A candidate's job title is the last thing voters see before casting their ballots. As a result, candidates typically choose their job titles very carefully. Occasionally, they even try to trick voters by claiming that they're something they're not — a move that usually lands them in court. But in this year's election, Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata has taken the highly unusual step of listing no job at all.
It shouldn't come as a surprise. The reason is that for the past two years Perata has been working as a well-paid "consultant" to the California prison guard's union — an organization extremely unpopular in a progressive city like Oakland. As a result, the ex-senator chose his ballot designation to just read, "Don Perata."
It is rare for a candidate to not list his job title on the ballot. Perata is the only candidate — in Oakland or statewide — not to have done so on the local ballot. His main competitors, Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan, list their jobs as Oakland city councilmembers, and Joe Tuman lists his as "professor/political analyst."
Some of Perata's opponents contend that he is either embarrassed by his job or he doesn't want voters to know what he does for a living. "I think it shows what he really 'believes' about Oakland voters," Kaplan said. "It shows that he 'believes' they won't vote for him if they know he works for the prison lobby."
The California Correctional Peace Officers Association hired Perata in early 2009 as a "political consultant" just after he was termed out of the state senate. The union is Perata's only publicly known employer and it has paid him at least $469,000, records show. Earlier this year, the union also financed two hit-piece mailers that were full of falsehoods against Quan and Kaplan.
So why didn't Perata just list his job title as "former senator?" Presumably because it would have been illegal. Under election law, a candidate must list his or her current job title on the ballot — not one from two years ago, Kaplan noted. As a result, Perata's only options would have been to reveal his current job to voters or do what he did — list no job title at all.
Tribune Endorses Kaplan
It wasn't a particularly good week for Perata. His hometown daily, the Oakland Tribune, endorsed Kaplan for mayor, saying she's "the candidate who best blends intellect, fresh ideas, an ability to work with diverse groups, a clear understanding of city issues and the passion and communication skills needed at Oakland's helm." The paper then selected Tuman as their second choice and Quan as their third pick, completely snubbing Perata. The Tribune editorial board said it found his "poor grasp of the issues appalling. He has repeatedly dodged tough questions while blaming others for the city's problems rather than offering constructive solutions. He has no viable plans to avoid the looming layoffs of 122 more police officers. He also would not commit to reopening pension negotiations with the police union, which supports his candidacy."
Then Trib columnist Tammerlin Drummond, who also is a member of the paper's editorial board, went a step further. In a separate column, she said the Trib's editorial board members "were shocked by Perata's evasiveness, use of faulty facts, and ignorance of some of the major issues facing the city" during their endorsement interview, adding that the ex-senator "didn't offer up a single fresh idea and didn't even make an effort to appear prepared. ... We felt that Perata's poor knowledge of the issues, combined with his history of ethically questionable dealings, made him a poor choice for mayor." The Trib pieces came after both the Express and the San Francisco Bay Guardian urged voters to leave Perata off their ballots, too.
The San Francisco Chronicle also reported that Quan and Kaplan are telling their supporters to keep Perata off their ranked choice ballots. Quan says to pick Kaplan second, while Kaplan is telling her supporters to select Tuman second and Quan third. As for Tuman, he told the paper that he plans to list Kaplan second as his second choice, and businessman Greg Harland third.
The only bright spot for Perata was the Chronicle's editorial board, which appears to be living in some sort of alternate universe. On Monday, the paper endorsed the ex-senator as its lone choice for mayor. The Chron, which bizarrely also doesn't do ranked-choice endorsements, appeared to be enamored with Perata's long career in politics, calling him a leader who is "well-grounded." The paper's editorial board members also appeared to forget that the Chron's own investigative stories helped launch the FBI's five-year corruption probe of the ex-senator and seemed reassured when he "vowed to avoid any future business dealings that could even remotely raise" concerns of impropriety.
The Obama Justice Department said it still plans to conduct pot busts in California even if voters approve Proposition 19, the statewide measure that would legalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use. But Prop 19 supporters say the administration doesn't have the resources to target California's three million cannabis users. ... Oakland police officers will undergo animal sensitivity training after cops shot and killed an old dog and a young deer in the past five months, the Chron reported. ... Oakland City Attorney John Russo and Police Chief Anthony Batts are seeking a gang injunction against the violent Norteños gang in the city's Fruitvale district. The ACLU immediately objected, saying the city should wait to see if the North Oakland gang injunction issued earlier this year is working. ... And North Berkeley has been struck by a series of armed robberies, putting residents on edge.