusing to me (being a D5 voter) is the Juarez over De La Fuente endorsements. If groups aren’t voting along IZ and other etherially-ideological policy concepts (like they’re claiming they’re not), the only other reasons I can come up with for ditching Ignacio are: #1 he pisses people off, and #2 due to the position of power he’s created for himself he’s less pliant to the whims and will of said politburos/central committees/people’s congresses. I know he’s pro-development, but shouldn’t that be a boon to progressives and environmentalists (urban infill, living where you work, etc.)?

    Maybe its just because I live in the district and see in person positive accomplishments. Maybe I’m too close to the situation to look at it rationally. Maybe I’m too focused on the real-world accomplishments and am not attunded to internecine party conflicts. But that’s why I’m posting. Rather than dismiss what other people are saying out-of-hand, I actually want to find out more.

    Amazing!

  11. Becks says

    Woo! Good discussion going on here.

    I have to say I have mixed feelings on a lot of the above. dto510 has a good point about out of towners and maybe less informed people making quick decisions on endorsements. I think this is pretty clearly what happens at the Guardian and likely what happens at other groups. I think these groups are all well-intentioned, but there’s depth to Oakland politics, and honestly, if you don’t follow Oakland blogs, you’ll probably never hear about many of the important issues at stake.

    I also think there’s a general problem of endorsing ideology instead of endorsing action. Nadel’s liberal in her ideology, yes, but her actions (and inaction) have shown otherwise.

    That said, I have a great amount of respect for all of the groups in question. I think they all do great work and strengthen our community overall. I know some of the people at each of these orgs and I know they’re dedicated and hard working. I don’t think that’s the point here though. I think the question is whether endorsement processes should be updated, and how this should best be accomplished.

    In the end, I applaud all of these orgs for endorsing Rebecca Kaplan. I don’t see a reason why a candidate shouldn’t be able to switch parties and then receive the endorsement of the party. Also, though Rebecca is liberal in her ideology, she knows how to work with people with different ideologies. Scott Haggerty, a Republican Alameda Supervisor, even endorsed her because they work so well together on transit issues.

    Besides the Kaplan endorsement, I’m not sure I can agree with the others, though I’m on the fence on a couple. Regardless, I’d like to hear more about how these endorsements were decided and what the key factors in the decisions were.

  12. John says

    V: it obviously pains you deeply when candidates you don’t like are getting the big endorsements. A thicker skin is in order, perhaps?

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Episodes of electioneering « FutureOakland linked to this post on May 22, 2008

    [...] Cornu of the Central Labor Council, surely a mover behind the endorsement feedback loop, spoke to a teachers’ union rally on City Hall’s steps last Friday. Fulfilling her promise to [...]

  2. Irresponsible endorsements | A Better Oakland linked to this post on May 23, 2008

    [...] not everyone takes the responsibility so seriously. dto510 wrote last week about the misplaced ideology behind the Central Labor Council/Sierra Club/Central Committee/Green Party/Bay Guardian slate, a [...]

  3. Banking on Nancy Nadel for a Better Oakland | A Better Oakland linked to this post on May 25, 2008

    [...] a great mystery has been solved! Turns out the reason the East Bay Young Democrats wouldn’t provide any justification for their endorsement of Nancy Nadel isn’t because, as I had theorized, they didn’t [...]

  4. Sean Sullivan & the Need for Change in Oakland « Living in the O linked to this post on May 27, 2008

    [...] You see, a few years ago, I really liked Nancy Nadel. And I’m sure I’ll get harassed for this, but I supported her mayoral campaign with my vote and a small donation. I have to admit that at the time, I didn’t know much about Oakland politics. I had only closely followed a couple issues that the council had considered, and I had bought into this idea that it was liberals vs conservatives on the council and that I should be voting for the “liberals.” I think I fell into the same trap that many groups are now falling into in their endorsement processes. [...]

  5. Endorsements and predictions: June 2008 « FutureOakland linked to this post on May 28, 2008

    [...] Elections, endorsements, and ideology – oh my! [...]