Ron Dellums never really wanted to be mayor of Oakland. He expressed doubts when civic leaders recruited him to run in 2006, and ever since then, the 73-year-old former congressman has frequently been accused of phoning it in--too often remaining absent from City Hall and leaving key positions unfilled.

It's a leadership void the city can't afford. Oakland is suffering from high foreclosure rates, nearly 15 percent unemployment and a spike in violent crime. After four police officers were killed in March, Dellums was not invited to speak at the memorial service.

That last debacle led Don Perata to enter the race. Perata, a former state Senate president, possesses enough name recognition and fundraising ability to already have deterred potential rivals from running. A huge cloud lifted for him in May, when the FBI decided not to indict him after a five-year probe into charges that he took bribes for legislation he backed in Sacramento.

With the election a year away, it's too early to declare Perata the city's mayor-in-waiting. But at this point, the job seems his to lose. Dellums appears to be out of the picture altogether. "The chances of him running are slim," says political consultant Larry Tramutola, "and the chances of him getting reelected are even slimmer."