A rogue’s gallery of downtown power brokers and moderate politicians is lining up to give D10 supervisor-elect Malia Cohen money during a fundraiser at Democratic Party money man Wade Randlett’s house tonight (Wed/1). And while the group may be trying to buy the support of a candidate they didn’t support in the election, Cohen and some of her progressive supporters say she’s been open to developing relationships across the ideological spectrum.
“Fear not,” Cohen told us when we raised an eyebrow at the host committee, and she noted that most of those on the list didn’t endorse her candidacy. “It is a fundraiser event, and now that I’m a newly elected supervisor, I look forward to meeting everyone.”
The guest list includes Mayor Gavin Newsom, former Mayor Willie Brown, Sup. Sean Elsbernd, Assembly member Fiona Ma, Building Owners and Managers Association director Ken Cleaveland, lobbyist Sam Lauter, Brook Turner with Coalition for Better Housing, Kevin Westlye of Golden Gate Restaurant Association, Janan New of San Francisco Apartment Association, as well as building trades head Michael Theriault and Tim Paulson of the San Francisco Labor Council.
“That’s not my perception of it,” Randlett – who used to run the downtown political organization SFSOS – told us when we asked about downtown’s attempt to buy influence with a candidate who finished the campaign about $20,000 in debt. He also rejected the characterization that it was a high-roller event, noting that prices initially listed at $100-$500 have since been lowered to $50. “Anyone who wants to attend at any price is welcome,” he said.
“I think it’s smart of their part, because they didn’t support her in the election, to try to give her money in the end,” said Gabriel Haaland of SEIU Local 1021, which did endorse Cohen. “It remains to be seen where she’s going to land [politically], but it seems clear what this group is attempting to do, to influence her votes.”
Cohen also received endorsements from the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, its Chair Aaron Peskin, and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who says he isn’t concerned about the Randlett fundraiser. “I understand that she has been celebrating with people from across the ideological spectrum,” Chiu said.
Indeed, Cohen said she is anxious to get to know representatives of San Francisco constituencies across the spectrum, borrowing a line from Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American women elected to Congress, in calling herself “unbought and unbossed.” Cohen said, “I will do a great job representing everyone. I will protect the interests of District 10 residents.”
Randlett, who flamed out with SFSOS before reviving his standing as a top-tier Democratic Party fundraiser by being an early backer of Barack Obama’s presidential bid, told us that was a connection he shares with Cohen. “The only reason I supported Malia from the beginning and am hosting the event for her is that like me she was there for Barack from Springfield through election night, never wavered in her support for him, and continues to stick by him now, when fair weather friends are carping from the sidelines,” Randlett told us.
Paulson told us that Cohen asked him to co-host a fundraiser with Newsom – who Cohen once worked for although he didn’t support her in this election – and that he didn’t see the complete roster until a couple days ago. “I am surprised there was this list,” Paulson said of the groups that regularly oppose progressive candidates and legislation.
But Haaland said that labor and the left will also be reaching out to Cohen, whose lack of a strong ideological grounding and representation of a district slated for the city’s most ambitious redevelopment plans will make her a pivotal vote on the new board. “We have to do our best to reach out to her as well,” Haaland said.