Mayoral dynamics

Supervisors survey the tricky path to Room 200

SFPUC head Ed Harrington, Sheriff Michael Hennessey, Sup. David Chiu, former Mayor Art Agnos, Sup. David Campos, Aaron Peskin

Despite the best efforts of Sup. Chris Daly and some of his progressive colleagues to create an orderly transfer of authority in the city's most powerful office, the selection of a successor to Mayor Gavin Newsom will come down to a frantic, unpredictable, last-minute drama starting a few days into the new year.

The board has convened to hear public testimony and consider choosing a new mayor three times, each time delaying the decision with little discussion by any supervisor except Daly, who pleaded with his colleagues on Dec. 14 to "Say something, the people deserve it," and asking, "Are we going to take our charge?"

The current board will get one more crack at making the decision Jan. 4, a day after the California Constitution calls for Newsom to assume his duties as lieutenant governor — although Newsom has threatened to delay his swearing-in so Daly and company don't get to the make the decision.

"I can't just walk away and see everything blow up. And there are a few politicians in this town that want to serve an ideological agenda," Newsom told KCBS radio reporter Barbara Taylor on Dec. 16, two days after praising the board for its "leadership and stewardship" in revising and unanimously approving the city's bid to host the America's Cup.

Newsom and his fiscally conservative political base fear that the board's progressive majority will nominate one of its own as mayor, whereas Newsom told Taylor, "The board should pick a caretaker and not a politician — that's my criteria."

Some board members strongly disagree. "It's not his to decide. Besides, what's not ideological? That doesn't make sense. Everyone's ideological," Sup. John Avalos told the Guardian, a point echoed by other progressives on the board and even many political moderates in town, who privately complain that Newsom's stand is hypocritical, petty, and not in the city's best interests.

The Guardian has interviewed a majority of members of the Board of Supervisors about the mayoral succession question, and all expect the board to finally start discussing mayoral succession and making nominations on Jan. 4.

But whether the current board, or the newly elected board that is sworn in on Jan. 8, ultimately chooses the new mayor is anyone's guess. And at Guardian press time, who that new mayor will be (and what conditions that person will agree to) was still a matter of wild speculation, elaborate conspiracy theories, and backroom deal making.



A majority of supervisors say there's a simple reason why the board hasn't seriously discussed mayoral succession since it unanimously approved the procedures for doing so Nov. 23 (see "The process begins," Nov. 30). Everyone seems to know that nobody has the required six votes.

Avalos said he thinks the current board is better situated to choose the new mayor because of its experience, even though he voted for the delay on Dec. 14 (in an 8-3 vote, with Daly and Sups. Ross Mirkarimi and David Campos in dissent). "I supported the delay because we were not closer to having a real discussion about it than we were the week before," Avalos told us, noting that those who were pushing for Campos "didn't do enough to broaden the coalition to support David Campos."

For his part, Campos agreed that "the progressive majority has not figured out what it wants to do yet," a point echoed by Mirkarimi: "I don't think there's a plan." Sup. Sophie Maxwell, who made both the successful motions to delay the vote, told us, "There's a lot more thinking that people need to do."

"We do not yet have consensus," Chiu said of his reasons for supporting the delay, noting that state conflict-of-interest and open government laws also make it difficult for the board to have a frank discussion about who the new mayor should be.