Oakland uses ranked choice voting, which appears this way on a ballot. Credit: Darwin BondGraham

It’s a big election year in Oakland; voters will have a chance to pick a new mayor, three City Council members, a new district attorney, and county sheriff. With Wilma Chan’s tragic death in November, her former seat on the county board of supervisors will also need to be filled. 

These elections might seem far off, but we’re at a significant milestone in these races; campaign finance reports showing how much money each candidate raised and spent in 2021 for the 2022 elections are now out. 

They offer the first glimpse of who is ahead in terms of fundraising, which is important given how expensive it is to run a campaign and reach voters in Oakland and Alameda County. 

The fundraising reports also help pull back the curtain to show where each candidates’ support is coming from, in terms of individuals, economic and political forces, and whether or not a candidates’ support is largely coming from within city borders. 

Oakland mayoral race

Mayor Libby Schaaf cannot run again because she’s maxed out her term limits, leaving the mayor’s race wide open. About a dozen candidates have indicated they’ll run for the seat. But three candidates—all current council members—have separated themselves from the pack when it comes to early fundraising. 

Councilmember Loren Taylor, who represents East Oakland’s District 6, tops other candidates so far, with 55% of his funds coming from Oakland contributors, notably business leaders, consultants, and people in the real estate industry. As of Dec. 31, Taylor has raised $169,753 and has spent very little of it. Taylor was the first major candidate to announce a mayoral bid. 

Oakland’s campaign finance rules say a candidate cannot accept more than $900 from an individual donor per election cycle. Contributors who gave Taylor the maximum legal amount include PG&E manager Joel Hart; Joseph Betesh, an accountant for major landlord Best Bay Apartments Inc.; sculptor and longtime Schaaf supporter Bruce Beasley; developer and former Schaaf campaign treasurer John Protopappas; education activist Megan Bacigalupi, state Surgeon General Nadine Harris, and real estate developer Riaz Taplin. Other Taplin employees gave four separate contributions totalling $3,200. 

Taylor’s campaign also received donations from Schaaf spokesperson Justin Berton, former school board director Jody London, lobbyist Greg McConnell, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, and Seth Steward, chief of staff to Councilmember Dan Kalb and a candidate for Alameda County District Attorney. 

Not far behind is District 4 Councilmember Sheng Thao, who raised $127,318 in 2021. Thao, whose district includes Laurel, Dimond, and Redwood Heights, has only spent $3,000. Her support came from labor unions, business and nonprofit leaders, people in the cannabis industry, and from other elected officials and candidates, including District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, state Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, Akonadi Foundation director and BART board director Lateefah Simon, and Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas. 

Only 29% of Thao’s contributors list Oakland as their place of residence or business, campaign finance records show. Supporters who gave her the $900 limit include consultant John Bliss, Eugene Lee of Western Gravel and Roofing Supply, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, and Brooklyn Basin developer Michael Ghielmetti. 

Under city campaign laws, unions can give a single candidate a maximum of $1,700. SEIU 1021, IFPTE Local 21, and grocery workers union United Food and Commercial Workers each gave Thao that amount. The Oakland and Alameda County firefighters union, IAFF Local 55, chipped in $900. 

Smaller donations came from lobbyist Greg McConnell, longshore union leader Derrick Muhammad, EBAYC Executive Director David Kakishiba, Chinatown Chamber of Commerce President and realtor Carl Chan, privacy commissioner Brian Hofer, and hills resident and fire safety advocate Sue Piper. 

Councilmember Treva Reid, who represents District 7 in deep East Oakland, is also part of the $100k fundraising club. Reid raised $109,809 in 2021 and has all but about $5,500 of it left to spend. About 40% of her support has come from within Oakland, notably business leaders and companies with interests in East and West Oakland, as well as from some elected officials and lobbyists. 

William Crotinger and Alfredo Deleon of Argent Materials, California Metals Coalition PAC, and Michael Lowe, general manager of AB&I Foundry each gave Reid $900, while Edward Kangeter, CEO of metal recycler CASS, Inc. contributed $797. Others donating $900 were lobbyist John Gooding of Milo Group; developer John Protopappas; Uber lobbyist Ramona Prieto; Javier Ramos, a senior pastor at Shiloh Church; and Mike Yoell, a former Oakland police officer who runs a private security company. 

Taplin, the real estate developer who also donated to Taylor’s campaign, gave $900 to Reid, and other contributions from five Taplin employees equaled $3,050. State Sen. Nancy Skinner and Assemblymember Mia Bonta are also among Reid’s financial supporters. 

From here, the fundraising gap between mayoral candidates grows. According to finance records, Derreck Johnson, who ran for the at-large City Council seat in 2020, has raised $43,204. Johnson, a restaurant founder, received $900 a piece from AB&I Foundry, Argent Materials, Inc., and lawyer and policy advocate Maya Harris. Former Councilmember Desley Brooks and BART director Lateefah Simon each donated $500. Another AB&I Foundry employee gave Johnson $900. Approximately 43% of the donors listed Oakland addresses. 

Gregory Hodge, a former school board trustee and member of the Brotherhood of Elders Network, an intergenerational network of Black men who work to empower each other, has raised $37,417 with notable contributions from Castle Redmond of the California Endowment, former director of Alameda County Public Health Department Arnold Perkins, and David Muhammad, executive director of the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform and the former county chief probation officer. Forty-five percent of Hodge’s fundraising has come from Oakland contributors. 

Allyssa Victory, an attorney for Communications Workers of America Local 9415, received $10,719 from contributors and has spent about $1,700. The vast majority of contributors listed addresses outside of Oakland. 

Other candidates who have filed paperwork to run for mayor but have not reported raising any funds are former City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, state Department of Justice legal analyst Tyron Jordan, perennial candidate Peter Liu, Socialist candidate John Reimann, attorney Stephen Schear, former District 3 council candidate Seneca Scott, and homeless activist Derrick Soo

Alameda County District Attorney race

Chief Deputy District Attorney Terry Wiley has a huge fundraising lead in a race to replace his boss, outgoing District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, who decided not to run for reelection. As of the end of 2021, Wiley raised $344,266 with support from several top-level attorneys in the DA’s office. Wiley joined the DA’s office in 1990. 

Major contributions came from Inder Dosanjh, a Livermore car dealer who gave $30,000, philanthropists Cindi and Curtis Priem of Castro Valley, who each gave $9,999, and $10,000 from Gurprit S. Bains, CEO of Freedom Home Health & Hospice in Yuba City. 

Labor unions, the construction industry, and consultants contributed heavily to Wiley. Former Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, Mayor Schaaf, civil rights attorney John Burris, Oakland Police Commission member and former judge Brenda Harbin-Forte, Bishop Bob Jackson of Acts Full Gospel Church and former Solano County District Attorney Donald du Bain also donated to his campaign. 

Wiley has $265,314 in hand to spend ahead of the June primary election. If no one candidate receives over 50% of the vote, a runoff election will be held in November. 

Finance records show contributors poured $193,138 into civil rights attorney Pamela Price’s campaign. Since her unsuccessful campaign against O’Malley in 2018—two years after running for Oakland mayor—Price’s support largely comes from people with ties to Oakland and Berkeley. Notable donors include San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston, BART strategic programs manager Linton Johnson, former state Assembly candidate Janani Ramachandran, former Fremont Councilmember Vinnie Bacon, Oakland developer Alan Dones, longshore union leader Derrick Muhammad, and Anne Janks of the Oakland-based Coalition for Police Accountability. 

Price has outspent her opponents, with expenditures totalling $136,00 last year. That included about $10,000 to the Sutton Law Firm, who last year on behalf of Price filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission against DA staff members

Candidate Seth Steward, who is currently chief of staff for Oakland Councilman Dan Kalb, raised $108,678, with support from physicians, consultants, people working in energy and environmental fields, and prosecutors in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, where Steward worked as an assistant district attorney for more than 10 years. 

Alameda Health System physician Chitra Akileswaran gave Steward $10,000, the largest single contribution. Also donating were Kalb, Joel Hart of PG&E, BART director Bevan Dufty, former San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr, Oakland firefighter union president Zac Unger, Peralta Colleges Foundation Executive Director LaNiece Jones, and Eli Ferran, an attorney with the state of California who unsuccessfully ran for Oakland City Attorney in 2020. Steward had $106,012 left to spend as of Dec. 31. 

The fourth candidate in the DA’s race is prosecutor Jimmie Wilson, a 16-year veteran of the Alameda County DA’s office. Wilson raised $212,691 last year and has $183,545 in cash to spend. 

Wilson’s biggest contributor is Joseph Saunders, a San Francisco FinTech investor who used to be the CEO of credit card company VISA. Saunders contributed $20,000 to Wilson's campaign in December. Much of his other financial support has come from defense attorneys and current and former prosecutors. Former prosecutor Christoper Lamiero donated $3,500, while Curtis Briggs, who is known for representing Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow and Ghost Ship fire defendant Max Harris, donated $250. Other support came from the executive director of an East Bay chapter of the NAACP. 

Alameda County sheriff’s race

In this race, incumbent Sheriff Gregory Ahern has by far out-fundraised his two opponents, with a staggering amount of money coming from Bay Area car dealerships. Over a sixth-month period, dealerships in Concord, Fremont, Livermore, Dublin and as far away as Santa Clara and Seaside poured about $80,000 into Ahern’s reelection campaign, records show. 

Ahern reported raising $280,789 between July and the end of December. He currently has a war chest of $362,488 to spend. 

The sheriff’s “5K Club” includes Gursavraj Dhami of Seaside Automotive, the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council, financier Roger Bakshi of Fremont; Kimberly Huffman of Kentucky; Rahul Roy of Fremont, Wendy’s of the Pacific in Modesto, and consultant Philip Simon of Atlanta. The regional California Narcotic Officers Association donated $500, while sheriff’s Lt. Paul Liskey gave $10,000. 

By contrast, Ahern’s opponents are largely self-financing their campaigns. 

Yesenia Sanchez, a Alameda County sheriff’s commander challenging her boss, raised $32,588 mostly in small contributions from a variety of supporters. More than a dozen donors who listed their occupation as working for the sheriff’s office gave approximately $5,100. 

ABC Security Service, Inc. chipped in $750, while the Asian Americans for Progressive Alameda donated $1,000, and Livermore-based attorney David George gave $800. 

East Bay Municipal District Board Director Andy Katz and Elaine Peng, CEO of Mental Health Association for Chinese Communities, each donated $250. Other donations came from retirees, a Chabot College professor, a Union City street outreach worker, and Paypal’s director of user experience. Sanchez has also loaned her campaign $38,550. 

JoAnn Walker, a San Francisco police officer who lives in Hayward, raised $9,025 over the last filing period, bringing her total since announcing her run for sheriff last year to $21,296. Walker has loaned her campaign about $81,000.

Much of her support has come from people living or working in Oakland. Notable donors include privacy activist and Media Alliance Executive Director Tracy Rosenberg, who gave $103, and Samuel Rutland Jr., co-director of Buturi Project in Fremont, who donated $2,900. Rutland was reimbursed $3,000 for helping with campaign literature. 

Oakland City Council

Because Taylor and Thao are running for mayor, they are giving up their council seats in Districts 6 and 4, respectively. However, council campaigns in the November election have not attracted a competitive field yet. One factor may be that the Oakland Redistricting Commission has not finalized boundaries for City Council districts. The commission blew past a Dec. 31 deadline but selected a map last week, and is scheduled to finalize the new district lines this month. 

In District 6, Paulina Gonzalez, the executive director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, has raised $14,544 since entering the race. Peralta Colleges trustee Kevin Jenkins has filed to run for District 6 but has not reported any fundraising. 

So far, the only candidate to emerge for the District 4 seat is Janani Ramachandran, a social justice attorney who recently lost a runoff election to Mia Bonta for the 18th Assembly District. 

Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, who represents District 2, is running for reelection but no one has filed to challenge Bas for the Lake Merritt area seat. Nevertheless, Bas raised $87,126 in 2021 and has $71,729 of it left to spend.

In other election news, Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan has filed to run for the District 3 Alameda County supervisor seat formerly held by Wilma Chan. Chan was struck and killed by a motorist while walking on Shoreline Drive in Alameda on November 3. Dave Brown, who served as Chan’s chief of staff, was appointed to the seat but cannot run to hold the seat permanently because he recently moved to the district encompassing the cities of Alameda and San Leandro and portions of East Oakland, Chinatown, and Jack London Square. 

Editor's note: The Oaklandside and the Cityside Journalism Initiative receive donations from local readers and organizations, some of whom may also be supporting local political campaigns. See our full list of supporters.

Correction: the original version of this story stated that Jimmie Wilson did not file his campaign finance statement by the Jan. 31 deadline. This was incorrect. Mr. Wilson filed a paper copy of the statement, which was not scanned and put on the county's disclosure portal until Feb. 2. We have updated the story with his filing and we regret our error. We also included the wrong fundraising total for Nikki Bas.

David DeBolt reported on City Hall and policing for The Oaklandside. He spent 12 years working for daily newspapers in the Bay Area, including on the Peninsula and Solano County. He joined the Bay Area News Group in 2012 where he covered a variety of beats, most recently as a senior breaking news reporter. During his time at BANG, DeBolt covered Oakland City Hall, the Raiders stadium saga and the A’s search for a new ballpark, as well as the Oakland Police Department and police reform efforts. He was part of the East Bay Times staff honored with the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News for coverage of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire.

Before joining The Oaklandside as News Editor, Darwin BondGraham was a freelance investigative reporter covering police and prosecutorial misconduct. He has reported on gun violence for The Guardian and was a staff writer for the East Bay Express. He holds a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017. He is also the co-author of The Riders Come Out at Night, a book examining the Oakland Police Department's history of corruption and reform.