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ElectionsCampaign TrailThe big billionaire-backed mayoral debate is becoming the Losers Show

The big billionaire-backed mayoral debate is becoming the Losers Show

Breed won't go. Peskin won't go. Lurie might not go. Here's what that means for the mayor's race.

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UPDATE: Manny has cancelled the Breed-Peskin debate.

The TogetherSF mayoral debate was supposed to be not only the formal kickoff for the fall election but something of a recognition that the billionaire-funded group is a real credible player in electoral politics beyond just tossing around money.

Instead, it’s rapidly becoming the Losers Show.

Breed and Peskin will have their own debate. That may send a signal about the mayor’s race.

In the process, we are getting some indications of how ranked-choice voting could impact the mayor’s race.

Both Mayor London Breed and Sup. Aaron Peskin have refused to participate in the debate, which was slated to draw 1,000 people in person and another 2,500 online.

Peskin, to the surprise of nobody, said that TogetherSF was far from a neutral party, but is clearly linked not only to a right-wing political agenda but to the campaign of Mark Farrell.

Some of the TogetherSF folks showed up to protest Peskin’s kickoff.

Breed dropped out because, according to her campaign, the organization is too close to Farrell.

The group is having a hard time finding a respectable moderator; Marisa Lagos, a KQED political reporter, was going to play that role but she has also backed out.

And now, it appears Daniel Lurie is on the brink of walking. From KQED:

“The only remaining independent journalist backed out,” Lurie said during a press conference where he announced his emergency shelter plan to address street homelessness. “If they are able to find one, I’ll be there.”

Good luck with that.

Peskin and Breed will, indeed, be debating Monday night. They’ll be together at Manny’s in the Mission. Perhaps Lurie will seek to join them.

(UPDATE: Manny now says he will focus on a future debate he’s holding with City Arts and Lectures. He said that this debate “was becoming a distraction” and taking attention away from the June debate, which will feature all five leading candidates.)

That would leave only Ahsha Safai and Farrell on the stage (if Safai doesn’t drop), a total embarrassment to TogetherSF. With Breed and Peskin at a competing event, it will appear that the much-promoted debate will be either a long press conference for Farrell or an event for losers.

Meanwhile, the Milk Club is celebrating the fact that all five major candidates are coming to that debate:

I have heard talk of the billionaires pouring money, maybe through TogetherSF, into an “anyone but Peskin” campaign. The idea: the conservative candidates could all work as a team, seeking each other’s second-place votes, in an RCV plan to make sure one of them wins.

But clearly, Breed has no intention of working with Farrell. She doesn’t even want to be on the stage with him; she’d rather debate Peskin. I don’t see her working with Lurie, either. Both of those candidates are trying to attack her from the right, and that’s the direction she’s been moving in for more than a year now. An RCV deal with them would be a threat to her campaign.

Frankly, and Breed doesn’t talk to me but I know her politics and history, I bet if she doesn’t win, she’d be just as happy with Peskin.

Safai is trying hard to distance himself not only from Breed but from the right wingers, playing up his labor background and support and, as recently as this week arguing that the mayor should be raising money for programs that help children and youth instead of for pandas at the zoo.

He’s not working with Farrell and Lurie.

The two of them together? Maybe. But remember, Lurie has no history of activism on political issues in this city, certainly not on the right-wing issues that Farrell is promoting. If he loses, he’ll still be heir to a billion-dollar fortune and can keep running his nonprofit. The anti-Peskin concept would mean these folks care more about issues than about themselves and their own political power.

Anyone But Peskin? Right now, I don’t see it.

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
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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