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Jerry Brown and Libby Schaaf

Does Jerry Brown's Endorsement of Libby Schaaf Change the Oakland Mayor's Race?

Scott Lucas | October 7, 2014 | Story Politics


Endorsements don't really matter. At best, they can offer a little boost, but historically speaking, they rarely make the difference between a win and a loss. Newspaper endorsements don't move voters' needles very much. Party endorsements probably have a small effect. Even Oprah's endorsement of Barack Obama during his first Presidential campaign only gave him a tiny, tranistory jolt. Oprah! But that being said, sometimes an endorsement is more than an endorsement.

Enter Jerry Brown, who just gave his nod to Libby Schaaf. Schaaf, a member of the Oakland city council and a former aide to Brown, needed something to help her break out of the pack of 14 (!) challengers to Mayor Jean Quan, who is running for reelection this November. In polls, Schaaf is running third, behind City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, followed by Quan. In a crowded race like this one, voters are more reliant than ever on cues tlike endorsements to help them decide whom to vote for. David McCuan, a political science professor at Sonoma State University who studies Oakland politics said, “It has been difficult for her to cut through and get voters’ attention so far.” This endorsement could be exactly what she needed.

How big are Jerry Brown's coattails? Well, he's popular enough statewide that he's expected to cruise to reelection without breaking a sweat—or really even campaigning. And Brown is still remembered fondly in Oakland, where he served two terms as Mayor from 1999 to 2007. All of which is to say that this is potentially a game changer, and certainly bad news for Kaplan. The East Bay Express called it a "boost." They're right.

But—don't forget—endorsements don't really matter. Except when they do.

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