Oakland city councilmember Sheng Thao announces candidacy for mayor

Another candidate has joined the race to become the next mayor of Oakland. City council member Sheng Thao officially announced her candidacy Wednesday afternoon.

She said her life experiences shapes her vision for Oakland and that her struggles are her strength.

"The next mayor of the great city of Oakland: Sheng Tao," State Attorney General Rob Bonta said as he introduced the city council member during her campaign launch event in West Oakland.

"I'm a daughter of refugees," Thao said she grew up in Stockton, the seventh of 10 children.

"For a time, we lived in public housing. I grew up with real fear of not having a stable home," said Thao and that she plans to draw from her life experiences to lead Oakland.

"I know what it means to live paycheck to paycheck, to not have a job, to escape a really bad domestic violence relationship, and being homeless with my baby living in our car, couch surfing," said Thao as she described herself as bold, persistent and progressive.

She said as a single mom, those qualities helped paved the way for a better life.

Thao attended Merritt College and went on to graduate from UC Berkeley.

She worked her way up from intern to chief of staff for city councilmember Rebecca Kaplan who is among her supporters.

"I managed multiple city budgets, fought for affordable housing, helped small businesses open and helped get guns off the street," said Thao.

Three years ago, she was elected Oakland's first Hmong-American city councilmember.

"I've seen her operating with people pushing and pulling in all sorts of different ways. Her view is always is always to try to collaborate," Bonta said he admires her unapologetic attitude, energy and authenticity.  

Earlier this year, Thao was credited with brokering a deal to fund a new police academy amidst cries to defund the police.

If elected mayor, she said her priorities are what she describes as the basics: public safety, housing the homeless and clean streets.

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"We're not all supposed to agree. That's the beauty of democracy. However, it's about respect and collaboration," said Thao, "You can get things done and it's only going to better impact the community in a positive way."

The 36-year-old said she never dreamed she would be running for mayor of Oakland.

So far, she's one of three candidates.

The election will be held November 8, 2022.