The Battle for the Board

Written by Chris Daly. Posted in News, Opinion, Politics

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Published on August 03, 2008 with 22 Comments

District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly
Photos by Luke Thomas

By Chris Daly

August 3, 2008

With the August 8th filing deadline rapidly approaching, it’s fish or cut bait time in the hotly contested races for Supervisor.

The last week of July brought us two early indicators of campaign strength– signatures in lieu of filing fees and six-month fundraising totals. Even the strongest grassroots campaigns need to raise tens of thousands of dollars to print literature, pay office and phone bills, and send mail. Our new system of public financing, however, greatly levels this playing field, making $87,500 in public monies available to candidates raising $52,500 in contributions from San Francisco residents. (Additional public dollars are available if the voluntary spending limit is broken.)

Signatures in lieu of filing fee are far more valuable to campaigns than the $.50 waived by elections for each valid signature. They represent voters more likely to support the candidate and typically get rolled into campaigns’ “get out the vote” program. They also are a good show of on-the-ground campaign strength.

While the ability to collect signatures doesn’t necessarily equal success, the inability to put together a successful signature drive is a distress signal of a flagging campaign. Signatures and fundraising taken together help frame the races, and, with the exception of District 5, it looks like we have a bunch of interesting head-to-head contests.

District 1
It’s been clear for some time that School Board Commissioner Eric Mar has the inside line to the Richmond Supervisor seat. Eric carries the support of the incumbent Supervisor in addition to the operation that twice elected him. Mar easily carried District 1 in his reelection to the School Board with over 10,000 votes and is revered in progressive circles. The outstanding question that may have been answered with the latest fundraising reports is who downtown would prop-up against him.

That challenger appears to be Planning Commissioner Sue Lee. Lee is the beneficiary of donations from Jim Lazarus and Roberta Achtenberg from the Chamber of Commerce, Doug Chan, William Cleveland from BOMA, Nathan Nayman, and a bevy of downtown developers and land use attorneys. They have collectively made the statement that Sue Lee is their candidate. Even so, with the benefit of public financing, Mar remains competitive with Lee in the money race – each reporting about $30,000 cash, free and clear.

District 3
In the early going, the race to replace Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin is largely a money game. Two left of center candidates, David Chiu and Denise McCarthy each posted big totals with $75,000 and $100,000 cash on hand respectively. Meanwhile Tony Gantner and Lynne Jefferson are both accessing public financing, which will help them keep up. Joe Alioto, Jr. and Claudine Cheng are vying for downtown’s backing.

District 4
Perennial campaign veteran Ron Dudum believes that a fourth time is the charm in his run against appointed Supervisor Carmen Chu. Dudum came up just short in his last two efforts. He lost a tough run-off to Fiona Ma in 2002 and was edged by 53 votes on the first round of voting in 2006. With the help of public financing, Dudum is sitting on a $74,000 campaign nest egg. Chu has already burned through $50,000, giving Dudum close to a $20,000 cash-on-hand advantage.

District 5
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi will coast to an easy reelection. The outstanding question is whether Ross can carry his Clean Energy measure across the finish line with him.

District 7
In what now may be the most intriguing race, I have confirmed that former Supervisor Tony Hall will be mounting a seismic challenge to his former Legislative Aide, Sean Elsbernd. This one is loaded with politics and personal vendettas, originally set up with Gavin Newsom’s Triple Play and then ouster of Hall from the Treasure Island Development Authority. It promises to be a teacher-student slugfest reminiscent of Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski in style and substance.

Elsbernd is sitting on $150,000, and as Newsom’s top dog on the Board, will certainly have the full weight of the administration and downtown behind him. But if anyone can beat Elsbernd, it’s his old-school former boss who is still well liked in the West of Twin Peaks.

District 9
In San Francisco’s most progressive district, this race was initially billed as a street fight between neighborhood leader Eric Quezada, Police Commissioner David Campos, and School Board President Mark Sanchez. But the early returns suggest that this may be a two-person race. While David Campos and Eric Quezada have proven their mettle in both fundraising and signature gathering, the campaign for Mark Sanchez has been largely a non-starter – collecting only 195 valid signatures and raising less than $10,000. Even with a recent disbursement of public funds, Sanchez trails Quezada by over $20,000. More concerning for Sanchez is the lack of excitement in the District for his campaign. While Mark has been a true progressive champion on the School Board, he doesn’t seem to have the fight necessary to compete and win in a hardscrabble Supervisor race. For the sake of the progressive cause, I have asked Mark Sanchez to consider dropping out of the D9 race so that he can run to hold his seat, and the progressive majority, on the School Board. This would limit ballot exhaustion in the ranked choice voting Supervisor race and improve Quezada’s chances against the more center-leaning Campos.

On a happy footnote, congratulations are due to Eric Quezada and Lorena Melgarejo on the birth of their baby Ixchel!!

District 11
This race shaping up to be a classic San Francisco political battle between long-time neighborhood leader John Avalos and the Mayor’s proxy Ahsha Safai. John Avalos is not just a long-time District 11 resident and activist, he’s a seasoned advocate for working class families and children. John worked for Colemen Advocates for Children and Youth as well as Justice for Janitors and has been at the center of efforts to keep working class families in the City. John has watched over children and families through the last four City budgets. He’s spearheaded violence prevention efforts and fought for high quality childcare and immigrant rights. Meanwhile, Ahsha Safai, who has been in real estate since leaving the Mayor’s Office, claims to be “a passionate advocate for children and working families,” on his campaign website. I guess that John’s marquee issue must be resonating with the voters of District 11.

Like the District 9 race, a high profile contender, College Board Trustee Julio Ramos, doesn’t seem to be getting any traction in the district. Ramos was only able to collect 223 signatures, and despite a big fundraising push, still trails Avalos in cash on hand. Even though he’s the only elected in the D11 race, Ramos didn’t even get a mention in the Chronicle’s synopsis of the race. Ramos’s candidacy is dangerous for progressives, because it could cost Avalos votes in the Latino community through exhausted ballots. Meanwhile, Ramos is risking a precious progressive seat on the Community College Board to make his run for Supervisor. Like Sanchez, Ramos has been a good progressive and should take progressive responsibility and do the right thing.

Battle for the Board
I’ve made it no secret that I have endorsed Eric Mar, David Chiu, Ross Mirkarimi, Eric Quezada, and John Avalos for Supervisor. I think they are the strongest and best progressive candidates. Each passes the early tests of fundraising and organizational strength. If elected, we will have a real progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors. If either Ron Dudum or Tony Hall are able to upset Gavin-appointed incumbents as well, it will be a shot louder than any heard in San Francisco since the sweep of the 2000 Board races.

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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Comments for The Battle for the Board are now closed.

  1. NorthBeachNeighbor:

    I’m a proponent of public financing so I’ve asked several candidates and done my research on this topic.

    Get your facts straight.

    David Chiu IS accepting public financing and therefore public financing spending limits.

    Denise McCarthy is NOT accepting public financing per her written signed statement submitted to the City stating her intentions.

    It’s unclear if Claudine Cheng and Joe Alioto Jr. will accept public financing or not. Since I don’t know whether they will take public financing, I won’t make up facts like you.

    Now that some facts are clear, why don’t you now applaud Peskin for standing by his progressive values with his endorsement of David Chiu – a candidate who supports and is participating in public financing?

  2. Aaron Peskin has said many times that as a progressive he is a huge believer in public financing and that he would NEVER support a candidate who did not take public financing. But now he is supporting a candidate, David Chiu, who is not taking public financing. I guess Peskin’s progressive promises and values are much less important than his personal interests, when there is power and money to be gained.

  3. This is the kind of lack of backbone that will define a post-progressive San Francisco Board of Supervisors if candidates like Campos, Chiu and Walker prevail in the coming elections.

    There was no compromise by Planning, Walker is simply saving face after getting rolled by Planning. That she agrees with developer pimp Brett Gladstone demonstrates that the only point of this exercise is for the individual to be the one calling the shots, irrespective of what shots she is calling.

    ‘”If everyone follows through with this plan it will get the city a lot of jobs and create some infrastructure,” said Debra Walker, an artist and community activist who lives in the northeast Mission neighborhood. “It’s a good compromise, if everyone does what they say they will do.” ‘

    ‘Gladstone and Walker each said the city was wise to use a flexible definition for the kinds of businesses allowed in zones where only industrial uses are allowed. ‘

  4. Jerry: I agree with you about the importance of following the money on campaign contributors to various candidates.

    I wouldn’t be so alarmed by one or two contributions because you never know about someone’s personal versus political relationships.

    However, I’m quite alarmed by McCarthy’s pattern of contributions from local SF residents who have fought against important issues and candidates I care about.

    Republican Don Fisher’s anti-public transit Prop H could have set back SF’s transit-first policy decades.

    Republican Warren Hellman, despite his occasional although rare good political positions, typically pushes corporate and downtown interests.

    And Republican Dede Wilsey is a major McCain supporter and was hosting fundraisers to defeat Question Time to hold the Mayor accountable.

    The list goes on and on…essentially the prominent universe of business elite socialites like the Guggenheims and Newsoms.

    As a tenant, I’m concerned that McCarthy, when push comes to shove on key tenant and progressive issues, will side with those who already have power in this City – the business elite socialites who already have access to power because they can throw their money around and lavish candidates with fancy fundraisers.

    But despite these reasons for alarm, I’m more curious as to her positions on the Ellis Act, clean energy, affordable housing set-aside, Don Fisher’s Prop H and Presidio land grab, JROTC, and who else she’s supporting for various elected office in this election cycle.

  5. Paul this is what I have been saying all along, “follow the money”. The follow the feathers of the bird. Wilma Pang seems to be the cleanest bill of heath here.

  6. I wonder how many other McCarthy contributors have been regularly on the other side of local progressive causes and candidates.

    The sources of these contributions, especially from the likes of Republicans like Don Fisher, Warren Hellman, and Dede Wilsey, make me wonder where McCarthy’s true loyalties might be.

    Taking money from people involved with the SF Apt Association and anti-rent control interests make me wonder if McCarthy will be a progressive tenants advocate. When push comes to shove, will she side with landlords and big developers, or tenants and neighborhood activists?

    And McCarthy used to serve as an aide to Supervisor Quentin Kopp. Kopp was known as a very conservative elected official – at least by San Francisco standards.

    By the way, I realized that my first comment confused Prop G with Prop H. Prop H was Republican Don Fisher’s anti-public transit scheme.

  7. Here are some more Denise McCarthy contributors:

    Janan New (head of the SF Apartment Association)
    Brook Turner (head of Coalition for Better Housing)
    David Wasserman (landlord attorney)
    Bill Maher (fmr. anti-rent control Supervisor)
    Patrick Kennedy (big-time Berkeley developer)
    Carmen Policy (ex-owner of the 49ers)

  8. Chris:

    What do you know about “left of center” candidate Denise McCarthy?

    I don’t know much about her beyond the information on her campaign website.

    Since she’s raised over $100,000 in a short amount of time, I was curious about some of her financial supporters so I reviewed her campaign contributions online through the City’s database.

    Based on my cursory review of her contributors, it seems like her social and political circles are connected to many of the big-time monied, corporate, downtown interests in San Francisco – Don Fisher, Warren Hellman, Dede Wilsey, Arthur Rock, Eleni Taskopoulous-Kounalakis, and the Guggenheims.

    She’s even raised money from Gavin Newsom’s father William Newsom and Brennan Newsom.

    And I called Ethics and asked which candidates have declined public financing because I am a strong proponent of public financing as a way to level of the playing field, but also to enact spending limits to give true grassroots campaigns the best opportunity to win.

    Guess what I found out? Denise McCarthy has already declined to accept public financing which means she probably will break the spending limit caps making the District 3 race an unnecessary campaign finance arms race.

    But more important to me, I want to know her current positions on the revenue measures, tenant issues, clean energy, and the affordable housing set aside.

    I also would like to know, given her support from Republican Don Fisher, whether she worked to defeat Fisher’s horrible anti-public transit Prop. G and whether she now supports Fisher’s land grab in the Presidio for his private art collection.

    Anyway, I’ve got questions about Denise McCarthy and I’m hoping Chris or someone can help answer questions about her connections with the big corporate money in San Francisco and her actual policy positions.

  9. David Campos, Mark Sanchez and Eric Quezada should all endorse each other as a “1, 2, 3” choice. Meaning that they should tell each of their supporters to vote for the other two as their 2nd and 3rd choices. That should reduce ballot spoilage.

  10. Aug 5, 2008

    In case you missed it, on page 4 of today’sSF Examiner, “John Avalos: The former legislative aide to Supervisor Chris Daly corrected on Monday a mistake he made when filing his campaign contributions with the Ethics Commission on July 31.

    Instead of raising the $65,973 in contributions during the months of January through June, as he initially reported, the District 11 candidate for the Board of Supervisors said he raised $15,832.”

  11. I’m more concerned with exhausted land use policies in the Mission than with exhausted ballots, frankly.

    If downtown and the developers succeed in ramming an Eastern Neighborhoods rezoning through that ups heights with only minimal affordability, progressives might as well fold tent.

    One of the candidates for D9 supervisor has made it his life work to attend to land use issues in the Mission, but another observer has quipped that he has managed an inverted organizers success–uniting everyone in the neighborhood against him. And he managed to lose a race for the DCCC which bodes ill for his district-wide prospects.

    Like McGoldrick on the TA this week, that candidate is poised to get rolled by Planning and developers. Only on the left would that record of failure be rewarded and used as a springboard to greater responsibility.

    On Chiu and Campos, we’ve got to remember that they are products of Harvard Law School where people go to get programmed in the language arts designed to make you think that they agree with everything you do.

    Slick talk and lack of principles are the last thing that San Francisco progressives need now as we are fighting for our lives against a team that is playing for keeps.

    If we see a situation in 2011 where Campos, Chiu and Walker comprise the progressive core of the Board of Supervisors, then there will fire afoot to stop rampaging gentrification.


  12. Thanks for pointing out the wrong homonym, Greg. I’d make the change if I could, but its got to go through Luke.

    On RCV, just like any other system, it has its positives and negatives. I still believe its positives outweigh the negatives. The main positive, which was the primary message of the March 2002 Prop A campaign, is that it eliminates low turnout December run-offs, saving about $2 million for each election averted.

    The main negative of RCV is the exhausted ballots. As San Franciscans become more comfortable with this system, exhausted ballots will diminish, but there will always be some. The good news is that ballot exhaustion is less than the drop off in participation from November to December.

    But, again, ballot exhaustion is a reality that we should deal with strategically. In the cases of this year’s D9 and D11 races, there is the real danger that the strongest progressive candidate could lose votes that they otherwise would win due to ballot exhaustion. I have tried to help facilitate communication between Quezada and Sanchez and, if Mark stays in the race, I will strongly encourage a 1, 2 strategy.

    With that said, this is very different from the 2004 D5 race. David Campos is running a very strong campaign and has the support of Ammiano. He’s smart, disciplined, and “progressive”. With Mark in the race, David is clearly the front-runner. With Mark out, Eric would be the one to beat.

  13. Though not always expedient, a healthy democracy is about an abundance of choices. Voters and candidates in this election have all the necessary tools to do the right thing. If voters are too lazy to do the homework necessary to fill out their ballot and if similar-minded candidates don’t make the most of IRV by running in coalitions and, at the very least, succumb to the common sense of cross-endorsing each other, then it is their own fault if a bad candidate is elected. In any case, you shouldn’t discount voters’ intelligence and passion for an equitable democracy.

    In addition, by telling candidates not to run, you are effectively imposing a de facto straight jacket on democracy. Besides, it would be unconscionable for declared candidates to abruptly turn their back on their devoted supporters and financial benefactors for no other reason than that they are cowards and don’t have the willpower to get themselves elected in the first place.

    In addition, Chris, I think that it is odd that you made no mention of Emily Drennen. Did she drop out?

  14. It is puzzling that Chris would ask Mark Sanchez to drop out of the race, since Mark and Chris both have a history of doing the right thing in the face of powerful opposition. The District 5 race in 2004 proved that progressives need not fear a crowded ballot. That race had 22(!) candidates, many of them strong progressives. Ross Mirkarimi won, with progressives Robert Haaland and Lisa Feldstein coming in second and third. The outlook for maintaining a progressive in District 9 looks very good, as does the prospect of maintaining a progressive school board.

  15. Maybe the title of the article should have been “Battle for the Board Presidency.”

  16. Re: signatures in lieu race in District 3, David Chiu submitted 1,941 signatures to the DoE of which 1,300 were valid (source: SF Dept. of Elections). For comparison’s sake in D3, only 6 out of 11 of Chiu’s opponents actually collected and submitted signatures; they collectively obtained 1,362 valid signatures.

  17. oh and btw it’s “marquee” not “marquis.” just so ya know. we all make typos, its all cool.

  18. How funny! IRV was sold as a way for progressives to win all seats, and was sold as a way for less-funded candidates to somehow prevail!

    And now…’s a detriment? And “organizing” candidate cooperation is “difficult?” But it was sold to SF as a way to make campaigns LESS nasty and MORE about the issues.

    Funny. Too bad the joke’s on us taxpayers and voters. Oh well. Maybe we can come up with some other gimmicks to game the system for failing campaigns, eh?

  19. Mark Sanchez has been a good candidate for School Board and an even better Commissioner.

    A citywide base of support (with his work with Teachers for Change) plus a great ballot designation (Public School Teacher), has proven successful for 3rd and 4th place finishes.

    Not being a big fundraiser in competitive races is not necessarily fatal. This can be mitigated by a mounting a large grassroots campaign. Unfortunately Mark Sanchez has not demonstrated that he can put this kind of campaign together (ie. less than 200 signatures).

    Sanchez’s name ID is beneficial but less important than record in the district in a Supervisor race.

    Ranked Choice Voting is very useful when there are protest candidates in a race. However, in this particular scenario, with more competitive candidates that come out of similar political camps, RCV certainly will result in a number of exhausted ballots. I like the idea of candidate cooperation, but this is difficult to organize, because each candidate is vying to finish ahead of the other to get those 2nd place votes…

    Given this reality, it is not only appropriate, it is imperative for progressives to consider clearing the field to improve the chances of our strongest candidate.

  20. After 8 plus years of a disappointing Board of Supervisors, San Francisco is looking for change, none of the candidates Daly endorses represent change.
    The school district has an awful reputation and no matter what side of JROTC issue you stand the removal has been poorly handled, Eric Mar should be hanging his head in shame.
    David Chiu has proven that he is scared of Daly so will be a wet blanket on the board.
    Vote Change not the same old tired faces, let’s get a board who can make things happen for the people of San Francisco.

  21. Though I agree that it is important that progressive Supervisors get elected, I don’t think that anyone should be discouraged from running for office simply to give the other guy a boost. Such thinking doesn’t promote a healthier, more diverse, more accountable and more responsive democracy. Votes need to be earned, not taken for granted.

    Besides, you aren’t taking into account that, under IRV, candidates with similar ideologies can boost each other by running in coalitions and to cross-endorse each other.

  22. Chris, I haven’t sided with any of the 3 progressive candidates in District 9 — but to call on Mark Sanchez to drop out is ridiculous. Mark has a long history of not raising a lot of money for his campaigns (even by School Board standards), but still doing very well despite this obvious flaw at the polls. He’s the one candidate in the race whose been on the ballot before — and his name recognition in the Mission and Bernal Heights neighborhoods should help him tremendously.