The future of the DCCC

Pub date March 12, 2012
WriterTim Redmond
SectionPolitics Blog

Now that Aaron Peskin is retiring as chair of the Democratic County Central Committee, and is not even seeking re-election, the future of a realtively obscure but political important agency is very much up in the air.

Peskin had his share of critics, and he would be the fist to say it was time for him to move on, but he orchestrated the progressive takeover of the DCCC four years ago and turned it into an operation that helped get progressives elected to local office. He raised money for the party and kept the often (ahem) fractious progressive committee members going in the same direction. He was a leader — and without him, the left wing of the local Democratic Party is struggling.

Nobody has been able at this point to take Peskin’s place — and in the meantime, the moderate-to-conservative folks are moving agressively to take the DCCC back.

It’s going to be a fascinating race — Gov. Jerry Brown just signed a bill that changes the makeup of the committee, giving the east side of town more members. That’s because more than 60 percent of the Democrats in the city live in what is now Tom Ammiano’s Assembly district. (The east side district of Fiona Ma now includes more of the Peninsula.)

So 14 of the members will be elected from Ammiano’s district, and only 10 from Ma’s (more conservative) district.

But Peskin won’t be on the ballot, and incumbent Debra Walker has stepped down and won’t run (she’s been replaced by Police Commission member Petra DeJesus).

Meanwhile, among the more centrist people who have filed to run: Former Supervisor Bevan Dufty. Sup. Malia Cohen, School Board Member Hydra Mendoza, and former Redevelopment Commission member London Breed. Sup. Scott Wiener, a longtime incumbent, is running for re-election.

The left starts with a vote deficit, since all of the statewide and federal elected officials who are Democrats and live in or represent part of SF are automatically members. That means Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Jackie Speier, Attorney General Kamala Harris, state Sen. Leland Yee, State Sen. Mark Leno, Ma and Ammiano all have votes — and while they never show up, the elected officials send proxies, and other than Ammiano and sometimes Yee and Leno, they can’t be counted on to support progressive candidates and causes.

So progressives need to win more than a simple majority of the contested 24 seats, and while that’s entirely possible, it’s hard to see a full slate in both districts. At best, most progressive groups will probably endorse 12 candidates on the east side and eight on the west — and since the most conservative incumbents will likely win, as will Dufty, probably Cohen and quite possibly Breed, it’s entirely possible that the moderate wing will regain control.

There’s been some tension among progressives in the past few weeks, some arguments about who would best replace Peskin as chair. Animosity over those discussions was one reason Walker resiged. And while there are legit questions about which of the progressives would best run the committee, I fear the candidates were getting ahead of themselves. Because you can’t fight over leadership until you have a majority. And that’s going to be a bigger struggle than it’s been in quite a while.