Oakland officials commit major screw-up, tell mayoral candidates they're on their own

Allyssa Victory, one of the affected candidates, says she feels 'demoralized and disrespected'

Photo of Alex Shultz
This Oct. 1, 2020, photo shows an empty plaza in front of City Hall in downtown Oakland, Calif. 

This Oct. 1, 2020, photo shows an empty plaza in front of City Hall in downtown Oakland, Calif. 

Michael Liedtke/AP

Days after multiple Oakland mayoral candidates went public with allegations that they've been barred from running for the mayoral election due to a city clerk's error, the city clerk's office has released a statement confirming their major mishap, while doubling down that there's nothing they can do about it.

On Friday, Aug. 12, Oakland mayoral candidates including councilmember Sheng Thao, Allyssa Victory, Greg Hodge and Derrick Soo were contacted by the city clerk's office to let them know that their filing deadline was actually end of day, Aug. 12, not Aug. 17, as they had been led to believe. The 2022 candidate's handbook, authored by city clerk Asha Reed, clearly states that Wednesday, Aug. 17, is the filing deadline "for all offices without an incumbent running." Current Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is not running for another term.

Multiple candidates say they had already set up appointments with the clerk's office to submit their paperwork the week of Aug. 17. Victory, a progressive ACLU lawyer, says after receiving the city clerk's call, she scrambled to leave work in order to make it to city hall in time. She submitted all of the necessary paperwork, then was told the following Tuesday, Aug. 14, that a couple of her gathered signatures didn't count, thus invalidating her mayoral application. She also says she was told she could not remedy the situation by obtaining more signatures, since they were past the newly noted Aug. 12 deadline. 

"There could be a simple resolution: it was your mistake, you should allow us to cure issues," Victory told SFGATE. "Allow us a reasonable time period to do that. They should’ve allowed me to do that on Tuesday.”

Instead, Victory is — at least for now — no longer a candidate for mayor. Neither is Soo, who, according to Oaklandside, ran into similar issues. On Wednesday evening, Thao, a possible frontrunner for mayor who did manage to get her paperwork in successfully, issued a statement of support for Victory, while confirming that she too was blindsided on Aug. 12. 

"Like many other candidates, I was given the incorrect filing date for my filing and had to turn in my required paperwork at the last minute in order to qualify," Thao tweeted. "I am deeply troubled that this same thing happened to other candidates who could not make it onto the ballot in time. I stand with Allyssa Victory in her call for restitution and believe that she and other candidates should have a fair pathway to the ballot. I support any effort to remedy this error."

The city clerk's office, meanwhile, says there's nothing else they can do. On Wednesday afternoon, assistant city clerk Britney Davis released a statement to SFGATE clarifying that the five-day filing extension "is only applicable to the City Council races of Districts 4 and 6, specifically in cases when an incumbent chooses not to run for re-election," and that "upon further examination of the election code," the extension doesn't apply when the incumbent (in this case Schaaf) is term limited out of office.

Davis' statement continues: “Upon confirmation that the language in the candidate handbook was not applicable to the race for the Mayor’s office and the five-day extension was not allowable for that race, City Clerk staff immediately phoned every Mayoral candidate who had not yet filed to notify them that they must file by August 12 to meet the deadline prescribed under the California State Elections code.

“While we regret the confusion this has caused, the candidate filing deadline in question is prescribed by the California State Elections Code. Neither the City Clerk nor any other City official has discretion to alter or waive state elections law, including authority to extend the filing deadline.”

While the statement acknowledges the office's error, it doesn't specify when that error was discovered. Davis says the city clerk's office immediately reached out to mayoral candidates, implying they didn't learn of their mistake until the day of the deadline.

For her part, Victory isn't giving up. On Tuesday, Aug. 23, she submitted a civil complaint with the California Secretary of State's office, asking that she be deemed qualified for the Oakland mayoral race.

“I feel demoralized and disrespected," Victory told SFGATE. "Not just for myself, but for the integrity of our political process. One of the reasons why I'm running is for more accountability and transparency. It’s really hurtful to the people of Oakland — to the workers, to all of the leaders and groups that endorsed me and have been working with me every day."