The news you need to know this week: Herrera takes some flak, but pushes right back, while property interests reveal their support for Prop. E
Hit pieces are common in San Francisco politics. So, sadly, are negative mailers funded by outside independent expenditure committees that can raise unlimited money.
But it's highly unusual for an organization devoted to electing queer candidates to fund an attack on a candidate who is endorsed by both leading LGBT organizations and is, by all accounts, an ally of the community.
That's what happened last week when the Washington-based Victory Fund — the leading national organization for LGBT political candidates — sent out a bizarre mailer blasting City Attorney Dennis Herrera for taking money from law firms that do business with the city.
The Victory Fund has endorsed former Sup. Bevan Dufty, who is the most prominent LGBT candidate in the mayor's race. That's to be expected; it's what the Victory Fund does.
But why, in a race with 16 candidates, would the fund go after Herrera, who has spent much of the past seven years fighting in court for marriage equality? Why try to knock down a candidate who has the support of both the Harvey Milk Club and the Alice B. Toklas Club?
It's baffled — and infuriated — longtime queer activist Cleve Jones, who is a Herrera supporter. "I have long respected the Victory Fund," Jones told us. "But I've never seen them do what they did here. And it's going to undermine the fund's credibility."
Jones dashed off an angry letter to the fund's president, Chuck Wolfe, saying he was "appalled that this scurrilous attack, in the waning days of a mayoral campaign, would go out to the San Francisco electorate under the name of the Victory Fund.
"You really screwed up, Chuck, and I am not alone in my anger."
We couldn't get Wolfe on the phone, but the fund's vice president for communications, Denis Dison, told us that the mailer "is all about fighting for our endorsed candidates."
So how does it help Dufty, in a ranked-choice election, to attack Herrera? (In fact, given the dynamics of this election, the person it helps most is probably Mayor Ed Lee). Dison couldn't explain. Nor would he say who at the fund decided to do the attack mailer.
But there are a couple of interesting connections that might help explain what's going on. For starters, Joyce Newstat, a political consultant who is working for the Dufty campaign, is active in the Victory Fund, sits on the board of the fund's Leadership Institute, and, according to a March 24 article in the Bay Area Reporter, was among those active in helping Dufty win the Victory Fund endorsement.
But again: Supporting Dufty is one thing. Attacking Herrera is another. Who would want to do that?
Well, if there's one single constituency in the city that would like to sink Herrera, it's Pacific Gas and Electric Co. And guess what? PG&E Governmental Affairs Manager Brandon Hernandez chairs the Victory Fund's Leadership Institute. PG&E's corporate logo appears on the front page of the fund's website, and the company gave the Victory Fund more than $50,000 in 2010, according to the fund's annual report.
Dison insisted that neither Hernadez nor anyone else from PG&E was involved in making the decision to hit Herrera and said the money went to the Leadership Institute, which trains LGBT candidates, not directly to the campaign fund.
Maybe so –- but the folks at the private utility, who are among the top three corporate donors to the Victory Fund, have to be happy. (Tim Redmond)