Libby Schaaf Wins Second Term as Oakland Mayor

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf on Nov. 6, 2018. (Anne Wernikoff/KQED)

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has won her bid for a second term, easily outdistancing a field of nine challengers vying to govern a city that's in the throes of fierce debates over gentrification, homelessness, racial equity and police practices.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, Schaaf received nearly 56 percent of first-place votes in the city's ranked-choice election — well over the 50 percent she needed to win outright.

Schaaf faced a series of hurdles in her first term, but attracted favorable national attention among progressives for challenging the Trump administration by announcing planned immigration raids in the East Bay before they happened.

The incumbent mayor said her experience puts her in place to tackle the issues facing the city, including gentrification and the displacement of Oakland's historic African-American population.

Schaaf's main challenge came from two black women, civil rights attorney Pamela Price and activist/organizer Cat Brooks.

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Both trailed her in the polls, but with ranked-choice voting they could have presented a threat. A poll by the Oakland Chamber of Commerce a few weeks before the election showed a high number of undecided voters, and Schaaf falling bellow the majority of votes needed to win outright.

As she campaigned, Schaaf pointed to a program she launched called Oakland Promise — which helps Oakland students pay for college — as one of her successes. That program, like many of the youth it promises to serve, is still in its infancy.

This fall, Schaaf announced another program, Keep Oakland Housed, which put $9 million toward keeping those on the verge of homelessness from falling off the cliff.

Her first term featured some high-profile scandals and tragedies, as well as the rapid growth of homelessness in the city.

The Ghost Ship fire, which killed 36 people on Dec. 2, 2016, exposed serious deficiencies in the city's follow-up on safety concerns at problem properties.

A sexual assault scandal within the ranks of Oakland police and other local law enforcement agencies saw the Police Department cycle through three police chiefs in just a little over a week.

Price, who at one point represented the teenage victim in the police sex cases, was on the ballot earlier this year in her unsuccessful attempt to unseat Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley.

Challenger Brooks has made a name for herself as a prominent voice against gentrification and police violence. She was active in Occupy Oakland, is a part of the Black Lives Matter movement and leads the Anti Police-Terror Project -- a group that calls attention to officer-involved deaths in the city.

Brooks said that in the end, running for mayor wasn't just about winning and that the progressive pushback against Schaaf has created a movement.

"Whoever is sitting in that seat is going to have thousands of people who are organized into a progressive bloc of accountability," she said.

Schaaf said she welcomes Oakland's activist edge.

"We are a feisty city," she said. "We don’t like authority or power. We challenge status quo thinking."

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That, Schaaf said, "keeps leaders like me on our toes."

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