Pamela Price ran unsuccessfully against District Attorney Nancy O’Malley in 2018. Credit: Amir Aziz Credit: Amir Aziz

Civil rights attorney Pamela Price held her lead in the field of four candidates in the Alameda County district attorney’s race, according to an updated count of ballots on Thursday evening.

Price, who also ran in 2018, had 39% of the vote, followed by Terry Wiley, an assistant DA, who gained 31%.

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters office on Thursday estimated there were more than 100,000 ballots left to count. If the results continue to hold after more ballots are counted over the next few days, Price and Wiley will face off against each other in the November general election.

Price’s campaign declared victory in a press release sent out Thursday morning, calling her first-place finish “a signal that the voters of Alameda County are fed up with the status quo of the criminal justice system that over-criminalizes Black and Brown youth, people of color, the poor, the unhoused, and people suffering with mental illness and/or addiction issues.”

“It shows people of Alameda County are ready for change. It’s time for change,” Price said at her campaign watch party at Everett & Jones Barbecue on Tuesday evening.

County voters were asked for the first time in decades to elect a District Attorney who wasn’t an incumbent or someone appointed to the position. District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced she was stepping down in 2021 after three terms. 

The position of District Attorney holds great power and is important to Oakland residents for several reasons: the DA is responsible for representing the people of California in criminal, civil, and juvenile cases to decide whether or not a person should face charges. The DA has the authority to set policies like whether or not to seek prison or jail sentences for people convicted of drug offenses or theft or to divert these people into treatment programs or diversion courts. 

O’Malley had not faced an opponent until 2018, when Price challenged her as part of a wave of progressive candidates challenging sitting DAs.  

This time, Price and former San Francisco prosecutor and current Oakland political aide Seth Steward ran against O’Malley underlings Chief Deputy District Attorney Terry Wiley and Deputy District Attorney Jimmie Wilson.

Price and Steward ran on promises to make the DA’s office more transparent and accountable. Their opponents are longtime county prosecutors who are predicated to make fewer drastic changes if elected.

Steward, who is currently Oakland Councilmember Dan Kalb’s chief of staff, was in a distant fourth place Thursday.

Terry Wiley at his election night watch party. Credit: Amir Aziz

Wiley is the third highest-ranking member of the DA’s office and has had the support of O’Malley’s typical supporters, while Wilson, who has worked in the courthouses outside the DA’s headquarters, has had the support of police departments. As of Thursday evening, Wiley held a 10-point lead over Wilson.

O’Malley was among Wiley supporters who gathered at D.Monaghan’s bar and restaurant in the Oakland hills.

“I’ve been working hard for the last year to get my message out there. It looks like we’ll be in the runoff,” Wiley told The Oaklandside Tuesday night.

At Pier 29 Waterfront Restaurant & Bar in Alameda, Wilson remained hopeful and said there are still a number of uncounted ballots.

“I believe I’m the right person for the job, and I believe the voters are going to come to that conclusion,” Wilson said Tuesday evening.

Of all the county contests on the June ballot, the District Attorney race has seen the most cutthroat tactics and the largest amount of money spent to secure a place in the November runoff. 

Wilson spent more than $300,000 in the weeks before the election, including an attack ad against Wiley. The saga has divided the DA’s office, and the division the election created likely won’t end after the election.

June 10: This story has been updated.

David DeBolt reports on City Hall and policing for The Oaklandside. He spent 12 years working for daily newspapers in the Bay Area, including on the Peninsula and Solano County. He joined the Bay Area...