Democratic Party Convention
and Republican Dirty Tricks

Written by Chris Daly. Posted in Opinion, Politics

Tagged: , , , , , ,

Published on April 02, 2008 with 9 Comments

District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly
Photos by Luke Thomas

By Chris Daly

April 2, 2008

I spent last Saturday with my family in San Jose at the California Democratic Convention. It was my first time participating in the State Party’s main event. I bumped into Steve Westley in front of the Obama table and told him that I’d likely support him this time if he made another run for Governor.

While grabbing an informal lunch, Jerry Brown with entourage and the Progressive Caucus were seated at tables opposite to the youthful Daly clan. Loni Hancock even asked if Grace had already joined Code Pink. (We’re still waiting on Medea Benjamin’s promised Code Pink onesie.)

Gavin Newsom, shadowed by the real Mayor, Eric Jaye, stood in the lobby trying to look important, as Willie Brown was importantly whisked through the crowd. And yet, all of this was merely the sideshow.

Mayor Gavin Newsom with Assemblymember Mark Leno
and political consultant John Whitehurst.

Apparently, at these kinds of events blood sport is the real spectacle, and the civil war between Mark Leno and Carole Migden raged in the corridors of the Convention Center. At one point, Leno and Migden battalions almost physically collided. That is when it hit me again – this race is much more than just a feud between career politicians who have little difference on the issues. This race is about the future of progressive political power in San Francisco.

I have written about Mark Leno’s political operation before, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised to witness it. Maybe it had to do with the air of change at this year’s Democratic Party Convention. But sure enough, commanding the Leno battalion were none other than downtown’s top political operatives, John Whitehurst and Mark “Republican-lite” Mosher. (Like a kinder and gentler Karl Rove, Eric Jaye called shots in from the wing.)

Waiting in the wings and calling the shots, Eric Jaye.

The Republican sleaze was about to get going.

It seemed that Carole’s campaign, with significant progressive energy, had out-organized Leno, as the 3rd Senate District Caucus voted overwhelmingly to endorse Migden for re-election. Not that there wasn’t drama. When Carole was introduced to speak, Leno shills began to holler “Nine million dollars,” a reference to the counter suit brought by the FPPC against Migden in response to a dispute over campaign funds.

The smear was on.

Shortly after the vote, Leno operatives descended on unsuspecting delegates with a parade of hit-pieces against the Senator, asking for the Convention to overturn the endorsement of the caucus. With messages like “On Carole Migden… JUST VOTE NO!!!” and “She is NOT Worthy of Endorsement,” BMW finally convinced Leno to go public with his negative campaign, depositing Mark’s “Clean Campaign Pledge” into the dustbin. John Whitehurst is not kidding when he promotes his tenacious approach.

Senator Carole Migden waves a copy of a hit-piece
distributed by Mark Leno supporters during the CDP convention.

But with yesterday’s ruling in federal court, it appears that Carole was right about her dispute with the FPPC over their move to freeze her campaign funds. Given the cozy relationship between BMW’s Mark Mosher and Governor Schwarzenegger, one can’t help but wonder whether Migden’s problems with the FPPC have more to do with partisan politics than campaign finance laws.

We’ve witnessed a lot of Republican dirty tricks over the years. Now the Republican Chair of the FPPC, Ross Johnson, may be using the power of his seat to try to knock out one of the most progressive members of the State Senate. This would come as no surprise to those that followed Johnson’s career in the legislature as Republican leader, oftentimes battling then-Assemblymember Migden. Maybe he too is taking his cues from the political consulting and lobbying firm of Barnes, Mosher, and Whitehurst.

As Republican dirty tricks are employed by the Leno campaign to attempt to unseat Senator Migden, progressives should remember how Carole has used her position in Sacramento to favor progressive candidates and causes in San Francisco. As we approach critical Supervisor races this November, progressives need Carole in Sacramento to deliver.

Chris Daly

Chris Daly is the Political Director for SEIU Local 1021, a union of over 50,000 public sector and non-profit workers. He served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 2001-2011 and owns and operates The Buck, a bar and grill on Market Street.

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and Republican Dirty Tricks
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  1. One thing that should be added here, Chris. This wasn’t about local organization, this was about incumbent protection. Over 15% of the state central committee was in the 3rd Senate district for this convention. There were 272 delegates in the 3rd district amongst the approximately 2200 delegates in total. I had friends who had their appointments taken away down in SoCal so that those Senators could appoint people in the 3rd district.

    This is neither a grassroots groundswell nor a feat in organizing. It is just the opposite. It is the Senate bosses saying that nobody dare challenge an incumbent. If that’s the case, why bother with the 4 year terms, let’s just give them the full 8 years they can serve and be done. The election is just a waste of money. It is wrong on so many levels. I would hope, Chris, that you would be able to see how the Senate’s manipulation of the party rules would be bad for local activists.

  2. well i hate to admit but the repub chair is probably right!
    we tear ourselves – but paul – your wrong and dead wrong – as chris states the senator put a stop to something that was not even aprroved by her – and there is a huge difference when -go after someone on something related to their disablity – such as treatment for cancer- stating that she raped marin with her driving
    has nothing to do with her progressive legislation it has to do with her cancer treatment, and is a far lower -and this hang up with her what has been reffered to as a ghost vote over again something related to CANCER cuasing make up and the repub was fine with her actions and was going to vote against ,wake up! its about cancer causing make up – this is beyond insultive to cancer survivors – and in the least stating that her driving raped marin – is a huge insult to survivors of rape – we know who plays dirty and didnt keep their word in the worse way! and the it has been ruled that this filing is unconstitutal -to boot – team leno let down the milk club by their attack and broke their oath to the lbgtq community! this is not what we look for in leadership.

  3. Oh, to Paul, the difference between the negative campaigning that you reference and what I saw last week from Leno is that the Migden mud was tossed by an overzealous supporter. My understanding is that Migden personally called that supporter to get him to stop. Then, he stopped. The Leno mud was orchestrated, resourced, and approved by the campaign (and thus, the candidate.)


  4. Thanks for the interest, Jerry, but I beseech you reread my post.

    I referenced Karl Rove one time, and that was in relation to Eric Jaye. We can still agree that Eric Jaye is no lefty, can we not? I did not besmirch Leno himself with the Rove moniker — just one of his campaign operatives.

    On that, I stand by my Rove reference with regard to Mr. Jaye. Read my blog from last year, Gavin’s Rovers,, for more on this. But I am wondering if your suggestion that a left on left Rove accusation is Rovian itself applies to you here as well?

    I also stand by my assertion that Leno’s campaign, captained by Whitehurst and Mosher, has been quite unsavory in tactics, especially since Team Gavin showed up!

    Further, I question Leno’s “left” credentials, based on the candidates that Leno works to elect for office. Very few are left candidates. Migden, on the other hand, has gone out of her way, time and time again, for lefty candidates.

    But it is nice to see you politically engaged again, Jerry, if but for a fleeting moment!

  5. There’s been enough to complain about on both sides of this fight, so I won’t get into that right now. I will say, however, that its getting pretty tiresome to see one faction of the left attack another faction of the left by alleging “Karl Rove” tactics.

    Karl Rove’s campaign specialty has been to come up with some allegation that so arouses the passions of a group that they will let their emotions take over and drive their actions. E.g., working class straight white people can be manipulated into voting against their class interests and supporting GW Bush by campaign propaganda arousing fear of LGBT people.

    In the SF Bay area, however, where political passions have a distinctly left flavor, saying a lefty politician is using Karl Rove tactics is itself a Rovian tactic. It arouses the passions of left leaning voters against the politician so accused and lessens the likelihood that they will think the issues through rationally.

    Mark Leno is not a Republican and his campaign is not using Republican campaign tactics any more than are the campaigns of Migden and Nation. Give it a rest and focus on the issues.

    I, for one, think this contest has made both Leno and Migden much more responsive to their constituents in their effort to attract voters and establish their bona fides.

  6. C’mon Chris. I usually don’t comment on Democratic primaries. However, blaming Republicans for the strategy and tactics of two Democrat career politicians is ridiculous. The bad blood between them goes back several years. And, Democrats are quite capable of sliming their opponents without any help. Just look at the Clintons.

    Howard Epstein
    San Francisco Republican Party

  7. GIVE ME A BREAK!!! … why is it a “hit piece” to simply reprint headlines from newspapers that state the obvious? So now telling delegates that the FPPC has fined Migden is a “smear”?

    I’m sorry, but trying to compare this with the “Kiddie Porn King” attacks that Migden supporters did to Leno is unbelievably pathetic.

    I remember when the Milk Club considered the “clean candidate pledge,” and for the record both Leno and Migden signed onto it at the time. So to suggest now that this was just Team Leno and they’re now hypocrites is simply untrue.

    At the Milk Club meeting, I asked what we meant by “negative campaigning” and specifically what the “clean candidate pledge” was meant to discourage. People agreed with me that not ALL “negative” campaigning is bad.

    There is a crucial difference between “negative” and “mud-slinging” — and everyone agreed that there’s nothing inherently wrong about saying bad things about your opponent that are true. It’s just when you distort the record in a way that debases and dehumanizes the process which is wrong.

    Basically, it’s the difference between a “criticism” and a “smear.” One is a legitimate form of political discourse, the other is not.

    Pointing out that your opponent is being sued by the FPPC for $9 million is not “mudslinging,” since all you’re doing is repeating what is public record.

    But calling your opponent a “Kiddie Porn King” by distorting a vote they cast in the State Assembly is one of the worst forms of gay-bashing I’ve seen in local SF politics in years.

  8. hmmm… was it not the team leno that came early on to the Harvey Milk club with a pledge for both lgbt canidates to not engage in dirty play? these hit peices, even to the babe in the woods, are a blanant disregard of agreements made, and their true alliances – and natures revealed. what are you worthy of when you cant keep your word to your own?

  9. I see your point, but let’s be real – Carole should be vanquishing all foes with her record in the Senate and her incumbency advantage, and yet her campaign to date has been almost a textbook case in how NOT to run for re-election.

    At some point progressives need to stop citing conspiracy theories and cry about the other side, and simply beat them at the polls. Talk and spin and chatter and gossip are no match for people on the other side who have the determination and resources to beat the crap out of anyone in their way. There’s no “safe word” in SF politics, and progressives need to learn that if they’re going to succeed.