Loren Taylor conceded the mayor's race on Tuesday, Nov. 22. Credit: Amir Aziz

With supporters at his back this morning at East Oakland’s Liberation Park, District 6 Councilmember Loren Taylor wiped tears away from his eyes and conceded the mayor’s race.

“While it hurts to admit it, I do not see a viable path to making up the 682 votes needed to alter the outcome of this election,” said Taylor. “I concede that Sheng Thao will be certified as Oakland’s next mayor.”

Taylor never had a substantial lead over Thao, besting her by just 1,596 first-choice votes before the ranked-choice process kicked off. Taylor’s lead grew after Greg Hodge and Treva Reid were eliminated and their ballots were redistributed, boosting him to a 3,587-vote advantage. 

But Allyssa Victory’s supporters heavily favored Thao, putting her in the lead by 2,677 votes. Ignacio De La Fuente’s voters favored Taylor by a 60% advantage in the final ranked-choice round, but those numbers weren’t enough to overcome Thao’s lead.

Taylor used the opportunity to heap praise on his supporters, campaign staff, and volunteers, who helped him win the most first-choice votes among the field of 10 candidates, 33% of the total. Taylor said hundreds of volunteers worked on his campaign, knocking on tens of thousands of doors and making thousands of phone calls.

“I could not simply stand by as a kid from Oakland and watch as my town went in a direction that I knew we shouldn’t be going, knowing that I had the tools and the community support to create the change that we needed and make sure that we deliver,” he said. “That’s what compelled me to forgo a career in corporate America and become a councilmember for District 6. That’s what compelled me to forgo my safe seat on the City Council and step up to serve my town, my city.”

In losing the mayor’s race, Taylor will also leave the City Council in January, replaced by Kevin Jenkins, who won the District 6 race in this election. He did not say what’s next in store for him except that he will continue working to benefit his East Oakland district.

Any registered voter can ask for a recount, but Taylor said it won’t be him

Backed by his supporters, Taylor was at times emotional acknowledging his narrow defeat in the mayor’s race. Credit: Amir Aziz

Taylor said at Tuesday’s press conference that he won’t seek a recount but is aware that some people are considering doing so, although he didn’t name anyone. The Oaklandside reached out to Seneca Scott, a fellow mayoral candidate who has been highly critical of Sheng Thao; Scott told us he is not seeking a recount, either.

Under state law, any registered voter can request a recount, but the requester has to pay for the process.

Taylor also criticized ranked-choice voting, which uses an instant runoff system to distribute the lowest-ranking candidates’ votes to the remaining candidates until someone achieves a majority.

“Ranked-choice voting as it is isn’t working,” Taylor said in response to a question from a reporter. “When 20,000 ballots are exhausted before you get to voting on the mayor of this city, that is not the intention or even the promise of ranked choice.”

Taylor didn’t clarify what he meant by this statement.

Under Oakland’s ranked-choice voting system, which is defined in Section 1105(f) of the City Charter, a voter’s ballot is exhausted when all of their alternate picks are eliminated. When this happens, that ballot is excluded from the rest of the vote count. 

Ballots are also exhausted when a voter’s first-choice candidate gets eliminated, and they didn’t vote for anyone else. For example, if a voter’s first choice was Ignacio De La Fuente, and they didn’t put down a second choice, when De La Fuente was eliminated in the final round, this voter’s ballot wouldn’t help either Taylor or Thao.

Oakland’s ranked-choice voting system came under fire during its first use in 2010 during the mayor’s race when Jean Quan beat Don Perata, a former state senator who was heavily favored to win.

Oakland voters adopted ranked-choice voting in 2006. Then-City Attorney John Russo, a supporter of ranked choice, argued that it encourages more participation in elections by eliminating June primaries, increases the diversity of candidates in the general election, and can reduce negative campaigning by forcing candidates to seek support from other candidates’ voters. 

No one submitted official arguments against the 2006 ranked-choice ballot measure, and 69% of voters approved it.

Racist attack ads

Taylor said he was outraged by attack-ad mailers targeting him in the campaign’s final week. They included a photograph of Taylor that appeared to be altered to darken his skin and sharpen his eyebrows to make him appear angry—a tactic that’s been used before to play on racist stereotypes against Black men. 

The mailers were sent by an independent expenditure committee set up by Mario Juarez, a Fruitvale businessman.

Taylor said his team compared the photo used in the mailer with an original version of the photo and found that it had been doctored to make him look “menacing and threatening.”

A flurry of other mailers, web ads, texts, and robocalls flooded the mayoral election this year, many funded by groups and wealthy individuals who spent over a million dollars trying to influence voters’ choices.

“Assuming everything stands as it does today, we must move forward the same way we began, together,” Taylor told his supporters.

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.