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Four Mayor Hopefuls On Hot Seat
By Dave Newhouse
Oakland Tribune Columnist
October 18, 2010
There really isn't much separation between newspaper columnists and their readership when it comes to examining celebrities or public figures.
Both writer and reader are Curious Georges, wanting to know more about those who live a high-end lifestyle, where the paparazzi are never far behind.
The main difference between we scribes and you subscribers is we get to interview those you only read about, even offering opinions you can either accept or reject.
On Oct. 4, the Bay Area News Group's editorial board interviewed Oakland's four prominent mayor candidates -- Don Perata, Jean Quan, Rebecca Kaplan and Joe Tuman -- in a nearly three-hour endurance test at the Oakland Tribune.
They are a diverse foursome. Perata and Quan are political war horses. Kaplan is a young political colt. Tuman is a college professor who also provides KPIX-TV Channel 5 with political analysis on elections such as his on Nov. 2.
The four candidates each have policies they believe in strongly. And they have different endorsements they're flaunting in hopes of swaying Oakland's voters in two weeks.
But what Oakland's voters care about most is reducing crime and increasing jobs. That's what is needed in this town in addition to a mayor who is more visible, more responsive, and on the job 24-7 instead of 6 ½-5.
Each of the four politicians has a list of campaign promises that would stretch across Lake
Merritt. Big deal. All politicians make numerous promises before elections, 90 percent of which they already know they won't be able to fulfill.
Therefore, what determines elections, basically, is character. How well do the candidates present themselves, and do the voters relate to them? If there is little chemistry between them, the voter will pick the best of the worst -- or not vote at all.
Thus I was eager to study the character of Oakland's four mayor hopefuls, to see how they carried themselves. And what interesting things popped out about them? How did they interact? How passionate were they about Oakland? What was their body language like? Where did they help or hurt themselves most?
After entering the Tribune's conference room, the four shook hands with one another and with the BANG interviewers. And at no time during the extended ensuing question-and-answer session did anyone become hostile or unpleasant.
The candidate who surprised me the most, but in a negative way, was Perata. He's considered the front-runner, but his attitude that day was that he already had won the election. Unlike the other three, he leaned back in his chair, offered vague answers, and was sometimes uninformed on city policy. He had to be corrected by council members Quan and Kaplan.
Perata seemed lazy, as if he was going through the motions. He was a hands-on politician in Sacramento, so this new demeanor was disturbing. Ron Dellums was talked out of retirement into running, and we've seen how that turned out. Maybe Perata thinks like Jerry Brown, that Oakland is a steppingstone to something higher. Or Perata is just tired.
Quan offered long-winded answers, giving the impression that she wanted to cover all the bases.But she's only one infielder. I did like her idea to build an army of 500 volunteers to help out Oakland. Volunteers are vital in a recession.
The two candidates who came up strongest Oct. 4 were Tuman and Kaplan.
Tuman is an educator with no political experience. He had an excellent presentation regardless. He's smart, has good ideas, and is a visionary. But can he raise stimulus money and deal with unions? Those are two big ifs.
Kaplan was razor-sharp, prepared beyond belief, and was quick and accurate when pressed for on-the-fly answers. Though it was upsetting, she and Quan making faces whenever Perata erred, Kaplan still pulled ahead of the other three in my humble estimation.
But pick whom you want. What do I know?
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