Three VPOTUS Candidates, One Home Town

"Oakland kids are always the best," claims Zendaya.

5 mins read
A bus that is parked on the side of a building
This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series 2024 General Election Candidates

This is neither a love letter to nor hate mail about Oakland, California.

The city’s Mayor has been in the news recently, but this isn’t about that.

Let’s be clear. We’ve spent more than our share of long days in the East Bay city and agree with former Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper who said after being traded, “I wasn’t really happy in Oakland or anything like that.”

Oakland isn’t what many would call a “really happy” place.

Huey Newton, the founder of the Black Panther Party, famously described the city’s public schools by saying, “All they did was try to rob me of the sense of my own uniqueness and worth.” Newton also said he was “made to feel ashamed of being Black” while growing up there.

But few home towns are bleak all the time.

Tom Hanks went to High School in Oakland and once said, “Growing up in northern California has had a big influence on my love and respect for the outdoors. When I lived in Oakland, we would think nothing of driving to Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz one day and then driving to the foothills of the Sierra the next day.”

In addition to the joy of leaving town as often as possible while he attended Skyline High, Hanks planned a more long-term escape out of the city’s urban ennui. He decided to trade Oakland for a life in show business.

“I mean, I’m humble… to me, I’m just a regular cat from Oakland, California.”

Actor Lance Gross

Appearances aside, this isn’t a story about football players, performers or Panthers. It’s about Presidential politics, specifically Vice Presidential politics.

Because there are currently three announced candidates for Vice President of the United States. All are women, one is Black, one is Black/South Asian and one is white/Asian.

All three grew up in Oakland.

To recap the lineup of Oakland kids who either are or want to be the VPOTUS, the list includes Kamala Harris, Nicole Shanahan and Melina Abdullah. Harris is running with Joe Biden, Shanahan is Bobby Kennedy’s running mate and Abdullah is campaigning with Cornel West.

So, until there are additional candidates announced for the job, it’s currently an all-Oakland roster for Vice President. And that’s not bad for a city once famously described by Gertrude Stein, probably the most-quoted but least-read author from Oakland, who said of the city, “there’s no there there.”

“There’s no there there” may also be said for Abdullah and Shanahan on the California ballot.

Harris will likely be on the November Presidential Election ballot in all 50 states. Abdullah will, so far, be on the ballot in seven states, not including California. And as of today, Shanahan will be on the ballot in four states, but also not in California.

It’s a real shame when you can’t get on the ballot in your home state because enough people haven’t re-registered for a brand new political party, or you’ve otherwise been unable to get your name listed as an option except as a write-in. In Shanahan’s case, her new organization is the “We the People” Party. For Abdullah, she’s running with West as an independent candidate.

So it goes.

We’ve put together some background information on all three Oakland women, along with recent interview videos for each.

Career and Political Priority Summaries

Kamala Harris

  • Attorney
  • Prosecutor in Oakland
  • District Attorney of San Francisco
  • Attorney General of California
  • United States Senator from California
  • Vice President of the United States

Harris is the daughter of two college professors. Her mother is a breast cancer research scientist.

Re-watch | Steve Harvey moderates conversation with VP Kamala Harris at Atlanta event

Why is Harris interesting as a VPOTUS candidate? Other than being the incumbent in the position, she was the first woman ever sworn-in to the job. Also the first Black woman. Also the first South Asian American. Harris is a former prosecutor, and regardless of her generally well-received turn as one of California’s US Senators, she is still viewed as “a cop” by portions of the local Black community. She has been “a heartbeat away from the Presidency” for nearly four years and that is no small responsibility when the President is 81 years old. In her constitutional role as President of the Senate, Harris holds the record for the number of tie-breaking votes ever cast by a VPOTUS.

Harris’ priorities as Vice President, which reflect the Biden administration’s priorities, include:

  • Expanding COVID-19 testing and taking science-driven steps to address the communities — especially communities of color — who have been hardest hit by this virus
  • Taking swift action to tackle the climate crisis
  • Put equity at the center of the agenda with a whole-of-government approach to embed racial justice across Federal agencies, policies, and programs
  • Build the economy back better from the pandemic and create millions of jobs by strengthening small businesses and investing in the jobs of the future
  • Build on the Affordable Care Act to meet the health care needs created by the pandemic, reduce health care costs, and make the health care system less complex to navigate
  • Reform the long-broken and chaotic immigration system
  • Strengthen the U.S. national security workforce, rebuild democratic alliances across the globe, champion America’s values and human rights

Melina Abdullah

  • Co-founder of the Los Angeles Chapter of Black Lives Matter
  • Professor and chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University Los Angeles
  • Appointed to the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations in 2014

Abdullah is the daughter of an elementary school teacher mother. Her father worked for the Carpenters Union in the Bay Area.

Dr. Cornel West & Melina Abdullah in Conversation w/ James Farr (live)

Why is Abdullah interesting as a VPOTUS candidate? Abdullah is an academic, a community organizer and a founding member of Black Lives Matter. She’s never held elective office, but has some positive experience with fiscal responsibility as the Director of Black Lives Matter Grassroots. Abdullah styles herself as an activist, but as a member of Pasadena’s community recently noted, “Real revolutionaries don’t wear sandals to a protest.” That being said, she has a history of making institutions of power uncomfortable, which is different than a history of making institutions work for the public. Abdullah’s platform and West’s goes heavy, if not exclusively, into issues of justice…which can be a much tougher sell than grievance and revenge these days.

Abdullah’s priorities as Vice President include:

  • Transformative justice
  • Gender justice
  • Racial justice
  • Worker justice
  • Education justice

Nicole Shanahan

  • Attorney
  • Was founder and CEO of legal tech company ClearAccessIP
  • Fellow at Stanford Law School’s CodeX, at the Stanford Center for Legal Informatics
  • Executive producer for the films Kiss The Ground and Evolver
  • Director of Carbon Royalty Corp., a Canadian company investing in carbon credits to “accelerate global decarbonization”
  • Founder of Bia-Echo Foundation, a private foundation promoting research into reproductive longevity and criminal justice reform

Shanahan’s father reportedly suffered from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression and struggled with substance abuse. Her mother was born in China and immigrated to the U.S., working as a maid before becoming an accountant.

First TV Sit Down with RFK Jr.'s VP Nicole Shanahan (Full Interview)

Why is Shanahan interesting as a VPOTUS candidate? She’s the richest candidate for vice president in decades. In an extreme example of what journalists call “burying the lede,” Shanahan’s main claim to fame is she is the ex-wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Largely as a result of the divorce settlement with Brin, she’s estimated to have a net worth near $1B. Interestingly, she positions herself as the child of impoverished parents who fought her way to the top. Go figure.

Shanahan’s priorities as VPOTUS include:

  • Raise the federal minimum wage to $15
  • Prosecute union-busting corporations so that labor can organize and negotiate fair wages
  • Expand free childcare to millions of families
  • Drop housing costs by $1,000 per family and make home ownership affordable by backing 3 percent home mortgages with tax-free bonds
  • Cut energy prices by restricting natural gas exports
  • Support small businesses by redirecting regulatory scrutiny onto large corporations
  • Secure the border and bring illegal immigration to a halt, so that undocumented migrants won’t undercut wages
  • Negotiate trade deals that prevent low-wage countries from competing with American workers
  • Rein in military spending and use the resources to fund infrastructure, health care, higher education, child care and domestic prosperity
  • Reverse the chronic disease epidemic that is a $3.7 trillion drag on families and the economy
  • Clean out corruption in Washington, D.C.
  • Establish addiction healing centers on organic farms across the country
  • Make student debt dischargeable in bankruptcy and cut interest rates on student loans to zero
  • Cut drug costs by half to bring them in line with other nations
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Phil Hopkins

Phil is the Associate Publisher of Local News Pasadena. He is a 35-year resident of the city and his favorite local delicacy is the Combo Grinder at Connal's.
Email: [email protected]

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