By Luke Thomas
February 28, 2011
Confirming a rumor reported in December, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu formerly announced today he is running for Mayor of San Francisco.
During a morning press event that drew as many as 200 supporters to the steps of City Hall, Chiu said he is running for mayor to create jobs, to improve transit efficiency and to “have a conversation on how we creatively fund affordable housing.”
Painting himself as a consensus builder, Chiu said, “This campaign is not about the past and, for that matter, it’s not about the now. It is about the future. It is about how we’re going to come together.”
Chiu, 40, is the 24th candidate to enter the contest for the open mayoral seat. He is the son of Taiwanese immigrant parents, a former prosecutor and civil rights attorney. He earned his law degree from Harvard University.
Chiu, a self-described progressive, co-founded Grassroots Enterprise, a political consultancy firm with a client list that includes the Republican National Committee, Republican Leadership Council, US Chamber of Commerce, American Federation of Teachers, Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, and the Sierra Club. Citing a conflict of interest, Chiu divested his interest in the company when he won election to the Board of Supervisors in 2008.
Following his election to the Board, Chiu benefited from an unresolved grudge match between former Supervisor Chris Daly and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, becoming the first Taiwanese-American to head the Board. The Board composition at the time enjoyed a six-vote progressive majority. He was re-elected to the Presidency in January following the swearing in of the Class of 2010, a Board composition considered more centrist and congenial than its predecessor.
“Over the past ten years, City Hall has been a bit dysfunctional,” Chiu said. “We have had major accomplishments here at City Hall, but over the past ten years we have had way too many moments when our mayor and our Board of Supervisors haven’t been able to work together, haven’t been able to get the people’s job done, and this is why I ran for office and I’m so proud that now in my second term as President of your Board of Supervisors, the tone at City Hall has changed. We finally have an interim mayor and a new Board of Supervisors that is working together to balance our budget, to reign in our pension costs, to ensure our social safety net and to win the America’s Cup.”
In an effort to spur job creation, Chiu and Supervisor Jane Kim recently co-sponsored controversial legislation to encourage Twitter, Inc. to remain in San Francisco and not relocate to Brisbane. The legislation, should it be approved by the Board, would provide Twitter a six-year payroll tax exemption. Opponents of the legislation point to Twitter’s estimated $10 billion stock market valuation and the city’s $380 million budget deficit as reasons to oppose the exemption.
“I know having started a company how difficult it is to create a job and this is why we need to come together to create a 21st century economy,” Chiu said. “We need to build innovation. We need to stop being the bedroom community for Silicon Valley and actually compete with Silicon Valley by starting the next online companies, the next GreenTech companies, the next CleanTech companies. We are the city that built Burning Man and we need to be the city that values and nurtures our artists, our designers, and our writers and for those of you who represent small businesses in this city, we have to take care of our small businesses.”
Joining Chiu at the podium during his announcement, Supervisor Eric Mar said, “I represent District 1 in San Francisco and I am proud to stand behind David Chiu and to say that I’m one of the first endorsers of him in this campaign.”
“Also, as a leader, David Chiu has shown that he has the ability to bring communities together whether it’s Chinatown or North Beach to West side communities as well, so I know that he has an ability to listen hard to the differences and to find the common ground that is there within our beautiful city,” Mar added.
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority Commissioner Cheryl Brinkman added, “In working with the Board of Supervisors, David has shown real leadership on tough issues, really bringing people together to help solve some of the biggest problems in the city. David is a true leader on transit issues and he understands that San Francisco must be a world-class transit city. He’s really willing to take bold moves to make sure that Muni continues to improve and that the city is more accessible not only for transit users but pedestrians and cyclists as well.”
Planning Commissioner Christina Olague added, “I’m not here on any official capacity but I do want to lend my full support to David Chiu for mayor. I think it’s the right choice. Low-income communities of color and low-income communities not of color, have a lot of challenges here in San Francisco to stay in San Francisco and I believe that David Chiu is the right candidate to ensure that our interests are protected and we keep this city diverse economically, diverse racially, and in every other way.”
“I think David Chiu is the best choice for mayor and I believe that we’re going to be victorious in November and I’m proud to support to David Chiu. I do believe he supports all interests in San Francisco, not just those of the wealthier classes here,” Olague added.
Conspicuously absent from today’s proceedings was Chinese-American community organizer Rose Pak who stated in January Chiu is her first choice for mayor. “Anyone but [Senator] Leland Yee,” Pak told a flock of reporters during the swearing in of new members to the Board of Supervisors. Pak could not be reached for comment and is said to be in China.
Supervisor Jane Kim, who was endorsed by Chiu in last year’s hotly contested race for District 6 Supervisor, was also unexpectedly absent from today’s proceedings and has not, as yet, endorsed Chiu or any other mayoral candidate.
“[Supervisor Jane Kim] is not currently endorsing anyone in the mayor’s race at this time,” said Kim’s legislative aide, Sunny Angulo. “As a general rule, she doesn’t make early endorsements. She appreciates that people wait until everyone gets into the race.”
Some have speculated Interim Mayor Ed Lee, who has close ties to Rose Pak and former Mayor Willie Brown, is being courted to enter the race despite Lee’s publicly stated position that he is not interested in running for mayor.
“I think they are still holding out for Ed Lee,” said Supervisor John Avalos, referring to Pak, Brown and Kim.
Chiu, a relative newcomer to the big leagues in San Francisco politics, faces stiff opposition from Senator Leland Yee, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Assessor-Record Phil Ting and former Supervisors Bevan Dufty, Michela Alioto-Pier and Tony Hall.
Referring to Instant Runoff Voting, Chiu said, “I think IRV is a system that will foster a positive campaign. I think it’s a system that will give our residents multiple choices and I look forward to campaigning under ranked-choice voting. I have reached out to candidates and we’re all looking forward to, hopefully, a very positive campaign.”
Senator Yee, who has strong West side support and several election victories to his name, is considered the early frontrunner in the ranked-choice race. By design, insiders believe, Chiu and Ting’s candidacies will go some distance in peeling off first-place Asian-American votes votes from Yee.
“I welcome David into the race for Mayor,” Yee said in statement. “His perspective will certainly be valuable in this discussion with the people of San Francisco. As I said when Phil Ting, Tony Hall, and Michela Alioto-Pier entered the race, my commitment is to run a different kind of campaign for Mayor – to work with other candidates to present real choices and options for voters. I shared that sentiment when I called David Chiu today to wish him well.”