The battle for District 6 - Page 2

A suddenly hot election could determine the balance of power on the next Board of Supervisors
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Mark Leno, who would likely support her if she runs).

"Anyone who knows Theresa knows that she is smart, a formidable candidate, can fundraise, and will run a strong race," Robert Haaland, a trans man and labor activist who supports Walker, wrote on a Web posting recently.

She's also, by most accounts (including her own) a good bit more moderate than Walker, Meko, and Kim.

LAW AND ORDER

Sparks doesn't define herself with the progressive camp: "I think it's hard to label myself," she said. "I try to look at each issue independently." Her first major issue, she told me, would be public safety — and there she differs markedly from the progressive candidates. "I was adamantly against cuts to the police department," she said. "I didn't think this was a good time to reduce our police force."

She said she supported Sup. David Campos' legislation — which directs local law enforcement agents not to turn immigrant youth over to federal immigration authorities until they're found guilty by a court — "in concept." But she told me she thinks the bill should have been tougher on "habitual offenders." She also said she supports Police Chief George Gascón's crackdown on Tenderloin drug sales.

And she starts off with what some call a conflict of interest: Mayor Gavin Newsom just appointed her to the $160,000-a-year post as head of the HRC, and she doesn't intend to step down or take a leave while she runs. She told me she doesn't see any problem — she devoted more than 20 hours a week to Police Commission work while holding down another full-time job. "I don't know why it would be an issue," she said, noting that Emily Murase ran for the school board while working as the director of the city's Commission on the Status of Women.

But some see it differently. "It would be as if the school superintendent hired someone to a senior job just as that person decided to run for school board," Haaland said.

Sparks' election would be a landmark victory for trans people. For a community that has been isolated, dismissed, and ignored, her candidacy (like Haaland's 2004 run in District 5) will inspire and motivate thousands of people. And it's a tough one for the left — opposing a candidate whose election would mean so much to so many members of one of the city's most marginalized communities could be painful. "A lot of folks will say that the progressives will never support a transgender candidate," Haaland noted.

But in terms of the city's geopolitics, it's also true that electing Sparks would probably move District 6 out of the solidly progressive column.

"If we lose D6, it's huge," Walker noted. "This is where most of the new development is happening, where law-and-order issues are playing out, where we can hope to save part of the city for a diverse population."

More than that, if progressives lose District 6 and don't win District 8, it will be almost impossible to override mayoral vetoes and control the legislative agenda. And that's huge. On issue like tenants rights, preventing evictions, controlling market-rate housing development, advancing a transit-first policy — and raising new revenue instead of cutting programs — the moderates on the board have been overwhelmingly on the wrong side.

Kim, for her part, doesn't want to talk about the politics of the 2010 elections — except to say that she's thinking about the race and will probably decide sometime in the next two months.