Buffy Wicks came into Oakland with a plan – just blew in. Gather up all of her contacts gained over a decade of service to President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Clinton, raise a ton of money, and run for the open California Assembly District Seat 15. (Well, truth be told, she didn’t call me after all these years going back to 2008 and 2012, so I’m mad at her – sorta. See…)
Observers make a lot of commentary about how Ms. Wicks gathered all of her old Obama friends, but that’s not true, she didn’t have to gather them because they came to help on their own. She’s respected that much. Buffy came into Oakland and built a brand new coalition for herself, and for that, she’s to be congratulated.
She also outraised every other candidate, and did this via 130 house parties, 500 volunteers, and 1,000 signatures on AD 15 to get on the ballot. In other words, Buffy used all of those field organizing skills she learned over the past 20 years in Democratic Politics and put them to the ultimate test: she used them on herself.
Now, after gaining 10,281 votes in the California Assembly District 15 Race and scoring 33.21 percent of the total, Buffy finds herself with just one opponents to bear on to beat, and that is Oakland District One Councilmember Dan Kalb.
Councilmember Kalb, who was outraised by Wicks $617,140 to $236,604, and wasn’t even the second largest money-taker, now finds himself in a very weird battle: he goes up against someone in Buffy with no track record as an elected official, yet who’s gathered more money and votes than he has as a sitting Oakland City Councilmember. It should be fairly apparent to Dan that he can’t rest on whatever accomplishments he claims as an Oakland elected official, because arguably doing so can work against him.
Nope. If Dan expects to beat Buffy rather than the more obvious outcome of she wiping the floor with he, then Kalb’s going to have to do something he’s not roundly known for: putting on the charm offensive to expand his base. It’s not that Dan’s not a nice and engaging fellow (he is) but, let’s face it, until this point, he’s been able to skate by from an campaigning perspective.
Kalb was elected to the District One seat in 2012, and in a way that can only be called a fluke. At the time, the Oakland District One voting favorite was Amy Lemley and Kalb was basically one of the other 10 candidates running against her. But in October 18th of 2012 and just a few weeks before the election, Kalb was the mugging victim of a robbery at gunpoint in front of his home. And it was the very thing that gave him the name recognition he needed to gain enough second and third choice votes in the Oakland Ranked Choice Voting System to win over Lemley.
Then, when Dan ran for re-election in 2016, he had one, and only one, challenger, Kevin Corbett, who was a nice man but a complete political novice. Korbett had little to offer other than telling voters the city had no leadership, but having no resume of leadership himself. And Korbett was not the policy wonk that Dan was, plus, Dan had a list of improvements in District One gained manly from the growth of tech before the homeless problem became acute, and so was able to smoke Corbett in the debate I attended in 2016.
Now that Dan is up against Buffy, he’s got to do a lot more because spouting a bunch of words to prove he’s an environmentalist is becoming a bit played in an area where a ton of people are trying to spount a bunch of words to prove they’re environmentalists. He’s got to get out there and really sell himself in a way he’s never had to do before if he expects to have a snowball’s chance in hell to beat Buffy Wicks.
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media