The next mayor may serve for 10 years. And candidates have 27 days to decide

The direction of this city for a decade could be decided by who files to run for mayor -- and Jan. 9 is the deadline

It was very strange to go to the Board of Supes Question Time today and not see Ed Lee.

I’ve concluded that under Lee, the idea of the mayor joining the supes for a real debate on policy has become a farce. (Hey: now that London Breed is both the mayor and the president of the board, she can change the rules so the next mayor actually has to answer real questions!)

Acting Mayor and Board President London Breed sits alone for Question Time

But the one advantage of the monthly ritual was that the mayor had to leave the board chambers after he does his pre-scripted thing, and then he had to walk back to his office – and along the way, reporters can ask questions, too.

It became something of an impromptu monthly press conference for a while, and I would go because I always had something to ask the mayor. Sometimes, I was the only reporter who showed up (“you’re a lone wolf again today,” Lee would tell me with a smile).

I have to give him credit for his attitude. So many former mayors were openly hostile to the working press. Our current acting mayor has had rather harsh words for critics, including calling 48hills “a bullshit-ass blog.”

But as I said earlier today, Lee would always treat me with respect, even when his press aides wanted him to get the hell away from me.

Today was December Question Time. I had planned to ask Lee if he supported a ballot measure guaranteeing every tenant facing eviction the right to a lawyer, and if he supported the repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Act, which outlaws rent controls on vacant apartments.

Instead, Board President and Acting Mayor London Breed sat alone at the head of the chamber. She praised Lee in terms similar to what she had said at this morning’s press conference. And then she went on with the rest of the meeting.

Help us save local journalism!

Every tax-deductible donation helps us grow to cover the issues that mean the most to our community. Become a 48 Hills Hero and support the only daily progressive news source in the Bay Area.

It was a reminder of the bizarre new state of local government: Breed can’t question herself. She’s on both sides now.

Lee became mayor under exceptionally strange circumstances: Gavin Newsom got elected Lite Guv, and the supes had the ability to replace him, and Sheriff Mike Hennessey, who was ready to retire, seemed to have the six votes. Hennessey would have been a real caretaker mayor, who would have stepped back and allowed an election that fall with no incumbent.

But then at the last minute, Bevan Dufty, who was the sixth vote, asked for a recess and went to talk to Newsom. Newsom asked Dufty to demand that Hennessey keep his staff, particularly Chief of Staff Steve Kawa, in place. Hennessey said he couldn’t promise that. So Dufty went back and voted for Ed Lee, Newsom’s choice, who wasn’t even in the country at the time and had to be talked into taking the job.

And after promising everyone that he would never run for a full term, he turned around and did just that. The city has suffered immensely under his watch. Some 400,000 San Franciscans left the city, many of them forced out, under the Lee Administration. He was a nice guy in person, but his policies were so tilted toward Big Tech that oversaw a wave of displacement that transformed the city forever.

(I’m going to give his legacy a few days. We will have a full, detailed report soon.)

Now we have another set of exceptionally strange circumstances.

Under the City Charter, Breed now runs both the Legislature and the Executive Office in San Francisco City Hall. That’s like allowing the Speaker of the House of Representatives also be President of the United States. It’s almost surreal.

And it can go on for months.

The supes can, with six voters, appoint an “interim mayor.” Breed is “acting mayor.” If she had six votes, they might have done that today – but on the other hand, why would she want to? She’s got the perfect situation, the most power at City Hall that anyone can possible have.

All the supes have to do is do nothing – which is easy – and Breed stays in the ultimate power position until June. There is no mandate that they appoint an interim mayor.

It’s not a good situation, and needs to be changed, but that’s how the Charter reads today.

It would take a pretty serious rebellion on the board to appoint someone else to the interim mayor job. And the timing isn’t good: The board won’t meet again until after the holidays.

And while the board is in recess, everyone who wants to be mayor of San Francisco has to get a campaign in place.

Breed doesn’t have to do anything if she doesn’t want to; she’s still the District 5 supervisor, and if she doesn’t choose to run for mayor, she’ll keep that job another two years.

If she wants to run for mayor, she will have to file by Jan. 9. If she files and runs and loses, she keeps her D5 seat. If she files and wins, she gets to appoint her successor in D5, who would have to run for the job in November.

I haven’t talked to any elected officials about this; they are all, properly, waiting for a while to let the city mourn before they jump out and begin a new political campaign.

But San Francisco has a very strong mayor, and the person who wins in June has a good chance of holding that job for 10 years. From 2017 to 2020, to fill out Lee’s term. Then, given re-election, from 2028. Ten years. It’s serious business. And there’s not a lot of time.

So here are some scenarios:

Mark Leno is already in the race. He was planning to run for the open seat in 2019, but he’s out there raising money and it would be a radical move for him to back off now and not contend in June. The person who wins this race will, as I said, have a major advantage when re-election comes up 18 months later, and Leno wants the job. A lot of current elected officials have already endorsed him.

So I assume Leno is in.

I would be very, very surprised if Breed didn’t file and run. She’s the incumbent now. As we saw with Ed Lee, incumbent mayors don’t like to give up the job. If she were to win, she would appoint the next D5 supe, who would face the voters in November.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera has a free shot now. If he waited until 2019, he would have to give up his current job, since the city attorney and the mayor are on the same ballot. Now, he runs and loses, he’s still city attorney.

If he were to run and win, he would appoint his replacement, who would have to face the voters in November, 2018.

Assemblymember David Chiu has no free ride. He has to run in the June primary for Assembly, and although he will have no opponent, he will have to decide by January if he wants to run for mayor and give up his Sacramento post. If he did that, then there would be an open seat and a June primary for state Assembly.

Does Sup. Jane Kim get in the race? There’s no downside since she’s termed out in the fall anyway – but she might want the state Assembly job if Chiu runs — or the city attorney job if Herrera runs (and wins). Former Sup. David Campos would be in the running for either of those positions too.

[UPDATE: Kim can’t run for city attorney, I have learned, since a candidate for that job must have been a member of the state Bar for 10 years, and Kim hasn’t reached that threshold.)

And of course, Sup. Mark Farrell has long been considered a candidate for mayor.

Tom Ammiano is probably the most popular politician in San Francisco today. He would be an instant front-runner if he got in the race.

Meanwhile, if Breed became interim, instead of acting, mayor, the position of Board of Supes president would open up – and that person would be a possible candidate.

The bottom line here is that progressives have lost every mayor’s race since 1987, when Art Agnos beat John Molinari (although you could argue Willie Brown v. Frank Jordan in 1995 was a progressive win). This is a very rare chance to profoundly change the direction at City Hall at a time when San Francisco is under immense pressure, when an entire culture and sense of community is facing eviction.

And I count 27 days to get candidates on the ballot.


  1. I think Tim Redmond is using what is called today “alternative facts.” Where he gets his 400,000 figure from is truly a mystery. And Tom Ammiano is the most popular politician in San Francisco today? Maybe among the Old Bay Guardian crowd but most people probably don’t even know who he is.

  2. Yes. Jake hand-picked Eric to run for BOE when he moved up to BOS. When Jake was termed out, he handed the BOS job to Eric. Sandra was picked by Eric for BOE when he went to BOS. When he was termed out, then Sandra became BOS for D1

  3. I wonder if Tim was riffing on a recent SPUR report about demographic changes.
    “Overall, about 1.7 million people left the Bay Area from 2010 to 2016 and almost 2 million people moved in,”
    Now the report talked about the whole Bar Area (using ACS CSA stats, which doesn’t have more granular detail – like for SF for instance).

    But, if SF “lost” 400,000, it gained about 20%, since the population has grown by tens of thousands recently. The other thing the article sez is that the people who are leaving are NOT the poor or working class, as much as higher income folk – pushed out by housing prices.

    Anyway, emotional dramatics – not journalism.

  4. The magnitude of that particular whopper is really something to behold. In a sense you have to give Tim credit for trying to get away with it. But I think he would be better of if he just said something like 250,000; something less than half of the total population. If half of the total population left there would be SOME evidence.

  5. So I heard Tim on KQED Forum today spout that “400,000 pushed out” number (like it was fact). I realize this is a “bullshit-ass blog” but, doesn’t it have any standards? And KQED’s Krasny accepted that like it was understood sf reasonable. I hate to go all “lame-stream media”, but … ???

  6. I don’t know, but I think it’s designed to take attention from their support for big market-rate development, and to help Trauss as she runs for supe.

  7. How? Were they protégés of each other?
    Newsom and Lee were hand-picked by Brown and pushed to run for Mayor. Breed was an old friend of Brown, and an appointee of Newsom.

  8. OK, it’s drafted and they are collecting signatures. It’s on the Dept. of Elections site, too.
    Anyway, I’m sure Tim will comment on it if and when it actually makes it to the ballot.

  9. in D1 we had Jake McGoldrick (Board of Ed, Board of Sup) hand off to Eric Mar (BOE, BOS), then to Sandra Lee Fewer (BOE, BOS). I get that.

  10. It only takes a minor issue to elevate someone’s visibility in the City.

    I had never heard of Marga Gomez until she viscously attacked Leticia Luna over the name of the restaurant in Ms. Luna’s building at 2300 Market.

  11. I think that’s what happened, but there was arm twisting, and real political insiders of that era were full of conspiracy talk.

  12. Ammiano as the most popular politician in the city made me laugh.

    Half the people reading 48 Hills only pretend to know who he is.

  13. It would be great for 48 Hills to review the Diane situation after the assassinations. Did she assume as President of the Board? Was she then appointed before she ran?
    I was here and don’t remember. Thanks

  14. I don’t know man, bigoted rants get old fast. Only reason I replied is to point out the irony in his nickname, but otherwise it’s a forgettable post content-wise.

  15. Reading his post, it seems that he is not pleased by the sight of parents with young children in his neighborhood. He also doesn’t think that he should have to share the streets with people having sexual preferences different than his own (“straight make-out scenes”).

    He blames this sorry state of affairs on arch conservative politicians. And the fact that Diane Feinstein had kind words to say upon Ed Lee’s passing is a real indictment of his tenure.

    All in all, it was an AWESOME post!!!!!!!

  16. Ammiano is old news and frankly Tim, I question where you get the idea he’s prolly “the most popular politician in the city right now.” Maybe amongst the long-term denizens of the inner-Haight and Bernal Heights, but most people have no idea who he is.

  17. The machine is one thing. The dynasty, with each mayor handing it off to the picked successor with no hope for the competition, is something that started with Brown. Brown steered both Newsom and lee to the mayor’s office. I don’t think Leno was their anointed successor, since he moved to Sacramento and distanced himself for Brown. Breed, an orthodox follower of the ruling policies and alliances, seems like the natural new dynasty candidate.

  18. You have my actions described exactly right. Thank you.

    I use the “block user” function for a few Disqus IDs. Commenters that I won’t even read what they type, let alone give their comment “I’ve read this one.”

  19. Hey, what do you know? A YIMBY once again unwilling to address the contradiction of backing anti-tenant candidates by changing the subject. Perhaps Tim hasn’t weighed on the ballot measure because it doesn’t have any substance to it? Affordable housing is already by right and streamlined in SF so this is merely some empty ballot measure for candidates to run on?

  20. SF YIMBY is currently running a ballot measure to make affordable housing by right in SF. Tim is curiously silent on the issue.

  21. LOL “Objective and Nonpartisan”. Reminds me of “Do something Nice”.
    Is that what you are striving one day to be so you put it as your moniker to remind yourself of your goals?
    My oh my, we’re at Breitbart levels over here.

  22. I’ve learned that too. S/He’s like The Observer from Fringe.

    “The Observer is a character in the Fringe (TV Series) Universe. He is any one among many, all known as observers, who view momentous events in history. Notably, they are bald, have no eyebrows, and wear dated clothes in the modern world.”

    I’m not implying you match the description, just the attitude. No disrespect!

  23. Of all the gushing eulogy-articles I’ve read for this man and their revisionist history of him stopping short of bestowing sainthood on him, the one name that is conspicuously missing is that of his corporate owner and for which he served as a puppet: Billionaire venture capitalist Ron Conway. The real person responsible for ruining this City with rampant gentrification and turning a once proudly-unique and Bohemian City into another Manhattan (a playground for the super-wealthy including lobotomized techie zombies glued to their phones 24/7) with the help of his puppet in City Hall. The real mayor, Mayor Conway must be feeling very concerned about now. (Don’t bother trolling me, because I won’t be responding to you).

  24. I owe Tom Ammiano and Mitch Katz a gratitude debt. I’d never had any organized healthcare as an adult until these two teamed up. If he needs a vote or his sidewalk swept, I’m his guy.

  25. But don’t think a Sanchez Resident upvote means s/he supports your comment. This is how s/he keeps track of comments read. It’s when everyone gets a Sanchez Resident upvote but you that indicates your comment is way off target.

  26. That is some juvenile logic. How about you and your yimby friends are instead responsible. For backing shady politicians who have done nothing to stop evictions when they had a chance to vote on legislation. It is completely infuriating that you all can’t own your own participation in gentrification–lashing out anyone except the most obvious neoliberal policies that privilege the affluent over everyone else.

  27. Nobody had be forced out Tim. SF could have added more housing on the West Side. You are the one responsible for the displacement crisis.

  28. Oh. You took the Red Pill.

    What about Ron Conway’s demand that 5 rent control tenants be delivered to his mansion every Sunday night for dinner (not as guests, as the main course).

  29. You’re not counting all of the people who were abducted and handed over to tech-company CEOs, then killed and their bodies rendered for their silicon-like tallow that was used to make human thought tracking devices.

    That accounts for the other 325,000 people, and Ed Lee personally handed each one of the victims to the CEOs.

    What’s left of their bodies became part of the Salesforce tower’s foundation.

  30. Also, maybe one to two percent move because they were evicted, and maybe another eight percent move for cheaper housing; but not necessarily outside the City.

  31. You need a history lesson. Brown was the second-generation of the (Phil) Burton Machine, which still controls ALL Democrats in this town. John Burton, Pelosi, Feinstein, Newsom, and Mark Leno. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  32. I read 48hills daily. The comments are the most amazing. I truly enjoy reading the articles, too. Please keep up the great content.

  33. Tim writes:

    The city has suffered immensely under his watch. Some 400,000 San Franciscans left the city, many of them forced out, under the Lee Administration.

    Yeah. Wow. Half the population left under Lee.

    According to the Census Department a total of 74,142 people left San Francisco County between 2011 and 2015 (the last year they have data for). The inflow was 100,835.



  34. The Brown Machine dynasty has been ruling SF for 23 years already. If Breed wins, we’re talking even longer. Is there a precedent for that in any other big American city?

Comments are closed.