Political titan born from Oakland mayoral election: Allyssa Victory speaks

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Allyssa Victory

Allyssa Victory is currently running for Democratic Party District 18 ADEM delegate; vote in person Jan. 7 

by The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey, Oakland Bureau Chief

The recent mayoral elections in Oakland exposed a lot of questionable practices, but one person who came out unmistakably as a political titan on the scene is the young Black woman lawyer who took everybody by storm in the election, Allyssa Victory. 

She placed fourth in the election. The two top contenders for mayor were both incumbent members of the City Council. And all three candidates who ranked higher than she did had an election budget that was 10 times higher than hers. Her candidacy was run in a grassroots way, with grassroots participation that educated people on her agenda – but also educated them on Rank Choice Voting – and registered thousands of people to vote. 

It doesn’t stop there. Currently, Allyssa Victory is one of the candidates running for the Assembly District Election Meeting Delegate within the Democratic Party in the upcoming election. Mail voting closes tonight and ballots have to be received by Jan. 31. In-person voting for District 18, which includes Oakland, Emeryville, Rockridge and Alameda, is Jan. 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at CWA Local 9415 union hall. This is Allyssa Victory in her own words. 

JR Valrey: Can you talk about what you are running for within the Democratic Party? Can you talk a little bit about your slate?

Allyssa Victory: I am running for ADEM delegate. ADEM stands for Assembly District Election Meeting. All 80 assembly districts in California will have elections for Democratic voters to select 14 delegates to the California Democratic Party. These make up a third of the total delegates who vote on internal party issues like our officer elections, platforms and who the party endorses. 

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I was elected in 2021 and am running for re-election with the PEOPLE’S SLATE representing independent, grassroots and people-powered candidates. The PEOPLE’S SLATE includes myself, Emeryville City Councilman Kalimah Priforce, Peralta Trustee Sheweet Yohannes, Yoana Tchoukleva, Kristina Molina, Chaney Turner, Osagie Edebiri, Daghe Esoimeme, Melody Davis, Hannah Groce, Nelson Tam and Desmond Jeffries. Our slate is majority Black, working class residents, renters, and all are advocates for the PEOPLE. We are running in Assembly District 18, which includes Emeryville, Alameda and a majority of Oakland. 

JR Valrey: Why is this upcoming election important, considering that more and more Black people are leaving the Democratic Party because of its refusal to address issues in the Black community in a solution-based way?

Allyssa Victory: These ADEM delegates make up a third of the total delegates who vote on internal party issues like our officer elections, platforms and who the party endorses. The ADEMs are meant to be elected by the people for the people, where the other delegates are selected from County Democratic Central Committees and elected officials and the delegates that they appoint. 

The Democratic Party has a supermajority in our state Legislature and elected positions throughout California. Almost half of all registered voters in California are registered as Democrats. The Party has major influence in who is elected and what policies are enacted. Nationally, Black voters cast the greatest proportion of ballots for Democrats. 

Our slate is majority Black and intentionally breaking the status quo to expand our democracy.

Yet, Black people are underrepresented in electoral politics but also within the Democratic Party leadership. When I first ran for delegate in 2021, I educated the public on this issue with the #electBlackADEMs campaign highlighting Black delegate candidates across all assembly districts and the fact that we are less than 1% of the 3,000+ delegates in the party.

I am running to ensure the needs of my Black community in Oakland and throughout our state are heard and addressed. Our slate is majority Black and intentionally breaking the status quo to expand our democracy to include those historically excluded from power and decision-making.

JR Valrey: Can you talk about the recent Oakland mayoral elections, where you placed fourth, and the two leading contenders were incumbent members of the Oakland City Council? What were the differences between what they spent on the election and what you spent on the election? How did you do this?

Allyssa Victory: I raised and spent less than $30,000 in my run for Oakland mayor. The only candidates to garner more votes than me had to fundraise more than 10 times that amount and each had the benefit of independent expenditures that funded mailers and media ads. I made up the difference with people-power in the streets and getting out the vote. I registered people to vote daily including many formerly incarcerated residents who did not know that their rights were restored in 2020. 

I made up the difference with people-power in the streets and getting out the vote.

I ran a grassroots campaign that was focused on meeting everyday Oaklanders where they were – at their homes, their jobs, their social lives – to talk and to listen to their concerns. I ran on a bold and unapologetic platform of serving the residents and workers of Oakland. I showed up to every forum, interview and community event to activate voters and to engage the issues affecting them. I offered information, education and common sense solutions to our longstanding problems. 

My voter results demonstrate that Oaklanders have an appetite for change, for young and fresh leadership, and for servant leadership. The results also showed that I was able to effectively message and educate voters about ranked choice elections with my voters more likely to use rankings and my vote transfers deciding the next mayor. 

JR Valrey: What do you think about the NAACP and others calling for a recount of the Oakland mayoral election vote?

Allyssa Victory: I am a member of the NAACP and have served for over a year on the political action committee. I support a publicly funded recount of all ballots for elections administered by our County Registrar in the November 2022 cycle and see no specific reason to single out the Oakland mayor’s race when issues raised by NAACP affected all races. I also support removal of the current registrar as well as reformation of the office’s practices and services. 

This election was marred by many issues of unfairness and questions of legality. I ran to become the first Black woman ever elected as Mayor in Oakland. Yet, I was illegally disqualified from the ballot with three other candidates – two of them Black – by the City Clerk’s Office in August. 

I was illegally disqualified from the ballot with three other candidates – two of them Black – by the City Clerk’s Office in August.

Our County Registrar’s Office failed to train its staff on allowing ex-felons to vote when the law changed in 2020. The Registrar’s Office also delayed implementation of Berkeley and Oakland Youth Vote by at least two years, depriving our teens of the ability to select their School Board members. After certification of the election, the county registrar has confirmed that their first round ranked cuts contained errors which ultimately affected the outcome of the District 4 Oakland School Board race. 

JR Valrey: You and Sheng worked together during the election. What do you ultimately think about her platform that she ran on and her candidacy?

Allyssa Victory: I talked with all candidates in this race about the possibility of collaboration since we use ranked choice voting. I was placed in many groupings of candidates with endorsers and supporters but the most consistent was with Sheng Thao and Greg Hodge. I was eventually selected for the People’s Progressive Slate along with Sheng Thao and Greg Hodge. The residents who created the People’s Progressive Slate created and printed flyers with our joint values. 

Sheng’s candidacy was historic in that she will become the first Hmong Mayor of our City and the youngest mayor at age 37. Her platform was very similar to my own, leading us to share many endorsers and supporters throughout the election. As a renter and sponsor of several housing ballot measures that passed, I am hopeful that Mayor-elect Thao will ensure strong implementation. 

While I agree with most of Thao’s platform, it has yet to be seen how effective and quickly she will deliver on those policies and if she can address our acute racial justice issues with almost every equity indicator falling lowest on Black Oaklanders. I have offered my support to ensure her administration is successful in these areas and am committed to also working with our Council and other electeds to hold our next mayor accountable to her platform and to the needs of Oakland. 

JR Valrey: What are your thoughts on the Howard Terminal Stadium being built in Oakland to please the owners of the Oakland A’s and to keep the last professional team in the Town?

Allyssa Victory: The City’s priorities should be meeting the needs of everyday workers and residents, including a just economic recovery, housing for all, public safety and delivering high quality public services. The Howard Terminal project is a real estate development proposal by a private entity that includes a ballpark. 

Our benefits demands include the right of workers to unionize and mandating a percentage of local hire.

I am committed to keeping the A’s in Oakland but it makes most sense for them to remain at the Coliseum. With any large development, including anticipated proposals from the African American Sports & Entertainment Group (AASEG), my position is to require community, climate and economic benefits to offset negative impacts of any project on our residents, workers and environment. 

I already served on the Jobs and Economic Development Subcommittee with ILWU members, West Oakland residents and more in the City-sponsored community benefits process for Howard Terminal. Our benefits demands include the right of workers to unionize and mandating a percentage of local hire. 

The A’s current lease at the Coliseum will continue until 2024. They have purchased the county’s ownership of the Coliseum site, and the City granted exclusive negotiating rights to the AASEG on its portion. There is much work to still be done and facts to consider as negotiations proceed. 

JR Valrey: Now that the election is over, how will you continue to implement your ideas that thousands of Oakland voters supported with their ballots?

Allyssa Victory: I continue to work as a civil rights attorney who provides legal policy advice to our elected officials, law enforcement, labor leaders, and criminal justice stakeholders across the state. Candidates in all races that I endorsed and collaborated with across the county were elected. I am working with our DA-Elect Pamela Price on her historic transition as the first Black woman DA in our county’s history. 

I am a current ADEM delegate for our assembly district and am running for re-election with the PEOPLE’S SLATE to continue the fight for expanded democracy and fair elections. It is also important for me to build a pipeline into politics for people who look like me and who want to change the status quo. 

Ranked Choice Voting works if you work it.

From all of my different hats, I will be holding our elected officials accountable to their platform promises and to the needs of this community. I will continue to push forward my Victory for Oakland vision and to show up in service every day to the workers and residents of Oakland. 

JR Valrey: What are your thoughts on ranked choice voting in Oakland? How could Oakland make the process a lot more understandable and fair?

Allyssa Victory: RCV works if you work it. As a candidate, RCV works best when you have unselfish candidates who are committed to work together and to support one another. RCV works best for voters with adequate information, demonstration and transparency. 

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) was established when Measure O passed in 2006 with almost 70% of the vote amending our City Charter. Ranked choice voting was implemented beginning in the 2010 election cycle. In fact, Measure O was supported by the California NAACP Youth and College Division, Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), the John George Democratic Club, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Supervisor Keith Carson, Assemblymember Sandre Swanson, the Alameda County Democratic Party, the Alameda Labor Council, League of Women Voters, National Women’s Political Caucus, the Spanish Speaking Citizens Foundation and many more. The Black civic groups endorsing explained that RCV would avoid splitting the Black vote when there is more than one Black candidate allowing us to build more political power and consolidate voters behind slates of Black candidates. No arguments were submitted against Measure O on the ballot. 

Three rankings has been the past practice of the County Registrar, but the original intent of RCV and our City Charter states to give voters as many ranked options as candidates, i.e., 10 ranked choice options for 10 candidates. 

Our elections require a simple majority to win, which is 50% +1 of the vote. Meaning, even if you win by one vote, you win the election. Traditional elections hold a primary with all candidates, then a separate run-off between the top two candidates if no person receives 50% +1 of the vote. This system requires people to vote in June then vote again in the general election with the county having to run two separate elections. 

My campaign created graphics with common misconceptions and a five-minute video demonstrating how RCV works.

RCV is an “instant run-off” where voters cast the same votes consolidated at once instead of needing to administer and pay for two elections for the same position. RCV also allows candidates to run slates and coalitional campaigns, making it easier for grassroots candidates, like myself, to compete with largely funded candidates. It also allows candidates and supporters to message, fund and get out the vote for one election date instead of two. The cost savings from only administering one election is supposed to be spent on voter outreach and education. 

The county registrar and city clerks have much more work to do to provide even the basics. My campaign created graphics with common misconceptions and a five-minute video demonstrating how RCV works. If we could do it with a few hours and no money, our City and County can do it with year-round staff and public funding. When I met with Black Oakland mayoral candidates in December 2021, I made a call to action that we must be committed to civic engagement and voter enfranchisement as candidates.

There were some great models including many organizations that provided ranked endorsements of multiple mayoral candidates and of candidate forums that included voter education on RCV. During the campaign, I joined all Black mayoral candidates for a Black candidates forum hosted by Black community leaders who filmed a two-hour RCV demonstration and educational video. 

Another was the East Oakland mayoral forum hosted by the Emerald New Deal coalition where attendees were educated that there would be five RCV votes on their ballot, given the names of all candidates, and asked to provide their top five ranks after each round of questions at the forum. Emerald New Deal also printed their own RCV educational materials and canvassed neighborhoods in East Oakland and even invited candidates to partner with them. We must educate all candidates and residents about RCV every single election. Democracy is an action, and I am committed to uplifting and expanding it. 

JR Valrey: How can people keep up with what you are doing online? 

Allyssa Victory

  • Sign up for my newsletter at VictoryforOakland.com.
  • Follow me on all socials @VictoryforOakland. 
  • I will be starting a regular segment on the Black Business Roundtable called the “Victory Corner.” Follow the YouTube channel and watch live every other Thursday at 4 p.m. beginning the first week of January 2023.

JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of Black New World Media, heads the SF Bay View’s Oakland Bureau and is founder of his latest project, the Ministry of Information Podcast. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com and on Instagram.