I let this series drop off, but now that the June election’s over, I thought I’d start it up again.
Rule #4: Don’t pass up important opportunities to get your message out, but if you must, don’t be overly dramatic and provide ridiculous reasons for doing so
Last week, 100 Black Men and OaklandSeen held the first mayoral forum for the November election. As you’ve likely read, the event was well attended and all candidates but one were there. Though he initially agreed to participate, Don Perata pulled out just a few days before the forum.
I must admit, that like Perata, I think it was a bit early to hold a mayoral forum. The June election just happened last week, most people haven’t started thinking about November yet, and the field of candidates isn’t even close to solidified. But in the course of campaigns lots of silly and sometimes annoying things happen. If you’re a serious candidate, you roll with the punches and grab any opportunity to get your message out to voters and opinion leaders.
So it somewhat surprised me when Perata decided not to participate in this forum. And I was floored by his reasoning and his wide-reaching statement:
I regret that I will not attend any mayoral forums until the official filing deadline for mayor has closed and the full field of aspirants is known.
Woah. So not only did he skip out on last week’s forum, but he will not attend any forums for the next two months! Just because he’s the presumed front-runner in the race doesn’t mean that Perata can ignore debates without losing ground. The other candidates will have a huge opportunity to get their messages out, while the only message Perata will be sending is that he’s too important to be bothered.
But it gets worse:
Holding mayoral debates before all candidates are declared is undemocratic and misleads voters.
Yeah. Perata just dissed OaklandSeen and 100 Black Men, as well as any organizations that will be holding mayoral forums or debates in the next two months. I don’t see how forums could possibly be “undemocratic” or “mislead voters” unless the organizers lied and said that the filing date had passed. As long as it’s explained that the race is still in flux, I think it’s fine to start educating voters about the policy positions of the candidates, just as the candidates themselves (including Perata) have been doing at town hall-style forums and by campaigning door to door.
Perata doesn’t end there though:
In particular, Mayor Dellums has yet to announce his intentions as is his right as an incumbent. The mayor is running for re-election until he says he’s not, or when filing closes in August. Ron Dellums has served our community for almost four decades. He’s well entitled to such consideration.
This is totally ridiculous. First off, it’s pretty clear that Dellums isn’t running. He’s terribly unpopular with voters and he’s having plenty of personal monetary problems. There’s no way he could win, and even if he could, I’m not sure he’d want to as he doesn’t seem to be enjoying the job much.
But even if there was a chance that Dellums was running, it’s incumbent upon him to announce that. If he was running and decided to wait this long to announce, that would be his own fault. Campaign strategies are tricky and to each his own, but nobody, not even an incumbent, can expect a race to wait for him to make up his mind.
Perata might have thought that this open letter would shame other organizations into not planning further mayoral forums, but I don’t see that happening. Too many Oaklanders are interested in this race, and though the week of the June election might have been a bit early for a forum, soon Oaklanders will begin thinking more seriously about the candidates for mayor and they’re not going to wait until Dellums announces to form their opinions.