Kernighan trounces Allison
It's almost more than I could have hoped for: Pat won almost 55% of the vote, beating Aimee Allison and her ideologues by over 800 votes. This was a stunning loss for the malcontents who are unhappy with the City Council's pro-growth, pro-downtown, consensus-based direction. Despite massive publicity of Allison's sharply negative campaign, Pat Kernighan earned a decisive victory.
There are two political lessons to be learned from this. The first is that there is little appetite in Oakland for the ideological, anti-business rhetoric that San Francisco supervisors and Berkeley councilmembers use to justify their lack of coherent approaches to solving local problems. As one (lefty) council aide said last night, contrasting Daly's narrow victory with Allison's wide loss, Oaklanders "vote like adults." Oakland is simply not wealthy enough for anti-business positions to attract much popularity. Additionally, the Port of Oakland is too important to our city for anti-globalization activists to make hay out of taxing the Port. District 2 is definitely one of the most liberal parts of our city, so if Allison's far-left (I mean, "progressive") campaign won't work there, it won't work anywhere (except maybe District 3).
The second is that money is no substitute for grassroots support in winning a local election. Independent expenditures on Allison's behalf helped her far outspend Kernighan in the last two weeks of the campaign, yet the duplicitous nature of the mailers and paid bilingual workers, as well as their distasteful source (nobody likes ultrarich SF lawyers) made no impact. Allison's volunteers, culled from outside the district and even outside the city, were (as I predicted) unpersuasive to voters. When I phoned residents for Pat, I would end up talking about my own Oakland public school experience, or details of downtown redevelopment, or specific Council actions about which residents would be concerned. The self-described "activists" staffing Allison's office know nothing of the issues that matter to District 2 voters. The robo-poll Allison did a month ago to identify supporters was a miserable failure, leaving her volunteers with no effective GOTV drive. Instead, they drove around in an old truck (one exempt from Smog Check), banged on drums, and used loudspeakers to berate residents. According to a poll worker, they even recruited voters outside of District 2!
Some media reports assert that, because Allison tried desperately to ride Dellums' coattails, that her loss lessens Dellums' influence over the council. While Councilmember Allison (an image that still produces a shudder) would have been more divisively pro-Dellums than Pat, Allison's loss is not the same as Dellums' loss. Dellums himself did not endorse her, a fact that became increasingly obvious in the last days of the campaign. A test of Dellums' support making a difference in a Council race will have to wait until 2008.