My top 3 candidates for Oakland mayor’s race

Photo of Chip Johnson

With one week until election day, Oakland voters are working out in their minds, on tablets, laptops and on paper, their top three choices for mayor under the city’s ranked-choice voting system.

And there is a whole raft of reasons people choose the candidates they vote for.

On Sunday, I sat on a stool at the Avenue, a bar on Telegraph Avenue, watched the Raiders-Browns game and chopped it up with my friend Oliver, an attorney, a native Oakland resident and a political junkie. We debated the Oakland mayor’s race, of course.

Oliver’s first choice is Dan Siegel — a candidate with whom he shares a past. He and Siegel were students at UC Berkeley at the same time and embraced the radical politics of the day. Because of it, Siegel holds a special place in his heart.

But Oliver’s second choice, Libby Schaaf, is my first.

I’m making Schaaf my first choice for practical reasons: I believe she is the best candidate with a legitimate shot at winning the election.

I have watched Schaaf courageously try to hold the line against ill-conceived proposals. I’ve heard her lay bare false claims made by colleagues. And I’ve seen her cast votes to instill some level of ethics and standards in Oakland government.

I see bravery, determination and honesty in her actions, and I trust her to come clean to residents about the state of affairs of the city — and that’s something you cannot always count on in this burg.

Schaaf is not afraid to buck convention or step up to lead when necessary — and she is persistent as hell.

In 2011, her first year as a member of the Oakland City Council, Schaaf proposed an open data policy to make everything from campaign finance reports to city expenditures easily accessible to the public. It was initially voted down by her council colleagues, but she got it passed a year later.

Seeking more officers

The same year, she formed an opposition group — four council members who tried to hold the line against a budget proposal that did not include funding for about 80 laid-off Oakland police officers to return to work.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan cast the tiebreaking vote to adopt the problem budget, which included funding to return only 22 laid-off officers to work. The city has been playing catch-up ever since.

Finally, Schaaf introduced a rainy day fund proposal in 2011 that was rejected by her colleagues. She plans to reintroduce the legislation at a committee meeting Tuesday.

I am dubious of voter polls that suggest at-large Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan holds a convincing lead over her rivals. There are scores of voters still undecided.

If campaign contributions are an accurate reflection of voter sentiments, then Schaaf is doing well.

Schaaf has raised more than $400,000, more than any other candidate. Kaplan is fifth among all candidates, having raised around $280,000, including a $60,000 loan made to her own campaign. I’m still searching for the groundswell of support that Kaplan claims to enjoy.

As for my final two votes, I split them between my heart and my head.

I have a heartfelt affinity for Joe Tuman and will make him my second choice because I believe he is on the right track.

In defense of Quan

My final favorite in the race is going to surprise you because I certainly surprised myself.

It’s the incumbent, Jean Quan.

Quan’s shaky start as mayor with the layoffs of police officers and the arrival of the Occupy Oakland movement cast her as a weak, indecisive leader, and it has dogged her throughout her first term in office.

But aside from her insistence that she can find investors to build Coliseum City, a proposed entertainment venue located at the site of the city-county-owned sports complex, Quan’s past two years in office have been head-and-shoulders above her first two.

My support for Quan is based on an old adage: “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”

Vote early, vote often, and vote for at least three mayoral candidates.

This article has been corrected since it appeared in print editions.

Chip Johnson is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. His column runs on Tuesday and Friday. E-mail: Twitter: @chjohnson