Should Daly run for mayor?

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By Tim Redmond

Sup. Chris Daly, who unequivocally was not running for mayor a few weeks ago, is now actually talking about it again. The journalist in me says that’s a wonderful idea – raise some issues, stir up a fuss, force Newsom to face a real challenger in a real debate …. Makes for great stories.

The San Francisco progressive in me is a bit more nervous.

Daly’s not going to win, not without some sort of stunning event. (Which is possible; I mean, Newsom could utterly melt down in October, start babbling incoherently, punch out Dan Noyes on camera, admit he was secretly funding the weapons procurement program at Your Black Muslim Bakery or something …. And Daly could suddenly find himself the front runner.)

But for all practical purposes, the point of a mayoral race would be twofold: To raise issues while holding Newsom accountable – and, equally important, to build momentum for the fall 2008 supervisorial races.

I can’t emphasize enough how important the 08 races are – control of the board, and the political agenda in the city, will be at stake. Tom Ammiano, Aaron Peskin, Jake McGoldrick, and Gerardo Sandoval will be gone, victims of term limits. Ross Mirkarimi will be up for re-election, as will Sean Elsbernd. In four key open seats, the entire balance of power in the city could shift.

So the question is: Does Daly as a mayoral candidate help progressives win those seats by generating energy and organizing talent the way Ammiano’s 1999 race and Matt Gonzalez’s 2003 race did? There are, as I've pointed out before, some good things about a Daly for Mayor campaign. Or does Daly, who is not terribly popular outside his district, actually drag down progressive candidates by losing badly to Newsom and allowing the mayor’s forces to brand all the progressives as Daly-ites?

Can this race bring us all together as progressives, or just create more rifts?

If Daly wants to run, he’s got some work to do, because this, of course, is much bigger than him. And I think he knows that.

When Gonzalez decided to run four years ago, it seemed like a bit of a last-minute unilateral decision, and a lot of the activists in town felt left out. Daly’s got to do better: He needs to be sure that at least some of his progressive board colleagues (many of whom he’s been fighting with) will endorse him and help; running without any support from other progressive leaders would be tough. He needs to mend fences with some of his slightly bruised pals (which would be a good thing to do anyway).

He needs to line up some community backers and seasoned campaign workers who will sign on for the battle. He needs to think about how he’s going to raise money.

Of course, there are always surprises; state Sen. Carole Migden is in a big fight of her own, against Assembly member Mark Leno, and Leno is backing Newsom. Maybe Migden would support and raise money for Daly, who she’s been close to in the past (and who is supporting her over Leno). Which would make for an interesting political season.

But again, the question at hand is how will this benefit the progressive cause, not just now but over the long haul. Three days of hard thinking to go.