The Oakland City Council District Two seat held by Abel Guillen has a new challenger: Kenzie Smith. Now, the most likely Oakland voter over 50 might be saying “Who’s Kenzie Smith?”, the one under 50 but older than 40 may react with “The BBQ Becky Guy?”, and someone under 40 in Oakland might say “dude’s got no chance.” But two things are known now: first, Kenzie Smith is officially in the race, and second, he’s beating both Abel Guillen and Nikki Bas in Google Trends, and for a very weird and all-too 21st Century reason that most will dismiss.
Kenzie Smith is the man at the center of the actions of the woman known as “BBQ Becky”, or #BBQBecky or Jennifer Schulte. On April 29th, Ms. Schulte called the Oakland Police and just because Mr. Smith and his wife Michelle Snider, and their friends, mostly African American, and just because, and only for the reason that they were preparing to barbecue using a charcoal grill. That’s it.
Now a momentary aside for information purposes: Jennifer Schulte’s claim is that such a use of a charcoal grill is “illegal” is wrong. In fact, one can use a charcoal grill at designated areas around Lake Merritt, but where Kenzie Smith was is the place for a “non charcoal” portable grill. In other words, grilling is completely OK, and the designation is a nit-picky thing. But because Schulte was, in this blogger’s opinion, eager to get someone in trouble first, because of her own apparently neurotic tendencies, and second, because Mr. Smith and company were following the common media image of someone black not following the rules as she interpreted them, BBQ Becky called the cops. The fact missing is all of this is that the City of Oakland does allow grilling at that location, making what BBQ Becky did completely wrong, as well as anyone who supports her ridiculous actions.
Jennifer Schulte actions of harassing Mr. Smith caused his wife to fire up the now famous viral video of Ms. Schulte on the phone, with sunglasses on, as if she were some kind of undercover CIA agent. The YouTube video worth reposting, even though it’s amassed 2.7 million views to date on YouTube (by the way, subscribe to Zennie62 on Youtube, as well as Michelle’s YouTube channel here):
It made the image of Jennifer Schulte as a kind of made-for-comedy undercover CIA agent famous, and Michelle Snider and Kenzie Smith, too. Now, the couple has smartly decided to strike while the search intensity iron is hot. When you have the attention of the public, use it to put out your message. And so, with the help of Oakland At-Large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, Smith was nominated to the Oakland Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission, which creates park rules. And Mr. Smith didn’t stop there, he filed papers to run for the Oakland City Council Seat currently held by Abel Guillen. But can Kenzie Smith win?
One thing’s for sure, Mr. Smith has a tremendous advantage from the perspective of Google Trends – take a look at this updated comparion chart:
As has been blogged and vlogged about in Oakland News Now before, Google Trends has emerged as a powerful predictor of both local and national elections. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great barometer of which candidate is being looked at the most by both potential voters and the electorate.
The Google Trends chart shows that “Kenxie Smith” has more search intensity than Oakland Councilmember Abel Guillen and the other challenger Nikky Bas. Smith stands at a ranking of 18, Guillen is at 4, and Bas is at zero. (And when I look at Google Trends for Ms. Bas on her own, I get this “Hmm, your search doesn’t have enough data to show here.”) In fact, Bas’ Google Trends line, the yellow one, is flat – so much so she might as well not exist. This is political death walking. Bas has done nothing to move the search interest needle, and it’s a clear sign she’s only rounding up her friends, and has not reached out in an effective way to gain the interest of residents in Oakland City Council District Two. She could solve this problem with one good press conference. Bas, right now, is way behind – even though she may not think so.
As to why Kenzie Smith is so far ahead of Abel and Nikki on Google Trends, it’s logical to understand why that would be the case in the wake of BBQ Becky, but Smith had that advantage before the BBQ Becky incident.
“Kenzie Smith” is also an musical artist and a volleyball player: one male, the athlete female. Now here’s where a lay person and a political consultant would dismiss the idea Oakland Kenzie Smith has any real advantage. But from a search standpoint, a person looking for information on the other “ Kenzie Smiths” find out news about the Oakland Kenzie Smith, and could tell others about the “Oakland BBQ Becky Kenzie Smith” running for office.
Kenzie Smith could leverage that advatage into rasing money from national sources for his Oakland City Council campaign. He could, if he knew what he was doing, essentially “replace” whatever content is out there about the other Kenzie Smiths with his own postings. The objective of all of this is to increase the talk about him. But that doesn’t mean he can’t campaign.
Smith can’t be lazy: he has to knock on doors, and walk the whole of District Two. He can’t assume people know him and have a positive view about him, especially running for political office.
Can Smith do this? Time will tell. Abel Guillen is a tough political customer who’s consistently underestimated. When it comes to politics, Abel is the silent assasin: softly killing opponents with a wave of local business and political backing. The worst thing anyone can do is sleep on Abel if they’re running against him – many do.