Opponents of Mayor Jean Quan want to recall her from office for alleged incompetence, but the recall campaign itself is already plagued by infighting and finger-pointing that raises questions as to its viability. Yet that's not the only paradox facing the recall. Many of the people behind the campaign are opponents of Occupy Oakland, and yet progressives angry with Quan for her decisions to twice order police raids on the City Hall encampment could represent the only real chance for the recall to succeed.
The recall campaign is now often connected to Occupy Oakland, but it actually began before the first police raid. And from the start, the recall effort faced serious challenges. It began as a loose coalition among city progressives and moderates who were unhappy with Quan. The progressive faction, led by activist Gene Hazzard, a photographer for the Oakland Post newspaper, were especially upset about the mayor's decision to not reappoint progressive West Oakland activist Margaret Gordon to the port commission.
The moderate group, meanwhile, was led by former city council candidate Charlie Pine and was made up of supporters of ex-state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and college professor Joe Tuman, both of whom ran unsuccessfully against Quan in last year's mayoral election. Many members of this faction are angry with Quan over public safety issues, and have supported gang injunctions and curfews while also opposing Occupy Oakland. This group also strongly criticized Quan for not moving more swiftly to forcibly remove Occupy Oakland from City Hall plaza.
Over the past month, however, some members of these two differing political factions have come to the conclusion that they can't work together. As a result, a third group has emerged that includes members of the original moderate group. This new group has now begun a recall campaign of its own. However, some members of the original moderate group have decided not to join this group and are instead soldiering on with Hazzard on their original recall effort.
Confused yet? To sum up: There are two separate recall campaigns being operated by three different groups. Only the original campaign, spearheaded by Hazzard's group and Pine's group, has been officially certified to gather signatures, but the other campaign, which is being led by another ex-mayoral candidate who lost to Quan, Greg Harland, appears to be serious and may be the best financed.
So is having two recall campaigns at the same time legal? "Let's put it this way: There's no provision in the law that prohibits it," said James Sutton, attorney for the newest recall splinter group. The Oakland City Attorney's Office is expected to reach the same conclusion this week.
But just because it's legal doesn't mean it's going to work. The biggest challenges for the recall efforts promise to be voter confusion and competition for voter signatures. Some voters might decide to sign only one of the recall petitions, thinking that's enough. In truth, however, voters may need to seek out and sign both in order for at least one to qualify for the ballot. The reason is that each petition requires a minimum of nineteen thousand valid signatures from registered Oakland voters, meaning each may need in excess of thirty thousand signatures. And because it's unclear how many Oaklanders will actually sign a recall petition, each petition will likely need many signatures from people who already signed the other petition. "Potential voter confusion is definitely something that we've been thinking about," Sutton said.
So why have two recalls? It's because the third group does not believe that Hazzard and the original moderate group can gather all the needed signatures. Hazzard, who has a reputation for sometimes being combative, has no experience running a successful citywide political campaign. However, that has not convinced the original moderate group to abandon him. In fact, this group is concerned that the second recall campaign will torpedo the entire effort. "I don't understand why they would even file," Pine said. As for Hazzard, he wouldn't comment on the second recall campaign until it's officially certified.
As far as who might run to replace Quan if one or both of the recall efforts make the ballot, Perata appears to be out. He told the San Francisco Chronicle last weekend that he's seriously eyeing a run for the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors. Property records show that Perata bought a home in Orinda last March, just a few months after losing to Quan. Perata also sold his Oakland home in August and according to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, he has not been registered to vote in Oakland or Alameda County since June.
Tuman, who finished fourth in last year's mayor's race, is expected to run, but in an interview, he essentially said he won't make up his mind about it until one of the recall measures qualifies for the ballot. Hazzard's petition has until May 6 to collect signatures. The other top candidate from last year, progressive Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who finished a close third, declined to comment about the recall. Moderate Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who is expected to run if Perata doesn't, did not return a call seeking comment.
Regardless, it appears that the recall will need support from both progressives and moderates to be successful. And if social media is to be believed, Occupy supporters may be key in helping the moderate anti-occupiers get rid of Quan. In fact, in a poll on the Recall Jean Quan Facebook page, the leading reason cited for wanting to oust Quan was her decision to approve "violence against protesters." It had a whopping 73 percent of the vote as of early this week. By contrast, allowing the Occupy encampment to return after it was first cleared, the reason moderates typically give for why they're angry at Quan, was the second-ranked reason for recalling her, with just 11 percent of the vote. As for the Margaret Gordon controversy, it had zero votes.
Similarly, Quan's own Facebook page has been overwhelmingly dominated during the past month by demands from Occuppy supporters that she resign because of her decision to green-light the police raids.