Thursday, April 15, 2021
News + Politics A new Democratic Party majority in SF shifts left

A new Democratic Party majority in SF shifts left

Big victories in supes races -- except for D5, where the Reform Slate is missing the big picture


The San Francisco Democratic Party showed a dramatic political shift last night as the progressives won most of the key endorsements – but not without a fair amount of drama and enough Parliamentary procedure to give Henry Martyn Robert a few posthumous heart flutters.

In the end, after several arguments about the rules, the DCCC endorsed progressive candidates in four of the six supervisorial districts and – in a victory for Kimberly Alvarenga – blocked any endorsement of real-estate-industry favorite Ahsha Safai in D. 11.

The vote in D5 – to endorse Sup. London Breed for re-election and snub tenant advocate Dean Preston – was expected, but still a bit embarrassing for the left, since several of the members of the Reform Slate that took control from the real-estate interests in June decide to support Breed.

The D11 vote was razor close:  In the end, since most of the “ex officios” on the panel were supporting Safai, Alvarenga knew she wouldn’t get the nod, so she pushed for a No Endorsement. The vote was 15 for Safai, and 15 for No Endorsement, with Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s proxy absent.  A tie vote means nobody wins, which meant that Alvarenga won.

The panel, which earlier (with different members) voted to endorse Paul Henderson, a mayoral staffer, for judge, agreed to add a dual endorsement for Victor Hwang – and that vote was a clear sign that the allies of Ed Lee can’t control the DCCC anymore.

It was fascinating to watch Tom Hsieh, one of the most conservative (and annoying) members of the panel, stuck on the losing side again and again, despite his efforts to use points of order to try to undermine what was clearly a panel that he and former chair Mary Jung no longer control.

Former Sup. Christina Olague speaks on the deep issues in D11
Former Sup. Christina Olague speaks on the deep issues in D11

Public comment, as we all expected, went on more more than 90 minutes, with the supporters of the soda tax well represented – and Alvarenga supporters also out in force. A delegation from the Latino Democratic Club, led by former Sup. Christina Olague, made a presentation about D11 that directly challenged the new members of the panel and the progressive leadership:

When Aaron Peskin recently ran for supervisor in District 3 against mayor-appointed Sup. Julie Christensen, the entire progressive community stood behind him, they made sure that Sup. Christensen was identified as Public Enemy Number One – the Latinx Community, we all stood behind him. Recently, we the Progressive Latinx Community worked hard to ensure that the DCCC became a more progressive body. We were proud to be part of the progressive movement that took back the DCCC from real-estate representatives. …

Why is Ahsha Safai so different from Julie Christensen or the leadership we recently replaced on the DCCC? Safai is a real-estate speculator backed by the real-estate industry …. How is this any different from Christensen? Throw in the mayor and the list is almost identical.”

That set the stage for what would be the most dramatic moment of the night.

The outcome in D1 was never really in doubt, since some of the moderates, including School Board member Rachel Norton, were with Sandra Lee Fewer, who won with 18 votes. The supporters of Marjan Philhour were unable to get enough votes to give her the second nod.

District three was clearly going to Peskin, who was the only candidate who qualified for DCCC endorsement. In most circumstances, the lone Democrat would get the endorsement by unanimous acclamation, but this is still a deeply divided party, so there was still a roll-call vote, with Angela Alioto, Tom Hsieh, and Mary Jung voting for No Endorsement.

District Five went to Breed overwhelmingly – with some of the candidates that the progressives supported in June joining the conservatives and going with Breed. Bevan Dufty, Pratima Gupta, Leah Lacroix, and Sophie Maxwell all voted for Breed. Peskin abstained. When the vote came to consider Preston as a second choice in ranked-choice voting, Gupta and Lacroix voted to endorse Preston; Peskin abstained again.

Sup. Norman Yee, again to nobody’s surprise, got the nod in D7.

District 9 was a resounding victory for Hillary Ronen. In the first round, she wound up with 17 votes – and her main opponent, Josh Arce, got only 3. There were 8 votes for No Endorsement. On the vote to endorse Arce as a second choice, most of the ex officios went with Arce – but he still got only 13 votes, and No Endorsement got 15.

And then to D 11.

Safai has been working this hard. His supporters, who include Chinatown organizer David Ho, had lined up all five of the ex officios, and were pushing for an endorsement that would have been a major blow to Alvarenga.

Alvarenga’s supporters were trying to block that – but nobody knew exactly how things would come down.

The votes were pretty much as expected – the conservatives went with Safai, the progressives with No Endorsement … and then the XOs went down the line with Safai. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Jackie Speier, state Sen. Mark Leno, Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu, and Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma all went with the landlord candidate.

Then everyone started counting – and the result was 15-15. There are 31 members, but Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s proxy was absent. So the result was No Endorsement.

One of the clear messages that came out of the voting: Chiu consistently sided with the most conservative elements of the party. He has defined himself as a solid member of the Scott Wiener-Tom Hsieh-Mary Jung alliance, and has lost whatever progressive credibility he may still have had.


Four people will be elected to the Community College Board, and of the five candidates, one incumbent – Amy Bacharach – failed to get the endorsement. The DCCC went with Rafael Mandelman, Alex Randolph, Tom Temprano, and Shanell Williams.

It took three votes to figure out who would get the nod for School Board. The first time around, the recording secretary, Rachel Norton, wrote the results wrong, and that required a revote. The second time, Norton, Stevon Cook, and Matt Haney got enough votes to be endorsed, but there were 16 votes for No Endorsement and 14 for Mark Sanchez, who is a favorite of the teacher’s union.

Much scrambling ensured. If DCCC members voted NE in two of the four slots, was that two votes for NE or one? Could the vote be rescinded? Could one member (Peskin, who didn’t vote for Sanchez) change his mind and change the outcome?

Wu ruled as chair that all the NE votes were cumulative. Bevan Dufty challenged that ruling, and lost. But the motion to rescind the vote and try again won.

And on the final round, the teachers’ union slate – Norton, Haney, Cook, and Sanchez – was endorsed.

So generally a victory for the progressives and a sign that all of the work to elect a new DCCC majority made a difference. But still: None of this matters if the mayor’s allies get six votes on the Board of Supes in the fall. And they know that the left needs to win all six seats – including D5 – to be sure of that majority.

Which means there are still some members of the Reform Slate and the progressive movement who are missing the larger geopolitical message here. If you can’t count to six after November, then things go back to the way they were before everyone put all their time and money into electing Peskin and changing the DCCC and creating a progressive majority.


Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.


  1. Want to know why rich developers companies write checks to politicians
    like London Breed. Its so they will privatize profits for developers and socialize debt on to the working class. For example, London Breed recently authored a “parking flexibility” ordinance that makes it easier for building owners and developers to avoid building car parking. The additional “flexibility” allow existing parking spots to be converted to other uses (like parklets) and lets developers forego building new parking spaces for new residential buildings. The ordinance was drafted with the help of Livable City (a lobby for real estate interests).

    By changing the rules about who can park on the street developers save loads money on their construction costs and increase their profit margins. Developers are not required to pass that cost savings on new renters and homeowners and they can still charge market rates for the building that has NO PARKING. Breeds new legislation ONLY benefits developers because the change in regulations shifts the residents transportation costs on to public transit which is chronically underfunded.

  2. There’s a legitimate argument to be made for not supporting the ballot measure system at all, but this dude isn’t making it, that’s for sure.

  3. While I can appreciate that and I agree with you, the question was of a mathematical nature and for someone like me who no longer lives in the Bay but periodically checks in on whether it’s getting better, I’m curious as to whether it’s needed to achieve a progressive majority.

  4. Well, I was looking at the entrails of goats but then I became a vegetarian (well, started dating one anyway) and it became troublesome.
    Now I’m working on a haruspex app to do it digitally.

  5. For those of us who live in D5, it’s essential to get London Breed out of D5 as she has not been representing our interests, and is clearly in developers back pockets

  6. Yes, I read it all as well. But when I’m reading the long Propositions in the Voter Handbook I find it is pretty easy to tell by who is for or against something whether I’ll agree. I’ve been at this a long time and it’s based on experience.

  7. You know that if you make your decisions in life based on strange factors like this you’re letting others who have a financial interest in the outcome of the election have a say, and you’re not going to really have had a say. I attended a meet and greet where it was clear that developers had infiltrated the group and gotten their grubby hands on there. So the votes were basically already cast before the discussions started. Someone like you would be swayed by the group think, however. Because you’re going by all of these strange factors.

    What’s next? What color socks the candidates are wearing is what decides it for you?

  8. I read anything and everything, Google, read articles, research, talk to people, figure out who I can trust. I’ve been going to events like the Democrats Club “Meet The Candidates”… and then I talk to people like you who say “meh, I’ll just vote how the pamphlet tells me.” Or “well, she’s a black woman, so she’s obviously got my vote.” And that’s how we got into this Ed Lee/London Breed mess in the first place.

    Think, people! Pay attention! Open your minds and don’t just go by the pamphlets or not the pamphlets. I know we’re all busy and there’s lots of good stuff on TV. But these things are important and they do affect our lives.

  9. Good point. However, I do read the handbook. If don’t fully understand it I tend to vote no figuring that will get the status quo. Sometimes the paid arguments will sway me. This time, there are so many propositions on the ballot my inclination is to rebel by voting no, especially on any tax items.

  10. So none of you like to think. You just use ooga booga mumbo jumbo to make your decisions? Sounds good

  11. There are many lazy voters who look at her as a black woman who grew up in the area and that’s all they need to see to continue to vote for her despite her poor track record.

  12. What’s going on in D5? Is this more LoHaMNA obstructionism?

    Someone needs to stop those idiots

  13. I won’t tell you how to vote, but I prefer having representatives who meet with constituents about current and future issues that impact them. Also, Breed’s pro-real estate and pro-Ed Lee posture doesn’t fit with the other candidates for supervisor who got the DCCC endorsement.

  14. Logical but ironic that the various sides’ propaganda is used against them.
    Another filter I employ is that who starts advertising on TV first is almost always the dark (money) side.

  15. Anything from the Sierra Club tells me who to vote against. With so many propositions this time I may vote no on all of them; with maybe an exception or two.

  16. New York City survived with a public advocate. Oh, and then the last one was elected mayor by a huge majority.

    Please provide me with all of the notices she sent to the affected communities re: upzoning two relatively poor stretches of two long streets to Neighborhood Transit Commercial Districts. Most people still don’t know about it – and especially what it entails for current residents.

    We don’t simply need more housing, we need to preserve existing housing and build a lot more affordable housing. Breed has failed on that. Her “plan” to increase the affordable housing requirement in the Divis NCT was only developed after a community group pushed her to do so. Her office repeatedly said they couldn’t increase the requirement but that was incorrect. The upzoning could easily increased the requirement (“If we give you more, you have to give us more.”) What Breed did come up with made it pretty clear developers would build none of the affordable housing since it would have been roughly the same cost for them to fee out. Finally, Breed’s plan became worthless for future projects after Prop C passed in June,.

  17. This is a total lie: “She upzoned both the DIvisidero and Fillmore corridors in her district without any input from (or even “outreach” to) her constituents.”
    How much more outreach could have been done, your issue was that most people understand that we need more housing and the decision did not go your way.
    London Breed has been a good district supervisor, I suspect you just don’t like change and so any supervisor who does not agree with you is bad.
    As for the Public Advocate think about this position critically weighing pros and cons and who much it will cost the city, I think you will find it is a very poor idea.

  18. I’d like to hear the justification for having ex-officio members on the DCCC. I suspect it’s pretty thin.

  19. The new and improved DCCC’s “allegiance” is ridiculous. Breed was opposed to Prop G (Ellis Act speculator tax) and Prop F (Airbnb regulations), and she failed to take a stand on Prop I (Mission moratorium).

    She upzoned both the DIvisidero and Fillmore corridors in her district without any input from (or even “outreach” to) her constituents.

    She has done nothing for tenants in her district (or elsewhere). Oh, except once it was clear she would be facing a tenant rights attorney in her bid for re-election, she decided to hold a tenants meeting last fall.

    She has ignored the requests by Midtown residents to meet with her as a group.

    She recently voted to keep too much power in Ed Lee’s hands. As Tim Redmond summarized it in 48 Hills: She opposed the plan to elect instead of appointing supervisors. She opposed public advocate. She opposed the idea of giving the board some appointments to the board that oversees Muni. She opposed setting some of the police budget on reserve to force reform.”

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