And, more importantly, “Can she win?”
San Leandro City Council member Diana Souza is playing the old “will I, won’t I” game vis a vis running for Mayor.
On the one hand, she has been seeking the endorsement of highly placed Democrats. On the other hand, when asked in so many words whether she’s running for Mayor, she’s denied it.
While it’s likely that what she is doing is trying to assess whether she can garner enough political support to mount a credible challenge to Mayor Stephen Cassidy, she hurts her credibility by not being straight about it. If she does decide to run, that lack of honesty may come to haunt her.
Mayor Stephen Cassidy is profoundly disliked by Central Labor and, by extension, by many powerful elements in the Democratic party. Souza may feel she can exploit this vulnerability. However, Souza’s right wing ideology – she has opposed everything from urban farming to marijuana dispensaries to even discussing services for the homeless, while pushing for restricting civil liberties in town – is not likely to be well received within Democratic circles. Souza’s insistence that the flag of the People’s Republic of China be flown over City Hall, also suggest that she has very poor political instincts. Anyone endorsing Souza does so at their own peril.
Souza’s greatest problem, however, is that she is not actually a viable candidate for Mayor. Not only does she not have a base (though she will lean heavily on Benny Lee‘s connections within the Chinese community), but she has accomplished nothing in the seven years she has served in City Council. She ran with the single purpose of building a competitive swimming pool in San Leandro, but was unable to get this done due to opposition by the public. who wanted WW funds spent on a variety of projects. Since then, she’s had no initiatives and has served as a vote for the Police Department.
Souza also suffers from a lack of campaign experience. She ran in 2006 against Julian Polvorosa., an elderly barber and former Council member who had been pushed to run by former colleagues and showed no desire to actually be elected. Souza did a good job of putting signs around town and getting relatives to drop off some fliers, but didn’t need to create the grass root organization that pushed Cassidy into his 2010 win. She ran for re-election unopposed.
Souza will likely receive the support of the Police Union if she runs for Mayor. However, that is a double-edged sword in San Leandro. While she can expect thousands of dollars from them, police support of former Mayor Tony Santos was likely a key reason for why he lost the race. Indeed, current Councilmember Jim Prola blames news stories about Police Union contributions to his campaign for loosing him votes at the polls. She is also likely to have the support of the city employee union, but that will just remind voters of how she has put employee’s interests above those of taxpayers..
Her biggest problem, however, is that whatever dissatisfaction there is in San Leandro with Cassidy, extends to the Council as well. For example, she – along with Cassidy – voted to have the major downtown property sold to a developer for a fraction of its value, so as to be occupied by a drugstore that already has two branches downtown. She has also voted to give the Police Chief and City manager raises, while complaining there is no money for city services. Making a case that she’s any better than Cassidy will be tough.
Her candidacy, however, could precipitate another candidate jumping into the race. Any votes she takes from Cassidy, could help a non-establishment candidate take the plunge.