The sign of things to come. Dellums is a legend to many regardless of race
By Heather MacDonald, STAFF WRITER- OAKLAND TRIBUNE
OAKLAND — Former U.S. Rep. Ron Dellums traveled Wednesday into the heart of the Fruitvale district — his main rival's home turf — and touched off a discussion about the role of race in the race for mayor.
At a rally, Dellums enthusiastically picked up the endorsement of Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers.
"We're not going to vote for someone who has been there and didn't do the job," Huerta said to applause and cheers. "Ron Dellums is a man of courage who gets right in the middle of difficult issues."
As he has throughout the campaign, Dellums pledged to turn Oakland into a model city by increasing the amount of affordable housing to ensure people who live in Oakland are not forced to move by the skyrocketing cost of living.
"Each day I get stronger," Dellums said. "We are going on a magnificent journey to bring Oakland into the 21st century."At the rally, organized by Latinos for Dellums, the former congressman vowed he would protect the rights of immigrants and would not allow them to be "scapegoated."
In response, Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente's campaign trumpeted the UFW's endorsement of the council president, which praised his commitment to farm workers "during their greatest times of need."
"As the leader of one of the largest port cities, De La Fuente understands the connection between Oakland and the rest of California," UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez said. "We are confident that De La Fuente can lead Oakland well into the 21st century."
Huerta stepped down as secretary-treasurer of the UFW in 2000 and has not been directly affiliated with the union since, according to Giev Kashkooli, UFW political director.
In a statement, De La Fuente said he was proud to have the support of thousands of farm workers.
Supporters of De La Fuente, who has represented the Fruitvale district on the Oakland City Council for 13 years, wasted no time in firing back at Dellums, holding a rally in the parking lot of Los Mexicanos Market at High Street and International Boulevard.
Several speakers praised De La Fuente's record on the council and hailed him as a neighbor dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Fruitvale district and throughout Oakland. About 40 people attended the impromptu rally.
"He understands the issues," said Richard DePalma, a community activist.
De La Fuente, a former member of the Alameda County Central Labor Council and vice president of the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers International Union, has deep roots in the labor community.
In his campaign literature, De La Fuente features a picture of him with Csar Chvez, who founded the UFW with Huerta.
But Dellums was given the nod from the labor council for the June 6 election, as well as thousands of dollars from the city's largest employees union, Service Employees International Union Local 790.
De La Fuente also implicitly criticized Dellums for holding his rally in front of the Carmen Flores Community Center in Josie De La Cruz Park on Fruitvale Avenue, which he helped build and maintain.
"I appreciate the fact that Mr. Dellums likes the work that I've done so much that he would use it as a backdrop for his important announcement," De La Fuente said in a statement.
A longtime Fruitvale community activist, Flores volunteered for Dellums and later became a member of his executive board and staff.
If elected, De La Fuente would become the first Latino mayor of Oakland, a fact he does not often highlight, although he does not shy away from it either.
But people at both rallies said that was a secondary issue.
Mario Juarez, a Fruitvale real estate agent and an organizer of the pro-De La Fuente rally, said he supports the council president because of his track record.
"Ignacio is capable of dealing with the tough issues," Juarez said. "He's been in the trenches with us."
Victor Ochoa, a member of Latinos for Dellums, said he would like to see a Latino become Oakland mayor. But more important is the dynamic and talented leadership Dellums will bring to City Hall, Ochoa said.
"Ignacio can't do that," Ochoa said.
Dellums has said repeatedly he hopes to win Oaklanders' votes on substance, not on symbolism or personality.
"This is not about race or gender or age," Dellums said.
But Councilmember Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland), who is also running for mayor, has said she believes gender does make a difference.
"Oakland has never had a woman mayor," Nadel said. "It's time to smash that glass ceiling."
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