August 15, 1947 |
Berkeley, California, U.S.
Elihu Mason Harris (born August 15, 1947) is a former U.S. Democratic Party politician and college administrator. He served as the 46th mayor of Oakland, California from 1991 to until 1999. He served for 12 years (1978 through 1991) as a member of the California State Assembly before his election as Oakland mayor. He was the Chancellor of Peralta Community College District.
He earned an undergraduate degree in political science from California State University, East Bay. Harris received a Master of Public Policy from University of California, Berkeley in 1969 and law degree from University of California, Davis School of Law in 1972.
Harris was the first major party politician to lose a state legislative race to a Green Party candidate, when he lost a race for California State Assembly to Audie Bock in 1999. In the 1999 election, Harris, an African-American, sent targeted mailers to households in selected precincts, mostly African American, urging voters to vote for him and receive a fried chicken meal if they presented a voting stub at selected supermarkets. There was voter backlash because of the perception of vote buying and had a subtext of racism. In his losing effort Harris outspent Bock better than 16 to 1 ($550,000 to $33,000).
His legacy in Oakland includes the naming of the Elihu M. Harris State Office Building after him, which was built in downtown Oakland near the pre-existing Federal Building and City Hall. The three proximate structures form a large triangle of massive government buildings in a larger business redevelopment area.
From 2003 to 2010, Harris was Chancellor of Peralta Community College District. He had been interim chancellor from 2003 until receiving the post on a permanent basis. Following news coverage that raised questions about Harris' leadership, his contract was not renewed by the Board of Trustees when it expired on June 30, 2010.
In March 2011, Harris was investigated by the FBI in relation to a no-bid contract awarded to his business partner, Mark Lundquist, for $948,796 when Harris was still Chancellor of Peralta. There were complaints about Lundquist's work and Harris did not disclose his business relationship with Lundquist until after the contract was awarded.