Challengers to Newsom

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Steven T. Jones
There's been much fretting among Mayor Gavin Newsom's critics that no serious candidate has yet stepped forward to challenge him. But that's not to nobody is challenging him. In fact, according the Elections Department, a baker's dozen of San Franciscans have filed for a potential run (the list won't be finalized until August). They are Cesar Ascarrunz, Rodney Hauge, Lonnie Holmes, Kenneth Kahn, Grasshopper Kaplan, Robert McCullough, Matthew Mengarelli, David Merlin, Antonio Mims, Malinka Moye, Robert Myers, Frederick Renz, and Ahimsa Porter Sumchai. None are exactly household names. The only one I know is Sumchai, whose base is basically Bayview Hunters Point lefties. But I had a chance this afternoon to chat with the latest mayoral candidate: David Merlin.

Fresh off his wrongful termination lawsuit settlement with Kaiser Permanente, Merlin had some time to focus on local political news just as Newsom was being criticized for being unaccountable, out of touch, and unwilling to meet with the Board of Supervisors, let alone work cooperatively with them. Merlin, an MBA who has held increasingly important administrative positions for almost as long as Newsom has been alive, decided he had something to offer his adopted city.

"I'm outraged that the city is allowed to operate like this," he told me in City Hall this afternoon. "You have a CEO that has refused to meet with the board for three and a half years. You can't effectively govern the city with that kind of dynamic."

His resume may be long, but he has no political experience and has only lived in San Francisco for three years. Ideologically, he's a mixed bag, calling for the city to be tougher in negotiating with developers to get more affordable housing, while also criticizing the city's new Health Access Plan as an unfair burden on small businesses.

"What I have to say will resonate with a large block of voters who feel disenfranchised," he said. He'll probably find it's not that easy in politically sophisticated (and polarized) San Francisco. But he's done the math and believes that with his personal contribution, devoting himself full-time to the campaign, and taking advantage of the new public financing system, he thinks that he can run a solid campaign with around $750,000.

As for his first step, "I'm going to be meeting with anybody who will listen to me."