Herrera Kicks Off Re-Election Campaign

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in News, Politics

Published on June 08, 2009 with 15 Comments

City Attorney Dennis Herrera held his re-election campaign kickoff event
yesterday at the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco.
Photos by Luke Thomas

By Luke Thomas

June 7, 2009

City Attorney Dennis Herrera kicked off his re-election campaign for a third term yesterday during a fundraiser benefiting the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco, a non-profit organization on which he currently serves as board member.

“Over the course of the last eight years I have recommitted to make sure our office is relevant to the people that we serve, and I am out there every day to make a difference for all San Franciscans,” Herrera said.

“That’s what’s rewarding to me about the job. That’s why I want to keep the job, and that’s why I’m announcing my candidacy for a third term as your City Attorney,” he said.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera

Running unopposed, Herrera announced his campaign would seek to obtain 13,000 signatures from registered San Francisco voters by July 22 to get his name on the November ballot.

The event, which was co-billed to raise awareness for the launch of the Boys and Girls Club’s summertime program, attracted as many as 250 residents and politicos, including Democratic Party Chair John Burton, Senator Leland Yee, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, Supervisors John Avalos, Eric Mar and Ross Mirkarimi, Treasurer Jose Cisneros, former Senator Carole Migden, former Supervisor Jake McGoldrick and former Police Chief Tony Ribera.

San Francisco Giants Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Larry Baer, San Francisco Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson and Burton provided short speeches in support of Herrera’s candidacy.

Former Gavin Newsom administration Deputy Chief of Staff Alex Tourk is managing Herrera’s re-election campaign.

Larry Baer and Tim Paulson.

A joking Democratic Party Chair John Burton:
“It’s really great to be here for Dennis as he kicks off
his very tough campaign for re-election.”

Dennis Herrera campaign manager Alex Tourk (center)
with Jeff Soukop and Jeff Anderson.

Herrera was born in Bay Shore, New York in 1962 and was admitted to the California Bar in 1989. In 1993, under then President Bill Clinton, Herrera was appointed Chief of Staff for the US Maritime Administration in Washington, DC.

Herrera got his start in San Francisco politics in 1996 when former Mayor Willie Brown appointed him to the City’s Transportation Commission. In 1997, Brown appointed Herrera to the Police Commission. A year later, Herrera was elected Police Commission President. In November 2001 Herrera was elected City Attorney.


Considered politically Progressive, Herrera filed the first government litigation in American history challenging the constitutionality of discriminatory marriage laws. His efforts paid off when the California Supreme Court in May 2008 overturned a ban on same-sex marriage. The ban was reinstated in November 2008, however, when the California electorate passed Proposition 8, limiting marriage between a man and a woman.

Herrera co-challenged the constitutionality of Proposition 8 but failed to convince six of seven California Supreme Court justices that the rights of a minority class must be protected over the whims of the majority, or that marriage equality is an inalienable right. The court did, however, protect the legal status of an estimated 18,000 marriages performed before the passage of Proposition 8.

In 2006, Herrera took bold steps to address violent crime by securing gang injunctions against seven known criminal organizations. He has also pushed for protections for tenants facing eviction and foreclosure due to the economic recession, and he successfully defended former Supervisor Tom Ammiano’s landmark universal heath care legislation against stiff opposition from the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.


But despite his many accomplishments, Herrera has also been criticized.

In September 2006, Herrera invalidated a 33,000 signatures petition that would have shifted decision-making power into the hands of San Francisco voters over Bayview Hunters Point redevelopment. Herrera said he invalidated the petition because it lacked all the “critical” documentation “incorporated by reference.”

His critics took a different view, accusing him of using political discretion to protect development interests over the interests of city residents.

Herrera has also come under fire from open government advocacy groups that have accused him of undermining transparency in government enforcement provisions set forth by the passage of Proposition G in 1999, and for providing supportive legal advice to Mayor Gavin Newsom in his refusal to release meetings and calendar related documents.

And in a recent interview with Fog City Journal, Herrera discounted the effectiveness of suing the U.S. Navy to compel an immediate and comprehensive cleanup of the toxic-laden Hunters Point Shipyard, a Superfund site that contains to this day unquantifiable levels of carcinogenic toxins and radioactive materials. The site continues to pose a serious health risk to Bay Area residents.


Herrera has so far earned endorsements from State Senator Mark Leno, State Senator Leland Yee, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, Assemblymember Fiona Ma, District Attorney Kamala Harris, Sheriff Mike Hennessey, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, Treasurer Jose Cisneros, Assessor Phil Ting, Supervisor John Avalos, Supervisor David Campos, Supervisor David Chiu, Supervisor Carmen Chu, Supervisor Chris Daly, Supervisor Bevan Dufty, Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, Supervisor Eric Mar, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, Community College Board Member Natalie Berg, Community College Board Member Milton Marks III, Community College Board Member Steve Ngo, San Francisco Police Officers Association, San Francisco Fire Fighters, Local 798, and DCCC Chair and Former Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

“If you want a City Attorney’s office that will continue to be a force for change,” Herrera asked his supporters. “If you want a City Attorney that will continue to fight for equality, justice and fairness, and if you want me to continue to lead that fight and make a difference in the lives of ordinary San Franciscans, I need your vote, I need your help.”

“I need your support and the Boys and Girls Club needs your help, too,” Herrera added.

Former Senator Carole Migden
with California Democratic Party Chair John Burton and his granddaughter.

Tim Paulson with a camera shy Larry Mazzola Jr. and Larry Mazzola Sr.

District 8 candidate Rafael Mandelman, Carole Migden and Michael Goldstein,
who announced to FCJ he is running for Community College Board Trustee.

Supervisor John Avalos and son.

Tenth Congressional District candidate Adriel Hampton
and Supervisor David Campos.

Former SFPD Chief Tony Ribera and daugther.

District 6 candidate Debra Walker with civil rights activist Molly McKay.

District 2 candidate Janet Reilly (right) with Ann Herrera and family.

City Attorney spokesperson Matt Dorsey.

Dennis Herrera with Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and Eric Mar.

Board of Supervisor President David Chiu with Clint Reilly (left).

“We heart Dennis.”

Dennis Herrera with his wife, Ann, and son, Declan.

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the SanFranciscoSentinel.com, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched FogCityJournal.com. The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7x7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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Comments for Herrera Kicks Off Re-Election Campaign are now closed.

  1. I too am miffed at the excuses for the CA throwing out the solid and valuable attempt to get more affordable housing built in San Francisco. He followed the law? Well maybe the law de jure but de facto the intent was clear.

    Also, the last time any candidate gathered 12,000 signatures for a ballot measure or candidacy (when they didn’t really need to) led to Care Not Cash and thence to Mayor Newsom. Caveat Pre-emptor.

  2. The other issue here, and one which might explain why there was a quorum of the Board of Supervisors in attendance (is that even legal?) at this campaign kickoff, is that the City Attorney controls the throttle over the nature of legal services would be offered to Supervisors, including the quantity, quality and ambition.

    Any supervisor who does not kowtow to the the whims of the City Attorney risks exile in the legislative counsel equivalent of Siberia and the resulting political ineffectiveness. Indeed, during these various “budget crises” over the past few years, Herrera’s office has actually put Supervisors on a “legislative diet,” closely metering the quantity of legal services his office provides to the policymakers we elect.

    This is another good argument for why the Board of Supervisors, like the California legislature, like in each office in the United States Congress should be advised by independent legislative counsel of its own choosing.

    In addition to the Board, the Election and Ethics commissions both need independent counsel, as the politicized office of City Attorney–and this was the case under Louise Renne, not just Herrera–has proven over and again that it would circumvent the will of the voters for honest government if a chit could be gleaned from looking the other way.


  3. Jerry,
    What a bunch of duplicitous BS. Doesn’t take a weatherman to know who pays your rent, or who’s blowing the wind up your arse.
    Damn right we made it a ‘political issue’. It is also an issue of Government corruption and collusion in favor of private corporate interests and against the general good. The disenfranchisement of the 30,000 voters who signed our petition that simply asked for review, more extensive public input and participation in our ‘democracy’, and decisions being made affecting our present and future, was selective enforcement of rarely enforced requirements relating to the petition process. How many times have you been approached by folks gathering signatures for any kind of ballot measure. How many times were they carrying a small phone book full of ‘information’ they were supposed to have access to and read before their signatures would be deemed valid. Remember the signatures we gathered were initially certified as valid by the Dept of Elections.
    The ‘decertification’ was the result of pressure exerted by the ‘money-men’, speculators, developers etc, on their bought and paid for messenger boy Newsom in order to perpetuate their boondoggle. Herrera, to his discredit, went along to get along as any true toady looking to advance his ‘career’ would. He is complicit in this racist Urban Renewal scam.
    In your defense all I can say is that EJ must be pleased to see one of his little proteges spewing out more of this newspeak disinformation and unadulterated crap.

  4. Dennis Herrera is running unopposed yet they’ve got all these signed printed up! And every political hack –past, present and future — shows up at this basketball court. Note Debra Walker (big freakin’ surprise there) in her decades-old Annie Hall look.

    What I like about Fog City Journal is you can always just click off the website. In real life, you have to excuse yourself from the company of these boring egomaniacs and strike up a conversation with someone else who is, hopefully, less boring and less of an egotist..

    Unless I’m mistaken, it wasn’t too long ago the Mayor appointed the City Attorney. I wonder how much better it is that we all get to vote for City Attorney. It just gets used for political purposes, i.e., furthering political ambitions. Check out Herrera’s website. You’d think was running for President.


    Luke, your sub-headline “Endoresements” is misspelled.

  5. Thank you for the correction, Jerry. I had it in my head Renne was defeated by Herrera, but I confused that with her defeat to Theresa Sparks for Police Commission Prez.


  6. I love watching former presidents of the Milk Club make excuses for the failures of the status quo.

  7. Jerry, claiming that Dennis Herrera (who pays Jerry’s salary, for complete disclosure) won reelection easily “due to the excellent job he has done,” is as valid as saying that Gavin Newsom won reelection in 2007 due to the excellent job he has done.

    Jerry knows that citywide elections don’t work that way in San Francisco and that there were other obstacles to a successful challenge than surmounting perceptions of Herrera’s performance, such as overcoming Herrera’s contributions from developers which are sure to show up in this cycle given the “excellent job” Herrera has done for moneyed interests during his two terms in office.

    The only reason why Herrera edged out Lazarus is that voters tend to shy away at Darth Vader-like figures, and even then, that outcome was way too close for comfort given San Francisco’s political complexion.

    As the legal controlling authority for the City and County of San Francisco, City Attorney Dennis Herrera enjoys incredible latitude and deference in court regarding the positions he takes. Had Herrera decided that the democratic rights of citizens to referendum as guaranteed by the California Constitution ruled, the day, then the court would have sided with him as well.

    But Herrera did not take that position, he kowtowed to the campaign funding sources of developers, effectively encouraging city government to pass legislation so sizable as to render referendum cost prohibitive for most citizens, as the cost to duplicate these tomes runs into the high tens of thousands of dollars just to qualify the petition for a referendum election.

    One might wager that the Ethics Commission to which Herrera provides “counsel” might not take up such appearances of conflict and corruption, quid pro quo to developers for contributions.

    The notion that County Supervisor elected citywide and one elected by district are two different jobs is just too laughable to be taken seriously. Again, this is an example of the wide latitude granted to elected officials by the judiciary, where they can basically take any position on a matter that has half of a justification and prevail with the court admonishing petitioners to go out and win an election if they want things done differently. When that elected official is a political animal, the public ends up deprived of our right to honest government when such shenanigans are permitted.

    The passage of Prop 8 can be laid at the feet of Dennis Herrera as well. As the chief of a legally very conservative office, one that politically restrains the options of the legislative branch willy nilly, one is left but to wonder why Herrera, a hetero, teamed up with Newsom, another alleged hetero, to set the ball rolling on an ill-timed political legal odyssey without a plan for the known eventualities? Was the goal just to win D8 for Newsom and to hell with the potential Prop 8 style consequences?

    Contrast the “caution to the wind” same sex marriage position to the restrictive reading of the Constitution as pertains to referendum petitions, and we see a clear pattern of politicized lawyering that puts political advancement and ambition of the elected before the broader interests of San Franciscans.


  8. a few comments:

    1. Dennis Herrera won a highly contest three-way race against Neil Eisenberg and Steve Williams after Louise Renne decided to retire from the office. He has since easily won reelection due to the excellent job he has done.
    2. Those who complain about Mr. Herrera’ decision to invalidate an initiative involving the Hunters Point redeveloment plan often describe it as political. However, the appeals court reviewed the matter and concurred that the statute required the redevelopment plan to be attached to the petition so that signers would know what they were seeking to repeal. that is the basic transparency required by the law. Herrera simply enforced that law, as his office requires. It is opponents of this action who have taken a “political” position,
    3. Likewise, Snave’s characterizations of the opinion on Ammiano and terms limits serve her political ends and forego any analysis of the text of the terms limits measure. that measure dictated the result reached by Herrera and allowed ammiano another term.

  9. Here are the list of candidates for Mayor 2011

    Phil Ting – No chance. Despite the fact that his wife is close to Leno. And trying to get $15 million from the Catholic Church might play well among Progressives it will cause a quite yet effective backlash from West of downtown.

    Michaela Alioto-Pier – Smal chance, though the Alioto name has lost alot of relevance. Still there is lots of family money there.

    Ross Mirkarimi: Good chance. But being a Green will cause problems. Also needs to distance himself from Chris Daly and pray that Daly does not endorse him. That would kill his campaign. probably should have run last time, said it was not his time, but it was funny how he upstaged Daly at the Progressive Convention.

    Kamala Harris: Would have an excelelnt chance but will not run as she wants to be State AG.

    Bevan Dufty: Good chance. Says he will run if Harris does not. Saying you are second best for the job will come back to haunt him. Appearing weak before the campaign starts is not good. Otherwise could be viewed as a moderate and “acceptable progressive” for many San Franciscans.

    Joanne Hayes-White Dark horse (and you heard it here first). Seems like a real outsider but while having a crusty demenour she has the support of the fire dept and unions. Can appeal to the progressives as the lady who was in the first batch of female firefighters in The City and the first femail Fire Chief.

    Has also got strong City roots, raised in SF and has 2 immigrant parents so can also tap ionto the American Dream positioning.

    Mirkarimi is the intelligent choice, but expect him to be pushed all the way by the Fire Chief.

  10. “My money’s on Herrera running for mayor in 2011.”

    – Luke

    Herrera may run, but he has no chance of winning.

    Despite his last name, many Latino/Latina voters will be disappointed in Herrera when they realize he can’t speak Spanish.

    Despite his legal maneuvers on behalf of gay marriage, he won’t get many gay votes when Mark Leno wraps himself in the rainbow flag.

    Despite his earnestness, his lack of charisma will sink him whenever he opens his mouth in front of the TV cameras.

    What does he have to offer to the city’s marijuana industry?

    And to the nonprofit political complex?

    A credible candidate for mayor has to put together a big coalition of special interests, while projecting glossy images to the media.

    That’s the only way you get to be mayor of SF.

    Which is why all the incumbents for the last 35 years have been sodden mediocrities.

  11. Larry Mazzola is even dumber than he looks.

  12. There is no legal way to resurrect Matt Gonzalez’s career. He’s such an arrogant, out of touch politician who screwed progressives in 2007 and 2008, he’s hopeless.

    Besides he’d have to give up rooting about in dustbins for that crummy art of his. And take a bath.

  13. My money’s on Herrera running for mayor in 2011.

    Which raises an interesting technical question, should Herrera run for mayor and win, does he get to appoint a CA replacement?

    Who would Herrera consider for the appointment and who would be the best choice for Progressives?

    I am thinking Matt Gonzalez, finally a post where he could resurrect his political career.

  14. One positive aspect of this announcement is that though we will still have him as City Attorney, disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters in support of corrupt speculators and developers, we presumably are protected from the prospect of him moving into Room 200.

  15. City Attorney Dennis Herrera deserves credit for publicly acknowledging in 2006 that “‘Quality of life’ is a progressive value.”

    Herrera stressed that he wasn’t going after homelessness as such but would target trashers, taggers, and dumpers.

    It’s unusual for a politician who courts progressives even to mention quality-of-life concerns. Herrera broke that taboo. Good for him!

    On the other hand, Herrera does not deserve credit for helping Tom Ammiano make an end run around term limits at the board of supes.

    The city charter clearly states that no one may be a supervisor for more than eight consecutive years. Herrera gave Ammiano an exemption in a legal opinion that was one of the most tortured and garbled I have ever read.

    The opinion was the result of crony politics. In the election for district attorney in 2001, three prominent contenders were Dennis Herrera, Steve Willaims, and Jim Lazarus.

    Tom Ammiano endorsed Williams as “the progressive alternative in this race.” But Williams did not make it to the run-off.

    In the final round, Ammiano endorsed Herrera as “the progressive alternative in this race.” Ammiano’s endorsement gave the edge to Herrera, who won by a margin of four percent.

    Herrera later returned the favor by giving Ammiano a pass on term limits.

    It’s called politics as usual.