Ken Garcia, who just loves to bash the left, announced in his Examiner column May 15 that the progressives in San Francisco are in disarray because we don't have a candidate for mayor. That's one way to look at it.
The other way and, like many things in politics, it's not entirely true but certainly not false is that the process for choosing a candidate in this wonderful yet still pretty young progressive movement isn't like anything Garcia would understand.
These days most candidates for public office tend to select themselves. You want to run, you go get the money and the initial support, and you announce. But it's a little more complicated than that for San Francisco progressives. A lot of people some elected officials, some community leaders, some hotheaded (and hardheaded) activists want to be consulted and want a say in the decision. It's not perfect democracy by any means, and it's true that the lack of an obvious front-runner speaks to a certain degree of disorganization. But I'm also somewhat pleased that we don't have a 600-pound gorilla demanding that the field be cleared. And Sup. Chris Daly's proposed progressive convention may not work perfectly, but at least it's a nod in the direction of the grass roots helping decide who will carry the torch.
Let's remember: it's been only seven years since the progressives finally ended three decades of stifling machine politics and cracked open the local system. Let's remember: for much of the 1980s and '90s, we had only self-selected candidates and unaccountable candidates for mayor. And now that the people who broke Willie Brown's iron grip on San Francisco politics in 2000 are ready to run for higher office, it's not surprising that they're a bit cautious about jumping the gun.
We all know what's going on: Aaron Peskin, Ross Mirkarimi, Chris Daly, and Matt Gonzalez have been approached and courted by all sorts of organizations and people. Peskin and Mirkarimi have said pretty flatly that they aren't going to run. Daly will if he has to. And in the Chronicle on May 16, Matier and Ross proclaimed that Gonzalez is out of the picture.
I'm not so sure that's true. I think Gonzalez who starts off with the highest name recognition, poll numbers, and fundraising potential is still taking a serious look at the race. I know he's holding some preliminary house meetings this week and talking to people who aren't among the traditional progressive voters. He's also talking to his friends and allies. And I think it's entirely possible that he could wind up deciding to go for it.
One very good thing that Daly has done is force that issue; if nobody else comes forward, Daly will announce at the convention, and then it will look lame and divisive for anyone else to join the race.
There are, of course, egos and personal agendas playing here; these are, after all, politicians, and (unfortunately) all of our major contenders are guys, which probably makes it worse. But again, let us remember: Daly, Peskin, Mirkarimi, and Gonzalez would all be good candidates. I'd be happy with any of them in room 200. They should all be happy with the idea that one of them could be the next mayor. And if we can all work together to pick a winner, then perhaps we can show the Ken Garcias of the world that this is a movement with legs.