Ex-state Senator Don Perata appears to be on his way to victory in the Oakland mayor’s race, but there’s a chance that Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan could slide by him in the ranked-choice balloting — if she can get past Councilwoman Jean Quan, who is currently in second place. As for Quan, her path to victory appears difficult, even if she fends off Kaplan and ends up going head-to-head with Perata.
As of this morning, the ex-senator leads with 35.2 percent of the vote, compared to Quan’s 24.2 percent and Kaplan’s 20.9 percent. Joe Tuman is in fourth with 11.9 percent. The other six candidates in the race combined for a total of 7.8 percent. That effectively means that Tuman is eliminated, because even if he was listed second on all of the ballots for the fringe candidates, he still can’t get past Kaplan.
So let’s start out by analyzing Quan’s chances of beating Perata. For her to have any shot, she will have to hold her own among the late absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted, and then she has to be listed second or third on a significant percentage of the ballots that selected Tuman or one of the fringe candidates in first place. Then, to overcome Perata's still-substantial lead, she would need to be ranked ahead of Tuman on about 70 percent of the ballots that selected Kaplan first, according to our analysis.
The first part of that equation may be possible, but the second part promises to be tougher. The reason is because Quan may not be able to pick up enough votes from Kaplan supporters to overcome Perata’s lead. Indeed, a significant percentage of people who selected Kaplan first, may have ranked Perata above Quan on their ballots. Why? Because Kaplan is viewed as being pro-business and pro-development in many circles, and because a poll commissioned in September by the Oakland Chamber of Commerce showed that she was taking more votes away from Perata than Quan. In fact, the poll showed that once Kaplan was out of the race, more of her supporters would back Perata than Quan.
Kaplan, by contrast, may have a shot against Perata — if she can get past Quan. Let’s tackle that part of the equation first, because it could be more difficult.
If you watched the returns coming in last night, you might have noticed that Perata’s percentages dropped from an initial 38 percent to 35 percent as the night wore on. The ex-senator likely did better in those early returns because they consisted mostly of pre-election voters, who tend to be older and more conservative than the general population.
Kaplan, by contrast, picked up votes throughout the night, rising from 17 percent early on to 21 percent. In other words, she gained some ground on Perata, which shouldn’t be surprising because Election Day voters in Oakland tend to be more progressive and younger than pre-election voters. And if Kaplan continues to do well among the huge number of late absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted — which probably also will skew younger than pre-election votes — then she could pick up another percentage point or so.
In addition, there’s reason to believe Kaplan might have outperformed Quan among supporters of Tuman and the fringe candidates. Tuman supporters appeared to be unhappy with the status quo in Oakland. And of the other three major candidates in the race, Kaplan may have been their preferred choice — although some Tuman backers may also have liked Perata because Tuman was more conservative than Kaplan and Quan.
According to our analysis, if Kaplan picks up enough support among these constituencies — late absentee and provisional voters combined with Tuman and other candidates’ supporters, then she could slip by Quan and into second-place once the county registrar starts to tabulate ranked-choice ballots. Granted, it’s a longshot, but it’s possible.
And if Kaplan makes it into second, she appears to have a better chance at beating Perata than Quan does, for two reasons. First: Quan supporters really don’t like Perata. And second: Quan has been telling her supporters for months to select Kaplan second on their ballots. As a result, it stands to reason that Kaplan will be listed second on more Quan ballots than Perata. According to our analysis, Kaplan would need to beat Perata on about 70 percent of Quan's ballots if she were going to win.
As we said, it’s a longshot. Indeed, Perata has to be considered the strong favorite to become Oakland’s next mayor.
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