The District 8 dilemma

The Castro/Noe Valley district offers the sharpest contrasts between candidates — and is getting the least attention

Rafael Mandleman is clearly the most progressive candiate to in the D-8 race

Gabriel Haaland, a longtime queer labor activist, was talking to a friend from District 8 the other day, chatting about the race for a supervisor to fill the shoes of Harvey Milk, Harry Britt, Mark Leno, and Bevan Dufty. "She told me that she didn't know who to vote for," Haaland said, "because she didn't know who the progressive was in the race."

For supporters of Rafael Mandelman, that's a serious challenge. "The polls are very consistent," Haaland said. "Most of the voters in D-8 would prefer a progressive over a moderate, and when they know who the progressive is, they support that candidate."

But oddly enough, although District 8 — the Castro, Noe Valley, and parts of the Mission — is one of the most politically active parts of the city, where voter turnout is consistently high, the supervisorial race is getting only limited media attention. The neighborhood and queer papers are doing a good job of covering the race, but for the rest of the media, it's as if nothing's happening. And that's left voters confused about what ought to be a very clear choice.

The San Francisco Chronicle featured the District 6 race on the front page Sept. 19, with a long story about how demographic changes in the South of Market area would affect the successor to Sup. Chris Daly. District 10, with the mad political scrum of 22 candidates, no clear front runner and endorsements all over the map, has received considerable media attention.

Yet D–8 — which offers by far the most striking distinctions between candidates and the sharpest divisions over issues — has been flying under the radar.

Three major candidates are in the race, two gay men and a lesbian. All of them, for what it's worth, are lawyers. Rafael Mandelman, who works for a firm that advises cities and counties, has the support of the vast majority of progressive leaders and organizations. Rebecca Prozan, a deputy district attorney, and Scott Wiener, a deputy city attorney, are very much on the moderate-centrist (some would say, by San Francisco standards, conservative) side of the political spectrum.

"As Barbara Boxer has said in her ads, the choice is clear," Aaron Peskin, chair of the local Democratic Party and a Mandelman backer, told us. "Not to exaggerate, but this is like Boxer v. Carly Fiornia, and Rafael is our Boxer."

Yet by almost all accounts, Wiener is ahead in the race.



The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has been roughly divided in the past decade between the progressive camp and moderate camp. And while those labels are hard to define (the Chronicle won't even use the term "progressive," preferring "ultraliberal"), most observers have a basic grip on the differences.

The moderates, who tend to support Mayor Gavin Newsom, are social liberals but fiscal conservatives. They talk about the city surviving budget red ink without major tax increases. They talk about controlling government spending and increasing public safety. The progressives generally see local government as underfunded after four years of brutal cuts and support the idea of raising new revenue to fill the gap. They support tenants over landlords, seek stronger protections for affordable housing, support Sanctuary City, and oppose sit-lie.

Certainly with Wiener and Mandelman, it's abundantly clear where the candidates fall. The two agree on some things (they both oppose Prop. B, the pension-reform measure that would reduce health care payments for the children of city employees) and they both support nightlife. But overall, they take very different political stands.

Wiener told us, for example, that the city's structural budget problems won't be solved without cuts. "We're not going to able to tax our way out of this," he said in an endorsement interview. "We have to lower our expectations for government."

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