Could Kaplan Shake Up District Four Race?

It was no big surprise Wednesday when Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland’s At-large Council member, said she was officially running for mayor. She’s been more than hinting that she wants the city’s top job since early spring.

The Oakland Tribune’s story on Kaplan’s announcement focused on what it will mean to Jean Quan and Don Perata, the contests other two main participants. Perata made a sly crack about Kaplan’s relative youth (she’s 39). Quan quite rightly expressed fear about a “split in the progressive vote.”

The Bay Citizen, the new online news partnership between UC Berkeley and The New York Times, concerned itself chiefly with the lesbian angle. If she wins, Kaplan would be the only openly gay mayor in the Bay Area. Oakland would be the third largest city in the country, after Houston and Portland, to have an out mayor. The Bay Citizen noted that Oakland has one of the largest lesbian populations in the nation.

Kaplan has another advantage. She’s already won a citywide election, 84,000 Oaklanders have already cast a vote for her. Look at this map of the precincts that backed her when she ran for City Council just two years ago. Kaplan’s precincts are orange. Kerry Hamill’s are blue.

The question for voters in Montclair is what will this mean for the District Four race. Is it possible that Jean Quan could decide that a split progressive vote would be no match for Perata, and opt to run as the incumbent in District Four for a third term? If that happened, would any of the contenders vying for her seat have a prayer? Quan has until August 6 to change her mind.

Update: As she said in a comment below, Jean Quan says she has absolutely no intention of leaving the mayor’s race. Richard Cowan, her chief of staff, said the same thing in a phone conversation this morning.