Elihu Harris

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Elihu Harris
46th Mayor of Oakland
In office
January 7, 1991 – January 4, 1999
Preceded byLionel Wilson
Succeeded byJerry Brown
Member of the
California State Assembly
from the 13th district
In office
December 4, 1978 – December 3, 1990
Preceded by???
Succeeded byBarbara Lee
Personal details
Elihu Mason Harris

(1947-08-15) August 15, 1947 (age 71)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Shelia Wells-Harris
Known forMayor of Oakland

Elihu Mason Harris (born August 15, 1947[1]) is an American retired politician and college administrator. A member of the Democratic Party, Harris served as the 46th Mayor of Oakland, California from 1991 to 1999; he previously served for twelve years (from 1978 to 1990) as a member of the California State Assembly. He was the Chancellor of Peralta Community College District from 2003 to 2010.[2][3][4]

Early life[edit]

Born in Los Angeles, Harris moved to Berkeley, California during childhood and graduated from Berkeley High School in 1965.[1]

Harris earned a B.A. in political science from California State University, Hayward, where he served as student body vice-president.[1][5] 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.[1]


Harris was the Mayor of Oakland from 1991 until 1999. He has also served as a California Uniform Law Commissioner since 1981.[6]

From 1992 to 1997, Harris co-owned Oakland, California radio station KDIA along with former California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown.[7][8] Harris also co-owned Fresno radio station KFIG with Mark A. Lindquist until it was sold in 2005 and disbanded on Jan 16, 2008.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11] In his losing effort, Harris outspent Bock better than 16 to 1 ($550,000 to $33,000).[12]

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.[13] 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.[2]

Harris and his wife also run a Berkeley funeral home that his parents once owned, according to county records listing him as its owner.[9]

FBI investigation[edit]

In March 2011, Harris was investigated by the FBI in relation to a no-bid contract awarded to his business partner, Mark A. Lindquist of 1701 Associates, Inc, for $948,796 back when Harris was still Chancellor of Peralta and Lindquist was still President of the district’s foundation, serving as a boardmember on its Board of Trustees.[9] There were complaints about Lindquist's work and Harris did not disclose his business relationship with Lindquist until after the contract was awarded. Harris also declared his Piedmont partnership with Lindquist and three other partners in 2008 after Lindquist won the contract. But Harris and Lindquist signed real estate documents in August 2007 when the business bought a Piedmont property from Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Records show the deal had been negotiated for more than a year.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d California State Archives. "Inventory of the Elihu Harris Papers". Online Archive of California. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  2. ^ a b Krupnick, Matt. Elihu Harris to leave Peralta district, Contra Costa Times, January 13, 2010. Archived March 30, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Peele, Thomas (July 13, 2010). "Judge will reconsider previous ruling that kept Peralta colleges document secret". San Jose Mercury News. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved August 5, 2010.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  4. ^ Felsing, Sam (July 22, 2010). "CoA in Turmoil". Alameda Sun. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
  5. ^ "CSUEB Department of Political Science Alumni". Archived from the original on 2012-07-08.
  6. ^ Ron Kelly Medical Act Archived 2006-08-16 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Willie Brown, Mayor Buy Radio Station". Los Angeles Times. 13 November 1992. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  8. ^ Evenson, Laura (December 24, 1997). "Disney Radio Station Aims at Young Listeners". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 10, 2012.
  9. ^ a b c d Matier, Phillip and Andrew Ross. Elihu Harris investigated over college contract, San Francisco Chronicle, March 27, 2011.
  10. ^ Salon.com article on 1999 campaign race Democratic Party and Green Party for California 16th District
  11. ^ Kaplan, Sunny (April 16, 1999). "Green's California Assembly Victory: Anomaly or Start Of Trend?". Stateline. Archived from the original on February 4, 2012.
  12. ^ New York Times article on Victory by California Assembly Candidate Is First for Greens
  13. ^ "Peralta picks Elihu Harris as chancellor", San Francisco Business Times, April 30, 2004.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 13th district

December 4, 1978 – December 3, 1990
Succeeded by
Barbara Lee
Preceded by
Lionel Wilson
Mayor of Oakland
January 7, 1991 – January 4, 1999
Succeeded by
Jerry Brown