It’s unclear whether this is a real grassroots movement, or just sour grapes from defeated candidates in the last mayoral election, but the signature gathering is underway to recall Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao.
San Francisco’s recall mania of 2022 (school board and district attorney) is unlikely to be repeated this year, because most major city offices here are on the November 2024 ballot. But 2024 may be shaping up to be a banner year for recalls over in the East Bay. The effort to recall Alameda County DA Pamela Price is already well underway, and now NBC Bay Area reports that an attempt to recall Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao has started, again motivated by an increase in crime in Oakland.
“I think people have just about had it," Oakland resident Loretta San Souci told NBC Bay Area. "They can’t tolerate this anymore. We’ve got our small businesses that are suffering. They keep getting attacked over and over again. Different communities are getting attacked over and over again, the most vulnerable."
Though perhaps tellingly, the above video segment identifies “one of the organizers” of this recall attempt as Seneca Scott, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2022 election that Thao won, with Scott coming in a distant seventh place. Scott has been rabble-rousing against Thao ever since, mostly crusading about crime, which is odd for someone with his own history of gun charges.
He’s also baselessly accused Thao’s chief of staff of being a pedophile. Scott is listed as an executive member of the Oakland NAACP (as is former Oakland City Councilmember Loren Taylor, whom Thao also defeated for mayor) and that organization has been quite vocal in defense of fired OPD Chief LeRonne Armstrong.
The lack of a new Oakland police chief is one of the recall advocates’ critiques, though that may be more attributed to political games from the Oakland Police Commission. But there’s no question that crime is up across the board under Thao’s first year in office, plus a police officer was shot and killed in Oakland last week.
And whether or not it’s fair, it sure can't help that Thao is the mayor who lost the Oakland A’s to Las Vegas.
This recall attempt is in a very, very early stage. They’ve currently just collected Notice of Intent signatures, for which they only need the very low bar of 250 signatures. There would be months more organizing ahead for any recall effort. The California recall procedures state (starting on Page 15 for local officials) that a recall would need signatures from 10% of that city’s registered voters to make an actual ballot. About 110,000 people voted in last year’s Oakland mayoral election, though the number of registered voters in Oakland would surely be higher.
But from the latest we can tell, Mayor Sheng Thao does not currently have strong approval numbers. While these numbers are three months old, the East Bay Insiders Newsletter shows polling that shows Thao with low favorability numbers. “Just 23 percent of Oaklanders said they are strongly or somewhat inclined to re-elect Thao,” that publication reports, “as opposed to 56 percent who are strongly or somewhat inclined to vote for someone else.”
It’s unclear whether this translates to desire for a recall. But when Gavin Newsom fought back the 2021 recall, his approval was at 53%. Mayor Sheng Thao is unlikely to enjoy that luxury. And notably, the poll cited by East Bay Insiders shows the only politician with approval over 50% was the above-mentioned Loren Taylor, who actually won the first round of votes over Thao, before falling behind in ranked-choice voting.
So it remains to be seen if the recall Sheng Thao effort can succeed. But if it does, there seems to be an early favorite in the race for replacement candidate.
Image: @MayorShengThao via Twitter