Allyssa Victory held a press conference Monday at Oakland City Hall to announce that she's now eligible to run for mayor. Credit: Natalie Orenstein

After two weeks of contesting her disqualification from the Oakland mayoral election, Allyssa Victory announced Monday that the city is allowing her to appear on the ballot in November. 

Victory said that she received a call and letter from the city clerk’s office Monday morning saying the filing paperwork she’d originally submitted earlier in August was, in fact, sufficient to qualify her for the race. 

“This is a huge win for our campaign, and a huge relief after two weeks of nearly pausing all of our campaign activities to address our illegal disqualification,” Victory said at a press conference she held in front of City Hall. But she added that the decision “is not complete justice” because other candidates who did not make the ballot—some of whom showed up to support Victory at the event—are still prohibited from running.

Victory shared a copy of the letter she received Monday from the city clerk’s office with The Oaklanside, which states that her materials have been verified and she’s qualified to run for mayor.

“Today the City Clerk is confirming that Allyssa Victory Villanueva has qualified as a candidate for Mayor on the November ballot,” the city said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

Victory was one of at least three mayoral hopefuls who didn’t make the cut after Oakland’s city clerk initially told candidates the wrong deadline, Aug. 17, to file their nomination paperwork. On Aug. 12, the clerk’s staff called several candidates to say they’d misinterpreted state election law and the deadline was actually that day. With just a few hours to spare, some candidates could not make it to City Hall to file in time or didn’t have their materials prepared yet.  

The miscommunication has caused controversy across the city and prompted questions about the state of Oakland’s democracy. But Victory’s situation was unique. Unlike the other disqualified candidates, the civil rights attorney was able to rush to City Hall to file her paperwork in time. The issue arose when the city told her the materials were incomplete.

At issue was Victory’s set of “endorser signatures”—10-20 names that appear under the candidate’s name in the official county voter guide. These endorsers, or sponsors, are separate from the 50 general nomination signatures that candidates must also submit. After Victory filed her paperwork, the city told her that fewer than 10 of her sponsors are registered to vote, making the submission ineligible. 

Victory later filed a complaint with the secretary of state, arguing that city law does not actually require that sponsors be registered voters, instead only mandating that they live in Oakland. 

That rule is “intended to allow non-citizens and people who are not allowed to or not registered to vote to be represented,” Victory said at the press conference.

In the complaint, she also outlined problems she encountered trying to file under the name Allyssa Victory Villanueva, which she says the city initially questioned. Victory’s given name is Villanueva, but she wanted to run under the name Victory Villanueva, as the former is her husband’s name which she’s been using for several years. She goes by Allyssa Victory in most campaign materials. 

Victory requested that the secretary of state conduct an “urgent review and intervention into the chaos” caused by the deadline miscommunication. 

Monesha “MJ” Carter, one of the candidates disqualified from running for mayor, came to Victory’s event to support her. Credit: Natalie Orenstein

In the meantime, Victory’s campaign gathered statements of support from other candidates, both those who’d been disqualified and those who’d made it, and consulted with a number of lawyers and elected officials. Several candidates, including the three current City Council members running for mayor, called for the inclusion of those who’ve been barred. 

Victory said she received a call from the city attorney’s office on Friday saying she was right about the signature law and telling her she’d get a call from the city clerk on Monday confirming her spot on the ballot. 

“Through research and documentation provided by Ms. Villaneuva, the City has confirmed that two of the signatures met the residency requirements, bringing the total to 10,” the city said in its statement Monday. 

“I don’t put blame on any one person,” said Victory, who as a law student interned in the city attorney’s office. “I believe that it took time for people to really get it right, for them to really understand the law themselves, and to consult with all the different professionals, staff, and electeds that were required.” 

The addition of Victory brings the list of qualified mayoral candidates to 10. Incumbent Libby Schaaf is termed out, opening up the field.

Disqualified candidates Derrick Soo and Monesha “MJ” Carter stood on the steps behind Victory on Monday, cheering on the newly qualified candidate, along with candidate Peter Liu. 

After the event, Carter told The Oaklandside that she’s “proud” of Victory, whom she’s endorsed.

Like Victory, Carter rushed to City Hall after receiving the phone call on Aug. 12 and submitted her paperwork in time. She later learned that several of her 50 general nomination signatures were from people who weren’t registered to vote. Unlike with the endorser names, registration is a requirement for those signatures. Because the filing deadline had passed, Carter did not have time to go out and collect more names.

“For someone to get justice in this case, it brings peace to me,” Carter said.

Victory said she’s ready to restart her campaign.

“I think my chances are even stronger now,” she said. “This has only brought more light to the issues going on with our city, our democracy, and the threats to people of color to be represented in our democracy. My resolve is only stronger to win on behalf of those pushed out.” 

Natalie Orenstein covers housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. She was previously on staff at Berkeleyside, where her extensive reporting on the legacy of school desegregation received recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists NorCal and the Education Writers Association. Natalie’s reporting has also appeared in The J Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, and she’s written about public policy for a number of research institutes and think tanks. Natalie lives in Oakland, grew up in Berkeley, and has only left her beloved East Bay once, to attend Pomona College.