OAKLAND (CBS 5 / AP / BCN) ― City Councilwoman Jean Quan was elected as Oakland’s next mayor in an upset win following a days-long process of redistributing votes under a new ranked-choice system that allowed voters to list their first, second and third-place candidates.
Alameda County elections officials said Wednesday evening that the 61-year-old Quan received slightly over 50 percent of the votes, compared to 49 percent for former state senator Don Perata.
Quan was set to become Oakland’s first female mayor and the nation’s first Asian American woman to lead a major U.S. city. In January, she will replace current Mayor Ron Dellums, who chose not to run for a second term.
“We’ve been waiting 158 years to have a woman mayor,” Quan said moments after learning she won. “We’ve been waiting over 200 years to have an Asian American woman as mayor of a major American city. And, we’ve been waiting about four years to get ranked-choice voting. This is a race people are going to be studying for a long time.”
Perata was considered the heavy favorite and held a double-digit lead over Quan when first-choice returns were counted last week.
But Quan took the lead when third-place finisher and fellow councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan was eliminated and votes cast for her were reapportioned to Quan and Perata.
Quan led by 2,058 votes in a race where more than 100,000 ballots were cast, according to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ office.
The ranked-choice voting system was in used in Oakland for the first time this year, which meant voters entered their first three choices.
Ten people entered the mayoral race, making it nearly impossible for one candidate to receive more than 50 percent of the vote based on No. 1 choices.
The second-choice votes of the lower-place finishers were distributed to candidates who were still in the race until someone got at least 50 percent of the vote.
“Having won over 11,000 more first-choice votes than his nearest rival, these numbers need to be scrutinized carefully, and spoken to carefully,” Perata spokesman Rhys Williams said Wednesday night, suggesting that voters might have been confused by the ranked-choice voting system. “No decision has been taken on next steps.”
The results aren’t considered final just yet because they still need to
be certified. The county has until Nov. 30 to actually certify the results and name the official winner, but Registrar of Voters Dave MacDonald said he expected to do so sooner.
Perata was scheduled to hold a news conference on Thursday outside an Oakland police station to address the results.
Quan arguably benefitted from having enough second- and third-place votes as she and Kaplan encouraged supporters to vote for the other as their second choice during their respective campaigns, using what many called the “Anybody But Perata” strategy.
Kaplan congratulated Quan on her win, noting that “she ran a tremendous grassroots campaign and reached thousands of voters block by block.”
Quan, a former school board member, also won despite not getting key endorsements from the Bay Area’s two largest newspapers, the Oakland Tribune (Kaplan) and the San Francisco Chronicle (Perata).
She credited her win to being visible with her relentless voter outreach, including attending more than 200 house parties.
“This is really a proud moment for Oakland’s grassroots organizing. We’re very proud,” Quan said Wednesday night.
Joe Tuman, a San Francisco State University communications professor and former CBS 5 political analyst – who was one of 10 candidates vying to be mayor, agreed that Quan’s tireless work ethic played a roll in her victory and would serve her well during the next four years.
“Every day I was in house meetings, booked solid from morning until 10 o’clock at night, and wherever I was, Jean was there, too,” Tuman said. “She hustles. If you contrast that with Don, it’s not a criticism of him, it’s a reality. He consciously avoided particiapting in lots of events.”
Quan will inherit a shrinking city budget that includes a $50 million deficit next fiscal year, a violent crime rate that’s showing some signs of decline, yet overlooked due to 80 police officers being laid off in July.
And similar to her job as councilwoman, Quan also will face increased demands to attract new businesses to town and boost civic morale.
“She won a bitterly contested election. It’s important for everybody to fall in behind her and support her,” Tuman added. “We have huge problems, and I hope she will not only try to solve them by herself, but know there are a lot of people who want to help.”
For her part, Kapaln said she looked “forward to working with Jean to create jobs and make our streets safer by working to restore community policing.”
(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)