The entire movement needs to be better about developing and promoting candidates for citywide office. But right now the issue on the table is this: who should the progressives, the independents, the neighborhood activists, the tenants, the people who have been dispossessed during the Newsom years, who don't like the prospect of this mayor waltzing into another term atop a landslide majority, vote for Nov. 6?
We aren't in the habit of endorsing for a big-league elective office people who haven't put in their time in the minors. And Newsom's challengers are not exactly a varsity squad. But many of them are raising important issues that Newsom has ignored, and we commend them all for taking on the difficult task of mounting a campaign against a mayor who most observers say is unbeatable. Our endorsements are, to be honest, protest votes but we hope they'll send a message to Newsom that there are issues, communities, and ideas he can't just ignore after his coronation. The smaller the mayor's margin of victory and the more votes the candidates who are pushing the progressive agenda collect, the less of a mandate Newsom will take into a second term that could be a truly frightening time.
Quintin Mecke has the strongest progressive credentials and by far the best overall approach to issues facing the city. He's never held elective office (and had never run before), but he's been involved in local politics for a decade. A volunteer with Tom Ammiano's campaigns for supervisor and mayor and with Gonzalez's mayoral campaign, Mecke went on to serve on the civil grand jury and the task force on redistricting, where he helped stave off attempts to chop up progressive supervisorial districts. He helped organize the South of Market Anti-Displacement Committee and now runs the Safety Network Partnership, a nonprofit that works to fight crime and violence in the city's neighborhoods. He's on the committee that monitors the city's homeless shelters.
Mecke told the Guardian that "it's hard to find an innovative, non-PR-type initiative out of the Mayor's Office." He supports community policing, a progressive gross-receipts tax that would exempt small businesses, and a moratorium on market-rate housing until the city can determine how it will build enough affordable units. He complains that there's no standard of care in Newsom's homeless shelters. He opposes the privatization of public programs and resources.
Mecke tends a bit to bureaucratspeak; he talked about "horizontal conversations" instead of taking some issues head-on. And we're concerned that he didn't seem serious or organized enough to raise the modest amount of money it would have taken to qualify for public financing and mount a more visible campaign. But he's a solid candidate, and we're happy to give him the nod.
Ahimsa Porter Sumchai is a remarkable success story, an African American woman who grew up in the housing projects and wound up graduating from UC San Francisco's medical school. She's running primarily on the issue of environmental justice for southeast San Francisco and for years has been one of the loudest voices against the flawed Lennar Corp. redevelopment project at and the reuse plan for the contaminated Hunters Point Shipyard. Sumchai says the shipyard can never be cleaned up to a level that would be safe for housing, and she suggests that much of it should be used for parks and open space and possibly maritime and green-industry uses. She's highly critical of the low levels of affordable housing in market-rate projects all over the city, arguing that the developers should be forced to provide as many as 25 percent of their units at below-market rates. Sumchai is a physician, and she talks like one; her scientific language and approach sometimes confuse people. She suggested that one of the main causes of the homicide rate in the city is mental illness.