Quan Probably Was Leading the Entire Time, And She Has To Be the Odds-On Favorite

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Statistically, Councilwoman Jean Quan will be tough to beat in the Oakland mayor’s race. For either Don Perata or Rebecca Kaplan to move past her in the ranked-choice tabulations, then the ballots yet to be counted will have to be much different from those that have already been recorded. Such an occurrence may be possible, particularly because we don’t know what parts of the city the late ballots came from. But it’s not likely.

Here’s why:

Let’s start with Perata. Looking at the numbers, the ex-senator is currently 2.18% behind Quan in ranked-choice tabulations, a difference of 1,876 votes. That may not sound like a lot, but there are probably only about 10,000 votes left to count in Oakland. The county registrar said Friday night that there were about 15,000 ballots total to count from Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro. And so Oakland’s share of those is probably about 10,000.

That means Perata would need to beat Quan by at least 19 percentage points on the remaining ranked-choice ballots. It’s a long-shot. The reason is that Quan beats him by a wide margin on second- and third-place votes. So far, she has picked up 20,051 of them, compared to his 9,176 (most of hers come from Kaplan supporters, as we noted Friday night). In other words, Perata will have to pick up a large percentage of the remaining first-place votes, while hoping that Quan won’t continue to pummel him on second- and third-place selections on the uncounted ballots.

Again, that would require the remaining ballots to be much different than the ones already counted. They’ll have to favor him by a huge margin. It’s possible, but unlikely, because in the post-election counting, Perata’s numbers have been shrinking. As ballots have been counted since Election Night, the ex-senator’s percentage of first-place votes has dropped from 35.20% to 33.96%. Quan’s, by contrast, have inched up from 24.30% to 24.64%, a swing of 1.58 percentage points in her favor. So not only does Perata need that trend to reverse itself, but he needs it to shift back in his favor in a big way.

Indeed, Kaplan may have a better shot of overcoming Quan than Perata does. Here’s why: Before the ranked-choice tabulations show her being eliminated in the penultimate round, Kaplan is only 2.26% behind Quan, a difference of 2,066 votes. That means Kaplan needs to beat Quan by about 23 21 percentage points on the remaining 10,000 ballots.

It’s a lot, but Kaplan possesses at least one advantage that Perata doesn’t: Joe Tuman. The results show that when Tuman is eliminated in the ranked-choice balloting, Kaplan picks up far more votes than Quan: 4,361 to 2,818. By contrast, Quan and Perata basically split Tuman votes 2,818 to 2,724.

But even with the Tuman boost, Kaplan still needs to beat Quan by a wide margin on the remaining first-place votes. And again, that means the uncounted ballots will be have to be much different from the ones already tabulated. The good news for Kaplan is that her first-place numbers have moved up since Election Day, rising from 20.82% to 21.48%. But, remember, so have Quan’s. That will have to change significantly for Kaplan to pull it out.

In the end, Kaplan and Perata’s only real hope is that the remaining ballots come from their electoral strongholds in the city. For Kaplan, that likely means Temescal and uptown/downtown. For Perata, it would likely have to be East Oakland and Fruitvale. Although he does well in the hills, Quan does, too, because it’s her council district.

Finally, let’s address the issue of whether Friday night’s preliminary ranked-choice results really did show a “turnaround” as it’s been portrayed. It sure seemed that way, because until then, we only knew that Perata was beating Quan among first-place votes by a significant margin. But looking at the ranked-choice numbers, specifically how the second- and third-places have broken in a big way for Quan, it now seems likely that she would have been labeled the frontrunner from the beginning if the county registrar had decided to run the tabulations on Election Night. By waiting until Friday, it made it seem that Perata was in the lead, when in fact, Quan probably was.

Having said that, Friday night’s results were surprising (as they would have been if known on Election Night). It’s hard to believe that anyone could have credibly predicted that Quan would trounce Perata so thoroughly on ballots that had Kaplan as the first-place choice. It even shocked Quan.

The reason is that a September poll commissioned by the chamber of commerce appeared to show that Perata would get a boost if Kaplan were out of the race. In short, it indicated that more Kaplan supporters would pick Perata than Quan as their second choice. But either the poll was flat-out wrong, or Kaplan supporters shifted sharply away from Perata in the final six weeks of the election and went heavily for Quan instead.

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