Progressive Sheng Thao to claim victory in Oakland mayoral race

Moderate Loren Taylor holds off on concession as ranked-vote count continues

Sheng Thao and Loren Taylor in the Oakland mayoral race (Sheng for Oakland, Loren for Oakland, Getty)
Sheng Thao and Loren Taylor in the Oakland mayoral race (Sheng for Oakland, Loren for Oakland, Getty)

With only a handful of ballots left to count, City Councilwoman Sheng Thao is poised to be the next mayor of Oakland.

Only 2,000 ballots remain uncounted — with a fraction from Oakland voters, according to Alameda County Deputy Registrar Cynthia Cornejo.
Thao appears to have made a comeback in this extremely tight ranked choice election.

“We wanted to make sure that we provided as much of an update as we could,” Cornejo said Friday. “We know everybody wants to see the final counts so we tried to get as much in as possible.”

It took Thao nine full rounds to defeat Taylor and win a narrow majority of ranked choice votes.

The latest update had the 37-year-old Oakland native holding a 50.3 percent lead over opponent Councilman Loren Taylor’s 49.7 percent. To win, Taylor would have to overcome a margin of about 680 votes, which the Bay Area News Group said is unlikely.

“We are optimistic that our lead will hold and that Sheng Thao will be the next mayor of Oakland,” Thao’s campaign said in a statement.

Taylor did not concede the race after Friday’s results. Instead the 45-year-old took to Twitter Friday night.

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“I will respect the will of the voters once their verdict is made clear,” Taylor said in the tweet thread. “Regardless of the final outcome, I am proud of the Oakland-centered campaign we ran and endlessly grateful for every voter who had faith in my leadership and ranked me on their ballot.”

While both frontrunners in the ranked-choice election were registered Democrats, Thao ran an explicitly progressive campaign — a counterweight to Taylor’s more moderate platform.

A staunch supporter of worker’s rights, Thao’s campaign received overwhelming support from Oakland’s labor unions. Zac Unger, the head of the firefighters union, said both outside expenditures and direct campaigning helped Thao reach voters throughout the city.

“We had a strong ground game made up of rank-and-file working people in Oakland who did our best to contact as many people as possible, starting early and until the last minute,” Unger said.

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— Maddy Sperling