Editor’s Notes

Pub date June 16, 2009
WriterTim Redmond


In the midst of all that is bleak in the state of California and the City and County of San Francisco, I am having fun specuutf8g about what will happen when Gavin Newsom is no longer mayor.

It’s a fascinating exercise — and trust me, I am by no means the only person engaging in it.

The broad outline is that the race to replace Newsom at this point bears no relation to the dynamic that brought him into office. Back in 2003, the race was the progressives against downtown; Tom Ammiano, Matt Gonzalez, and Angela Alioto were competing for the progressive vote, and Newsom was downtown’s darling, running on a platform of taking welfare money away from homeless people. The Newsom-Gonzalez runoff was about as clear and stark a choice over political vision as the city could ask for.

Six years later, I can count four people who are getting ready to run, and none is much like either Newsom or Gonzalez.

Sup. Bevan Dufty, who is sometimes with the progressives and sometimes with the mayor, told me last week that he’s definitely running. He’s part of the board’s moderate wing, but isn’t the downtown call-up vote that Newsom was and clearly isn’t counting on the big-business world for most of his support. Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting has made no secret of his political ambitions and is putting himself in the limelight with high-profile statements about Proposition 13 and taxing the Catholic Church. He sounds pretty liberal these days, although his chief political consultant is Newsom (and PG&E) operative Eric Jaye.

Just about everyone in local politics assumes City Attorney Dennis Herrera will be in the mix. He’s had the advantage of not having to take stands on local measures and candidates (as the city attorney, he’s not allowed to endorse), and while some progressives see him as the most appealing choice, he’s not Ammiano or Gonzalez. And then there’s state Sen. Leland Yee, who is utterly unpredictable, sometimes great on the issues and sometimes awful — and is almost certainly going to run.

And right now, other than Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, who might or might not run and isn’t putting together any kind of a pre-campaign operation, there’s no obvious progressive candidate in the race. If Mirkarimi’s serious, he needs to be moving.

But wait: There’s more.

Assume for a moment — and whatever you may think about the guy, it’s not a crazy assumption — that Gavin Newsom is the next governor of California. (How? He beats Jerry Brown in the primary by running future vs. past, then beats any Republican, who will be saddled with the Schwarzenegger mess. He isn’t remotely ready for the job, but that’s politics.)

Gov. Newsom would be sworn in Jan. 4, 2011. David Chiu, president of the Board of Supervisors, would be acting mayor — until he convenes the board and somebody gets six votes to finish Newsom’s term. That decision could be made by the current supes, who hold office until Jan. 8, 2011, if they can meet and decide in four days, or by the new supes — and we don’t know who they will be.

The person appointed doesn’t have to be a supervisor. Could be anyone. Could be Chiu. Could be Mirkarimi. Could be Dufty. Could be …. Aaron Peskin. Just takes six votes. And then that person could run as the incumbent.

Don’t go thinking any of this is just idle chatter. There are political consultants all over town having the same discussions, today. *