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Friday, December 3, 2021

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News + PoliticsA 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.


48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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.
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