By Greg Kamin
Author’s Note: One person’s opinionated, snarky, and (somewhat) accurate observations of last eve’s all-important DCCC endorsement votes.
August 12, 2010
In a one party-town, the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) is arguably the most important endorsement of all. We’ll all get the results in our mailboxes later (well, at least those of us who are registered Democrats), but die-hard political junkies like myself aren’t content with that. We want to see the political theater, the results of the backroom deal-making, and the nitty-gritty breakdown of the numbers – not just who won and who lost, but who back-stabbed, who got thrown under the bus, who covered their rear, etc.
So on August 11th, a couple hundred people packed themselves into the smallest possible room for the biggest meeting of the year to get an up close and personal look at the machinations of the local Democratic Party. Unlike some in the standing room only crowd at the Local 2 headquarters, I got lucky and snagged one of the uncomfortable chairs, and sat for all three hours so you didn’t have to. This is what I saw…
John Burton’s Iron Curtain Election protection racket
The Guardian did a good job covering the backstory to this, but basically, the State Democratic Party joined the established legal elite in twisting the arms of the local DCCC to try and get them to rescind their endorsement of Michael Nava, in order to give Republican-turned-DTS judge Richard Ulmer an easier time getting elected.
Um… yeah. It’s every bit as bad as it sounds. The rationale seems to be that incumbent judges shouldn’t have to face opponents for re-election. Back when I lived in the Soviet Union, they had elections where you only had one candidate, and (surprise surprise) that candidate always won. But last time I checked, the Iron Curtain came down, and this is not the Soviet Politburo.
Former California Senator Carole Migden and Attorney Bill Fazio, who squeaked into 12th place on the west side, had requested a re-vote, on the somewhat specious reasoning that they didn’t have a chance to participate the first time. Migden spoke first, repeating the assertion that incumbent judges should be given the benefit of the doubt. But boy, was team Nava ready for them!
Supervisor David Campos gave one of his most eloquent and passionate speeches ever. The audience repeatedly applauded. La Raza Lawyers Foundation was in the house. Alice B. Toklas Club members were on hand to lend support. By the time DCCC member Arlo Hale Smith started speaking in favor of keeping the endorsement, it was pretty clear that the coup had failed. Ever the politician, Fazio then got up, carefully backpedaled and explained why his asking for a re-vote really didn’t mean that he wanted a re-vote, said that he’d be voting ‘no’ on his own request, and basically threw Carole Migden – squirming in her seat by this point – under the bus. In the end, only she voted yes to have a re-vote. Anyone who was initially inclined to go along had run for cover. As well they should, because the whole thing was shameful from the start, in my humble opinion.
On to the juicy stuff – the Supe course
I got an email from the Janet Reilly campaign a few days ago. It said she was still in the D2 Supervisor race. I would have liked to see a stronger commitment – like “I’m in it till the end” or “I’m in it to win” instead of just “I’m still in the race.” But still, that was good enough for the DCCC. The vote for Reilly was surprisingly lopsided, with moderates seemingly abandoning their longtime rubber stamp, incumbent Supervisor Michaela Alioto Pier. Twenty-seven of 33 votes for Reilly, Fazio and Speaker Nancy Pelosi going No Endorsement (NE), Migden voting for District 2 challenger Cat Anderson (who?), Tom Hsieh and Scott Weiner abstaining, and Mary Jung casting the lone vote for Alioto-Pier. They even refused to give Alioto-Pier a #2 endorsement!
Which makes me wonder, is there a deal? Will Reilly pull out if the City Attorney’s appeal fails? I really hope not, because that district deserves a choice. If she does pull out now, it won’t look very good for Reilly. It will look like she made a backroom deal, even if there was none.
No surprises here. All went for Chu, except Campos, Michael Goldstein, and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano who abstained, and Eric Quezada who voted no endorsement. Good for him! I know there’s only one viable candidate (which is a travesty in and of itself), but with a candidate like that, I’d rather vote for a fire hydrant.
School Board President Jane Kim made a big push for this one. Her young male supporters were handing out lit pieces to all who entered the room, with a picture of a very photogenic Jane along with a caption saying “Our Time is Now.” But it was just not happening. A spirited attempt by Supervisor John Avalos’s proxy for a dual endorsement failed, and 18 votes for Debra Walker secured the endorsement.
3 for Kim – David Chiu, Bill Fazio (of all people!), and Sandra Lee-Fewer
6 for Theresa Sparks – Mayor Gavin Newsom, California Senator Mark Leno, Pelosi, Scott Weiner, Smith, and Jung
4 No endorsement – Hseih, Melanie Nutter, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Assemblymember Fiona Ma
2 Abstentions -Congresswoman Jackie Speier and District Attorney Kamala Harris
I suspect some of the no endorsement and abstention votes were “cya (cover your rear)” votes by politicians too chicken to reveal their real positions when they know they’re going to lose.
But team Kim wasn’t done yet. A push for a #2 endorsement was led by her strongest supporter, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu (I’ll leave it to the rumor mill as to why). But Campos, eloquent as usual, argued that Debra Walker should get the sole endorsement. After all, why Kim and not any one of a number of terrific candidates in the D6 field? Goldstein argued that if he were to vote for a second endorsement, he’d want it to go to someone who had lived more than 2 years in the district. The argument being that when you move to the district, you should get to know it for a few years, as opposed to running for supervisor… well, ”Now,” as Jane’s mail piece alludes to.
Kim picked up a few votes in two subsequent ballots. I got the distinct impression that a couple of the moderates, particularly those who switched from Sparks to Kim, were doing so not because they wanted to endorse Kim, but for strategic or just plain spiteful reasons to trip up Walker. But in the end it was not enough, and Kim was shut out. Visibly angry, she didn’t stay in the room much longer.
Rumor had it that Rafael Mandleman didn’t have the votes outright going into the DCCC tonight, and that a deal had been struck for Rebecca Prozan to get the #2 position. But in a sign of just how weak the moderate/conservative faction has become, those who wanted someone other than Mandleman chose to vote no endorsement instead of naming a candidate. Cop-out! But whatever, Mandelman secured the first-place nomination with 18 affirmative votes, all but 2 (Senator Leeland Yee and Ammiano) coming from the elected members. Would it really kill Pelosi, Leno, or Speier to endorse just one progressive, just one time in their lives?
After the first vote, Scott Weiner congratulated Mandelman, made it clear that he was still running his race and intended to win, and said that he would not be seeking the Democratic Party endorsement. Once progressives started voting for Rebecca Prozan for #2, it was clear that a deal had indeed been done.
But one has to feel a bit sorry for Scott Weiner. All those years currying favor with the Chamber of Commerce, developers and the downtown party elite, only to get shut out like that. He definitely got outmaneuvered. As for this whole ‘not seeking the party endorsement’ thing, it’s a case of sour grapes of course. But officially, Scott Weiner is now the one major Democratic candidate who neither sought nor wanted the endorsement of the party. I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t look good any way you spin it!
Continued till Sept. 8th. Stay tuned!
Time to De-Fang BART?
The election for BART Board is interesting in the fact that San Francisco’s only out Republican officeholder still sits there. What’s even more interesting is that James Fang never seems to get a strong opponent, and the Democratic party establishment kisses his wealthy behind. But even when some third-party unknown runs against him, they get at least 35 percent of the vote. That’s a huge chunk actually. Well, this year, another unknown is running against him -some guy named Hill, except this year there’s a “D” behind his name. Seems to be a good guy. DCCC member Alix Rosenthal eased people’s concerns about his viability, saying that with the DCCC endorsement, he’s viable. Given how the other elections turned out, that’s actually probably true. Even Fazio agreed that if we’re Democrats, might as well vote for the Democrat. I’m sure we’ll be seeing Fazio run for office, the way he’s been voting today. Anyway, Hill got it with 20 votes.
3 Abs -Yee, Leno, Speier
10 NE (mostly Fang people who didn’t want to say so): Hseih, Jung, Katz, Smith, Weiner, Feinstein, Pelosi, Newsom, Harris, Ma. Such loyal Democrats! Peskin gives moderates Newsom and Harris DCCC seats without a fight, and they can’t even bring themselves to vote against a conservative Republican on the BART Board. How ’bout we go NE on the Lt. Governor’s race?
Community College Board
Not much drama in a race with 3 candidates for 3 seats. All endorsed.
Props for the Props (names named to keep folks accountable)
AA -Citywide Vehicle Registration Fee -YES -29 in favor, only Hseih and Smith voting no. Pelosi and Speier abstained.
A -Retrofit Bond -YES by acclamation
B -City Retirement and Health Plans (the Adachi measure) overwhelming NO. Only Hseih, Jung, Smith, and Feinstein voted NE. Cowards! I don’t believe for a minute that any of these four are really not voting one way or the other.
C -Mayor’s mandatory question time, round 2 -20 YES, 12 NO, 1 Abs, pretty much along ideological lines.
D -Non-citizen voting in School Board elections 23 YES. Hseih, Jung, Smith, and Ma No. Feinstein and Fazio NE, and Abs from Newsom, Harris, Speier, and Pelosi. Starting to see some patterns in the names?
E -Election Day voter registration for local races -29 YES and the rest Abs
F -Health Service Board Elections -changes proposed by Elsbernd and opposed by labor. 20 No. Strangely, though, the rest didn’t break down by party lines. Ammiano and Chiu joined Leno, Feinstein and Weiner to vote Yes.
G -Muni wages -I think this is another one of Elsbernd’s little jabs at city workers. NE won the day with 16 out of 30 votes (3 abstentions didn’t count for the total).
H -Newsom’s hypocritical attempt to throw progressives off the DCCC if they’re also elected to something else locally -25 NO. 5 yes (Hseih, Jung, Feinstein, Newsom, and Ma). Of course -who else? Pelosi abstained, along with Melanie Nutter (that valued member of the progressive slate!) Smith went NE
I -Saturday voting. Good concept, but I have my questions about this particular measure. So did Goldstein, Haaland, and strangely Newsom. Everybody else voted YES.
J -Hotel tax temporary increase -25 YES, 4 No (Newsom, Feinstein, Weiner, and Smith), 2 NE (Hseih and Jung), 2 Abs (Pelosi and Nutter, that great fair-weather progressive)
K -Hotel tax poison pill proposed by Newsom -pretty much the reverse of the vote on J. 25 NO. 5 yes, 1 NE, 2 Abs
L -Sit-Lie. Oh boy. Unfortunately I missed some of the count because they’d gone from a roll call vote to a complicated hand count thing, and to make matters worse, Warren Hinckle was braying something in what appeared to be a drunken stupor in back of me, so I couldn’t hear everything. But this piece of garbage was in fact voted down with 20 NO. The usual suspects voted yes. Melanie Nutter abstained. OK… I know everyone likes her bubbly personality, but please! Can anyone tell me why she ran on the progressive slate, if she can’t even bring herself to vote against Sit-Lie?
M -Community policing/foot patrols -21 YES. 8 members were against community policing -Fewer (whose husband is a cop), the dynamic duo Hseih and Jung, Katz, Weiner (ding ding ding -CAMPAIGN PIECE FOR HIS OPPONENTS), Feinstein, Newsom, and Harris. Speier abstained. And so did… Nutter.
N -Real estate tax 26 YES.
And finally, Prop 19, the statewide marijuana legalization prop that the state party failed to take a position on (FAIL being the operative word here) -surprisingly, YES with 27 votes. That included every single elected member, including Hseih and Jung, whom Peskin even asked to make sure. Plus Yee, Leno, and Ammiano. The only people who didn’t want to take a position or voted No, were our illustrious elected officials, they of the permanent DCCC seats.
Two things I noticed…
1. The elected officals who don’t have to run for DCCC but have permanent voting status are very much out of step with the members of the DCCC that the people of San Francisco actually voted for to represent them on their party committee. I’ve harped on this point before, but this evening makes it clear how much something really needs to change. At the very least, get rid of their proxies so that Newsom and Feinstein and all the rest have to actually physically come down and face the people and take a public stand. If they care that much, let them come down and vote rather than hide behind proxies in a cowardly manner. The act of physically seeing their constituents stare back at them taking some of those stands at odds with the people of this city might move them to vote differently. Or alternatively, if they really don’t care to take time off from their busy fundraising schedules, then don’t vote on the DCCC!
2. This whole tendency to vote NE or abstain if your side is going to lose. I’m sorry, but it’s irritating. Just cut the bull and tell people how you really feel. And if you’re really sitting on the fence on important issues, or you just want to keep your vote secret, then maybe you shouldn’t be running for a public position on a body whose main purpose is to take positions!
Just my two cents.