Oakland Council Member Rebecca Kaplan Endorses Cat Brooks

Brooks is viewed as the top contender against Mayor Libby Schaaf.


Rebecca Kaplan and Cat Brooks
  • Rebecca Kaplan and Cat Brooks

Oakland's At-Large City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan appeared to put to rest rumors of her possible candidacy for mayor yesterday by announcing that she's endorsing Cat Brooks.

Brooks announced her campaign on May 1, and while she joins an already crowded field, she's viewed as the top contender against Mayor Libby Schaaf.

At a late afternoon event at the Joyce Gordon Gallery surrounded by supporters, Kaplan delivered her endorsement of Brooks after first criticizing Schaaf's policies responding to the housing crisis, homelessness, and police misconduct.

"After a lot of thought and prayer and contemplation on these issues, I have come to the conclusion that the best way to strengthen our community's voice toward these vital goals is by endorsing and supporting Cat Brooks for mayor," said Kaplan.

Brooks, a well-known activist and former KPFA radio host who lives in West Oakland, made it clear that she wants her campaign to be, in part, a referendum on Schaaf.

Brooks also pushed back against the narrative that she's too "radical" to run for elected office.

"Often times they tell us that we're 'too radical,' 'that's crazy,' that 'we want too much, just wait.'" Brooks told supporters at yesterday's campaign event. "I submit to you that it is not radical, it is rational. It is rational to believe that everybody deserves a home. It is rational to believe that the police should not shoot unarmed people. It is rational to believe that teachers should have housing."

Kaplan's decision to stay out of the race appears to have caught Schaaf by surprise.

Earlier yesterday, Schaaf's campaign tried to get out in front of Kaplan's announcement by releasing poll results showing that Schaaf "is viewed favorably and holds the advantage over other potential mayoral candidates," including Kaplan.

The poll, paid for by Schaaf's campaign and conducted by an independent firm, showed that 46 percent of likely voters would make Schaaf their first choice on ranked-choice ballots if the election were held today, and also that Schaaf is viewed favorably by 60 percent of voters, indicating that she could garner a strong majority in the city's ranked-choice voting system.

Kaplan placed second in the poll results, with 15 percent, and Brooks came in third, with 10 percent.

But with Kaplan working to elect Brooks, the mayor's race will have a different electoral dynamic.

Kaplan and Brooks referenced another data point during yesterday's event that they claim is evidence that Brooks could sweep up votes in the November election. They asserted that the results in the Alameda County District Attorney's race, in particular the strong showing of Pamela Price in Oakland's flatland neighborhoods, demonstrates that a progressive Black candidate can carry Oakland.

On the other hand, the Schaaf campaign's poll measured "widespread support [for Schaaf] among demographic and geographic subgroups throughout the city, including voters of color, voters in the Oakland Hills and Flats, and among all ages and political ideologies." And Schaaf's stand against the Trump administration's immigration enforcement policies has put her on a national platform as a champion of immigrant rights, which could translate into support among Oakland's communities of color, especially Latinos, in November.

Kaplan told the Express after yesterday's event that she doesn't think Schaaf will have the support of Oakland's immigrant communities in the election, and she dismissed the Schaaf campaign's survey as a "push poll." She said that while the mayor took a stand in the national media against Trump, Schaaf's administration also allowed the police department to participate in an ICE operation last August that resulted in the arrest of a man on immigration charges.

Brooks has never run for office. But Kaplan is a veteran East Bay politician who was elected to the city council in 2008.

Kaplan ran for mayor in 2010 and placed third. She ran again in 2014 against incumbent Jean Quan and Schaaf in a field of 13 other candidates, but Schaaf surged ahead in the first round with 29 percent of the vote. Quan was eliminated in the 15th round with 23 percent and Kaplan finished with 37 percent, but it wasn't enough to overcome Schaaf's 63 percent majority.

Asked what her support for Brooks is going to look like, Kaplan said she'll be canvassing neighborhoods and helping raise money.