The next mayor - Page 3

Can the left win, or will egos and infighting turn this into a huge missed opportunity?

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Players: Supes David Campos, Eric Mar, Ross Mirkarimi, Chris Daly, John Avalos, and David Chiu and former Sup. Aaron Peskin

This fall, the campaign to replace Daly in D6 turned nasty as both Debra Walker and Jane Kim openly attacked each other. Walker sent out anti-Kim mailers, and Kim's supporters charged that Walker was part of a political machine — a damaging (if silly) allegation that created a completely unnecessary rift on the left.

And let's face it: those fights were all about personality and ego, not issues or progressive strategy. Mirkarimi and Daly have never had any substantive policy disagreements, and neither did Walker and Kim.

In the wake of that, progressives need to come together if they want to take advantage of the opportunity to change the direction of the city. It's not going to be easy.

"We're good at losing," Daly said. "I'm afraid we're doing everything we can to blow it."

The cold political calculus is that none of the current board members can count on six votes, and neither can Peskin or any of the other commonly mentioned candidates. The only person who would almost certainly get six votes today is Ammiano — and so far, he's not interested.

"I know you never say never in politics, but I'm happy here in Sacramento. Eighty-six percent of the voters sent me back for another term, and I think that says something," he told us.

It's hardly surprising that someone like Ammiano, who has a secure job he likes and soaring approval ratings, would demur on taking on what by any account will be a short-term nightmare. The city is still effectively broke, and next year's budget shortfall is projected at roughly $400 million. There's no easy way to raise revenue, and after four years of brutal cuts, there's not much left to pare. The next mayor will be delivering bad news to the voters, making unpleasant and unpopular decisions, infuriating powerful interest groups of one sort or another — and then, should he or she want the job any longer, asking for a vote of confidence in November.

Yet he power of incumbency in San Francisco is significant. The past two mayors, Newsom and Willie Brown, were reelected easily, despite some serious problems. And an incumbent has the ability to raise money that most progressives won't have on their own.

Chiu thus far is being cautious. He told us his main concern right now is ensuring that the process for choosing the next mayor is open, honest, and legally sound. He won't even say if he's officially interested in the job (although board observers say he's already making the rounds and counting potential votes).

And no matter what happens, he will be acting mayor for at least a day, which gives him an advantage over anyone else in the contest.

But some of the board progressives are unhappy about how Chiu negotiated the last two budget deals with Newsom and don't see him as a strong leader on the left.

Ross Mirkarimi is the longest-serving progressive (other than Daly, who isn't remotely a candidate), and he's made no secret of his political ambitions. Then there's Campos, an effective and even-tempered supervisor who has friendly relationships with the board's left flank and with centrists like Bevan Dufty. But even if Dufty (who I suspect would love to be part of electing the first openly gay mayor of San Francisco) does support Campos, he'd still need every other progressive supervisor. Campos also would need Chiu's vote to go over the top. Which means Chiu — who needs progressive support for whatever his political future holds — would have to set aside his own designs on the job to put a progressive in office.

In other words, some people who want to be mayor are going to have to give that up and support the strongest progressive. "If there's someone other than me who can get six votes, then I'm going to support that person," Campos noted.