The 2020 Oakland City Council race gets stranger and stranger as documents show (it’s always “documents show”, huh) that the Alameda Labor Council and the AFL-CIO have formed a committee called “Oakland 2020 Committee to Replace Lynette Gibson McElhaney And Elect Carroll Fife and Rebecca Kaplan to the Oakland City Council, sponsored by Alameda Labor Council, AFL-CIO”. (For those of you who need a map, Lynette Gibson McElhaney is the currrent Oakland District Three Councilmember and Rebecca Kaplan is the current At Large Councilmember and President Of The Oakland City Council.)
According to the page I found on the Open Disclosure Oakland website, the organization has raised $293,000 to date. The contributors are all, strangely, union:
Service Employees International Union Local 1021 Candidate PAC Small Contribution Committee — — 95814 $90000 2020-09-10
Service Employees International Union Local 1021 Candidate PAC Small Contribution Committee — — 95814 $82000 2020-09-10
Unity PAC a Sponsored Committee of the Alameda Labor Council AFL-CIO Committee — — 94621 $50000 2020-09-16
Service Employees International Union Local 1021 Candidate PAC Small Contribution Committee — — 95814 $30000 2020-09-01
Unity PAC a Sponsored Committee of the Alameda Labor Council AFL-CIO Committee — — 94621 $25000 2020-08-20
Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 104 Political Committee Committee — — 94583 $5000 2020-09-07
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS LOCAL 595 PAC Small Contribution Committee — — 94568 $5000 2020-09-03
Steamfitters Local 342 Political Action Committee Committee — — 94518 $5000 2020-08-27
ESC Local 20 IFPTE Lou Lucivero Legislative Education & Action Program (LEAP) Sponsored by Engineers & Scientists of California Local 20 Committee — — 94607 $1000 2020-09-07
I write “strangely, union” because there’s no other contributor listed.
The Alameda Labor Council’s slate card shows, with respect to Oakland and the City Council races, the following choices:
Dan Kalb for District One
Carroll Fife (with no rank-choice #2, which normally would include the incumbent) for District Three
Noel Gallo for District Five
Treva Reid and Marchon Tatmon – Dual Endorsement for District 7
Rebecca Kaplan for At Large
For the Oakland School Board, the union group picked Sam Davis, VanCedric Williams, Michael Hutchinson, Ben Tapscott, and Measure QQ and Measure Y.
What’s Really Up With The Alameda Labor Council / AFL-CIO Union’s Decision To Back Carroll Fife Over Lynette Gibson McElhaney?
But the decision to back Carroll Fife over Councilmember McElhaney is the focus of talk around town. While others have a point of view that reflects the sour taste of last year’s California State Democratic Convention outcome and the idea that the unions are trying to “take out” black women (an interesting view considering the backing of Fife and also Jovanka Beckles), I think it has more to do with Bernie Sanders.
Carroll Fife and a number of members of the Alameda Labor Council were big time Bernie Sanders backers, whereas Lynette’s a supporter of Joe Biden for President (and Fife has not come out in open support of Biden, even as he’s the Democratic Party leader and former SF District Attorney Kamela Harris is his running mate). And the Alameda Labor Council’s office space was used to help Fife during the Moms 4 Housing effort.
Still, the ties between the 2019 California Democratic Party election where Los Angeles labor leader Rusty Hicks won the party chair position, and held off a powerful drive from Richmond activist Kimberly Ellis, and the current Oakland City Council race, are not to be denied. There’s a lot of state-wide bad blood between a number of black female elected officials and the largely white AFL-CIO in the wake of Ellis’ loss. Last year, Both Lynette and Kimberly served on the board of Black Elected Officials Of The East Bay, with McElhaney, as Special Advisor to the Board according to The Oakland Post. (Note, Ellis texted me via Facebook “I was hired as a consultant to the org, I never served on its board.” A point of information not reflected in the year-old Oakland Post entry which served as reference.)
Carroll Fife should be careful who she partners with in this race. Her approach thus far is to discriminate in seeking political partnerships rather than cast a big tent and sell herself, explaining why she’s the best candidate, and to everyone, of every stripe. That strategy does not serve any elected official well when it comes to deal-making in office. Just consider how some in the Oakland City Council reacted to the allegedly immature behavior of one newcomer when that person did not get their way after a vote. That person’s efforts were largely marginalized during the last session.
Plus, Carroll could wind up being looked at as against any black woman who’s not exactly aligned with her agenda. At a time when a number of black women in California politics feel like they’re under attack, that’s not a good position for Ms. Fife to be in, and could be used against her in a big way. It is also a bad look for the Alameda Labor Council to have: the appearance of picking and choosing black female candidates in the wake of the Hicks / Ellis vote of last year. Indeed, it’s a problem that extends even to Kamala Harris herself.
The Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate is a part of the SF Bay Area Political Family, and so is very well known. I first met her in 2007, and even met up at Harry’s Bar on Fillmore for an early dinner. But, as her political career grew, it took on a pattern that many black women in the SF Bay Area Political Family don’t see as beneficial to them. Famed local lawyer Pamela Price put it this way in her blog:
In California politics, with very few exceptions, Kamala has not supported progressive Black women running for office. In 2017 and again, in 2019, we fought to elect Kimberly Ellis as the Chairwoman of the California Democratic Party. Kamala did not support Kimberly Ellis in 2017 or 2019.
In 2018, 2 Black women ran for Oakland Mayor. Kamala did not support either one of us. In the 2018 race for Assembly District 15 to represent Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and West Contra Costa County, there were 3 Black women running for State Assembly. Kamala did not support any of them. As a result, today, there are no Black representatives from the Bay Area in the California Legislature.
In three local races in 2018, Oakland Mayor, Assembly District 15 and Alameda County District Attorney, Kamala provided major support for all of the white women who won.
The Lesson: Make Friends With Everyone, And Not Just A Small Group Of People You Like
Oakland’s real problem is that too many so-called progressive and democratic socialist candidates are also too eager to make enemies where they really don’t exist. I am calculating the over-under on when this post of mine will be mischaracterized for political gain. One will say it’s anti-Lynette and the other anti-Carroll, and someone else will come up with some other crap. All will be wrong. Note: it’s a trap!
Word of warning: you’re elected to serve all of the people of your district, not just the ones you like.
Oakland District Three Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney posted this entry on Facebook, tagging myself and this post: