Alix Rosenthal: I’m Not Running, But Here’s Who Is

Written by FCJ Editor. Posted in Opinion, Politics

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Published on February 27, 2009 with 8 Comments

Alix Rosenthal

By Alix Rosenthal, special to Fog City Journal

February 27, 2009

I’m not running for District 8 Supervisor. There, I said it.

And while the election is 21 months away, it’s already getting hot in here.

This is going to be the biggest Supervisor race in 2010.  The district includes the Castro, Noe Valley, Glen Park, Diamond Heights, and the Inner Mission.  It hosts a wide range of interests, including gay tenants and realtors, Noe Valley moms, Mission hipsters, bike commuters and park enthusiasts.

D8 residents are a passionate and politically active bunch.  The district is home to an inconceivable number of neighborhood groups, political clubs and merchant associations, whose members are very active and whose endorsements are closely followed.

Eight is the largest district in voter turnout by a long shot.  In 2006, 37,000 voters cast a ballot for Supervisor in District 8,  compared to 20,000 in District 2 (Pacific Heights/Marina), and a mere 14,000 in District 10 (Potrero/Bayview).  To illustrate the  point, chew on this:  I lost my race with only 30 percent of the vote, and yet I earned more votes in 2006 than either Supervisors Chris Daly or Sophie Maxwell, both of whom were re-elected that year.  Ha!

Many individuals are rumored to be running in District 8, but the candidates to watch are Rafael Mandelman, Laura Spanjian, Rebecca Prozan and Scott Wiener.

I listed the candidates in order of their political leanings: Rafael being the most lefty, Scott the most right-y of the four.  I might be wrong; it’s still very early, and so the candidates haven’t yet started positioning themselves.  No one has a campaign website up yet (way too early for that), though Rafael, Laura and Scott still have sites up for their 2008 race for the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC): here, here and here.  Rebecca has a personal blog.

First, the similarities: All are openly gay, all are registered Democrats, and all have paid their dues politically.

Rafael Mandelman has consistently aligned himself with labor.  He is a proponent of tenants rights and alternative transportation, and he’s president of the left-leaning Harvey Milk Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club.   A graduate of Yale, Harvard and Berkeley, he works as a land use attorney for public agencies and affordable housing developers.  He has served as chair of the Noe Valley Democratic Club, and he lives across the street from Dolores Park.  After a brief stint on the SF Building Inspection Commission, he was recently appointed to the city’s powerful Board of Appeals.  Politically, he is most closely aligned with Carole Migden, who lost her State Senate re-election bid last year to Mark Leno in a nasty fight and huge political upset.  Migden’s got some free time these days, and Rafael is probably hoping she’ll wield her formidable fundraising abilities on his behalf.  In his DCCC race, he was endorsed by a wide range of folks, including labor and the environmental groups, though he was able to get some moderate endorsements as well.

Rafael Mandelman

Laura Spanjian has recently moved to the Inner Mission from Noe Valley, and like Rafael, has served on the Board of the Noe Valley Democrats.   She is close to both former Treasurer (and SF Public Utilities Commission General Manager) Susan Leal and Democratic Party Chair (and former President of the Board of Supervisors) Aaron Peskin.  Laura is smart and savvy, having graduated from UCLA and Stanford, and having figured out how to hold onto her job as the Assistant General Manager of the SFPUC after her mentor Susan Leal was ousted.  I hear Laura has lined up Jim Stearns – the progressive campaign consultant and political powerhouse – to run her campaign.  Laura threw all her eggs in the Hillary Clinton basket last year, representing Clinton at the Democratic convention and serving on her LGBT national leadership committee.  As for her ideological leanings, she has been able to straddle the left/right line so far, though she won’t be able to do this for long once the campaign begins in earnest.  She also served as Co-Chair of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, which is widely considered to be the moderate-to-conservative gay rights group in town (if an LGBT rights group can be called conservative… only in San Francisco).  Scott and Rebecca have also served as Co-Chairs of Alice.

Laura Spanjian

Rebecca Prozan has worked in political jobs for former Mayor (and SF Chronicle columnist) Willie Brown, District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty and District Attorney (and Attorney General candidate) Kamala Harris.  (Go Kamala!)  A graduate of UC Santa Cruz and Golden Gate University, she currently serves as an Assistant DA.  Along with her boss, Rebecca was an early supporter of Barack Obama, who named her to his LGBT Leadership Committee.  She has also served as a Commissioner with the SF Recreation and Parks Department, and she lives in the Castro with her partner.  In 2003, while managing Kamala Harris’ campaign to unseat DA Terence Hallinan, Rebecca was busted trying to infiltrate Hallinan’s campaign email list with a false identity.  Look out, D8 candidates, Rebecca’s in it to win it.

Rebecca Prozan

Scott Wiener might be the best known of the four candidates.  As Chair of the SF Democratic Party until last year, he was able to feature himself prominently on Democratic Party mailers to improve his own name recognition citywide.  Last year newly-elected DCCC member Aaron Peskin staged (and won) a great battle of left-versus-right against Scott, promising to align the party with San Francisco’s more progressive values.   Scott is a moderate Democrat, and affiliated with the more conservative Democratic groups in town including the Raoul Wallenberg Jewish Democratic Club and Plan C (“The Moderate Voice of San Francisco”) (in San Francisco, moderate IS conservative, IMHO).  He was endorsed in his last race by the Police Officers Association, a landlord group, and the right-leaning City Democratic Club.  A graduate of Duke and Harvard, Scott works as a litigator in the City Attorney’s office defending the City in police-related lawsuits and MUNI accident claims.  His loyalties lie with Mayor Gavin Newsom, State Senator Mark Leno and his boss, City Attorney Dennis Herrera.  Scott has recently become involved with (and elected chair of) the small-but-vocal Eureka Valley Promotion Association, whose focus is “quality of life” issues in the Castro, cleaning up the streets while encouraging gentrification.

Scott Wiener

Scott, Laura and Rebecca will split the moderate vote. They have a long list of common allies, and they have all served as Co-Chair of the moderate gay group in town.  They each worked on incumbent Supervisor Bevan Dufty’s campaign in 2006 (as did other candidates rumored to be running), and so I think Dufty is likely to stay out.  Their mutual friends are faced with the difficult choice of (1) damaging important political relationships by endorsing one over the others, (2) opting out of the race completely, or (3) diluting their endorsement by picking all three.  I don’t envy them.

Rafael, Rebecca and Scott are all lawyers. And, strangely, all three are Jewish – which J Magazine will find very interesting. It seems that being Jewish is a requirement for winning in District 8, though this factor is not dispositive.  Past winners Mark Leno and Bevan Dufty are Jewish, but so are losing candidates Eileen Hansen and Alix Rosenthal.

Based on my direct personal experience, I think Rebecca and Laura have an uphill battle based on their gender. The District has the highest proportion of male voters in the City, the Castro tends to vote for men, and everyone knows all the lesbians have moved to Bernal Heights (District 9).  I doubt the women’s groups will get engaged in either candidate’s campaign, since Rebecca and Laura have been less involved in these organizations than the many fantastic candidates rumored to be running for Supervisor in Districts 2, 4, 6 and 10.

But here’s the most interesting part: Rafael, Laura and Scott all sit on the Central Committee of the SF Democratic Party.  They will all be running for re-election in June 2010 in a district that includes, but is larger than, District 8.  They will be able to raise money for this race simultaneously with their supervisorial campaigns, and there is no campaign contribution limit for the DCCC. Therefore, anyone who maxes out (at $500) on Scott’s or Rafael’s or Laura’s supe campaign can donate an unlimited amount to his or her DCCC committee. The candidates will have to be careful about how they advertise themselves using DCCC campaign money, but to be sure, they will all be focusing their DCCC resources on one special corner of the district.  My advice to Rebecca Prozan: Run for DCCC.

In the 2008 DCCC race, all three incumbents were defending their seats.  Rafael raised and spent $12,000, Laura raised and spent $24,000, and Scott raised and spent $30,000.  [Though this is somewhat hard to discern in Scott’s files with the San Francisco Ethics Commission – his most recent form is missing some important information, and his treasurer filed no fewer than 11 corrected forms in January of this year for past errors made, starting in 2006.  I won’t hold this against them.  Having been a campaign treasurer, I understand how inane some of these forms can be.]  Laura came in 4th, Rafael 7th, and Scott came in 10th place, below Chris Daly.

Based on what I know about these candidates, I am endorsing Rafael Mandelman.  He is smart and energetic, and he wants the job for the right reasons.  Rafael’s values are a great fit for the district, and he knows the neighborhoods as well as anyone (except of course the incumbent Supervisor Bevan Dufty, neighborhood services guru).

But Scott has access to gobs of money, Laura has lined up the best campaign consultant in town, and Rebecca is a fierce campaigner.

Glad I’ll have a front-row seat.

Alix Rosenthal is a Deputy City Attorney for the City of Oakland, specializing in public ethics and real estate law.  She has lived in San Francisco since 1999, with her dog Martha and a hardy assortment of houseplants. In 2006, at the urging of friends in the progressive movement, Alix ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in District 8 against incumbent Bevan Dufty.  To the surprise of many (including herself), she garnered 30 percent of the vote against a formidable and well-liked opponent. Alix is a registered Democrat, woman of action, Facebook addict, and regular yoga practitioner. At the urging of no one, she has recently started a blog, which may be found at


Comments for Alix Rosenthal: I’m Not Running, But Here’s Who Is are now closed.

  1. For the record, I was appointed to the Elections Commission by then-public defender Kimiko Burton. I hadn’t met her before, and I’ve only seen her once since.

    I never have, and never would, call myself a diminutive name that would tie me to a politician i don’t (and didn’t) support.

  2. I’ll ponder this list once I get over the fact that Alix isn’t running.

  3. Great article full of insights. Thank you.

    All are great candidates but like you my heart is with Rafael Mandelman. He’s steered an independent path consistent with his long held progressive values and has developed an impressive set of professional experiences focused on public land use issues. I have seen first hand how tirelessly he works on the SF Board of Appeals or DCCC. I’ve been involved at the periphery of some local campaigns for a long time but I’m not sitting this one out.

    I’m excited to be supporting Rafael and encourage his supporters to join “Rafael Mandelman for San Francisco District 8” Facebook group.

  4. Thank you for the article! I would have supported YOU like the last time…But it is great to have all the information you presented.
    Tami from D5 but concerned for the entire city!

  5. Agreed, would support Eileen in a heartbeat, if she chose to run.

  6. Alix,

    Weren’t you the one who called yourself “a Gavin girl” after Willie Brown appointed you to the Elections Commission? Thus, I take your recommendations with a grain of salt.

    I like Hansen again in D-8 and you’re dead wrong about which will be the most exciting race. Cause the ‘lead’ candidates you mention are all beholden to the Demo machine, Downtown won’t spend alot of money there. The fur will fly in D-6 (which it does 24/7/365 when there isn’t a race). Either Jim Meko or Debra Walker will win there and both are head and shoulders over your personal ‘Willie’ crowd in D-8.


  7. Wrong Matt.

    There was almost no effort to get second place votes at all on John’s campaign. We felt that we could win on first place votes and we did.

  8. Though the three moderate/conservative candidates you mention will probably be promoted by downtown in the same way that Sue Lee and Claudia Cheng were promoted 1, 2, respectively in giant billboards, I think that it is advisable that Mandelman pursue second choice votes from these candidates, regardless of there differences in ideology. This is how John Avalos won.