In the past week Oakland residents have been receiving an anonymous voter survey attacking Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan and falsely claiming that one of her opponents for the at-large city council seat—Peggy Moore— has the endorsements of two prominent local lawmakers.
The email, which was sent out to hundreds of Oakland voters last week and commissioned by Moore’s campaign, contained a list of questions asking how compelling each statement was as a reason to vote for Moore, who until Aug. 12 was Mayor Libby Schaaf’s senior special advisor.
The survey stated that two popular East Bay political leaders, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, had endorsed Moore.
Both Lee and Thurmond have confirmed to the Post that they are not supporting Moore.
Some of the statements presented negative remarks against Kaplan, such as one that says “she has few real accomplishments to show from her 15 years as a politician.”
“This campaign move against me is full of lies, including using wrongfully the names of two of the most prominent elected officials,” said Kaplan in an interview with the Post. “How dare they send this out and not put their names on it.”
A number of political observers characterized the survey a “push” poll, criticized as a dishonest form of political campaigning, which is frequently anonymous. Posing as a political poll, this kind of survey asks questions skewed in favor of one candidate or side of an issue and maligns the opposing candidate or side.
In an interview with the Post, Moore said her campaign paid for the survey and that it was intended to help her campaign find messaging that would best help promote her candidacy for City Council.
“We commissioned to have the poll sent out but it was written incorrectly,” said Moore.
“(The endorsements) were a misprint and totally the wrong question, (which) was intended as a hypothetical,” she said.
Explaining why the email poll did not inform the public that it was sponsored by her campaign, Moore said, “We didn’t do anything unconditional or out of character” for these kinds of polls.
Moore’s campaign has since sent out clarifying emails to those who responded to the survey.
Meanwhile, in at least two other local election campaigns, Oakland voters have been contacted via phone by anonymous voter surveys that pose as research polls and oppose the renter protection measure and District 5 School Board incumbent Roseann Torres.
According to several participants, one phone poll appeared to seek voter opinions on Measure JJ—the renter protection ballot measure—but presented opposing arguments to passing rent control in Oakland and asked if they were compelling enough reasons to vote against the measure.
Jahmese Myres, campaign director for East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), told the Post she received the call and assumes that whoever commissioned the survey is doing research about what negative messages will most resonate with voters.
“It’s certainly not a surprise but we live in a city with 60 percent renters that values folks being able to stay in their communities and values diversity,” Myres said.
“I’m sure that the voters will support Measure JJ, despite this heavily paid-for opposition campaign,” she said.
Sources also told the Post that another anonymous phone survey attacking School Boardmember Torres and supporting her opponent, Huber Trenado, who is backed by Great Oakland (GO) Public Schools, was making the rounds in Oakland.
The poll distorted Torres’ history as an attorney and dishonestly said she showed up late to school board meetings, according to Torres’ campaign.