Why won't Newsom name Jew's real replacement?

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More and more City Hall watchers are focusing on the asterisk that the Mayor's Office has left next to the name of the newest member of the Board of Supervisors, Carmen Chu.

"She's an interim replacement," Newsom flak Nathan Ballard confirmed for me yesterday. In other words, she may just be a placeholder until the Board of Supervisors votes whether to remove disgraced Sup. Ed Jew from office a few weeks from now.

"At the point when Ed Jew is removed from office...then the mayor would have the opportunity to appoint a permanent replacement or appoint Carmen," Ballard said. Asked whether the mayor has made that decision yet, Ballard told us, "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

This is unbelievable, particularly given the FBI raided Jew's office and by his own admission found a wad of ill-gotten cash way back in May. Newsom has had plenty of time to pick a replacement, and probably already did well before Monday when he informed Chu of her selection. And I'm not the only one who smells the foul stench of a political power grab in Newsom's strangely secretive ploy.

Sup. Chris Daly doesn't think Chu will be the ultimate choice, as he told me and the Chronicle yesterday. "I think she's not their intended replacement supervisor," Daly told us. Ballard may have mocked Daly's "vivid imagination" in his comments to the Chron, but the suspicion is borne out by Ballard's own label of Chu and by several sources who have talked to Chu and note her dodging of questions whether she'll be here in a month and lack of hunger for the job (not to mention her strange comment at yesterday's press conference that she doesn't understand Dist. 4 -- not exactly something someone who will have to run to keep the seat next year would say).

In fact, the big fear of Daly and other progressives is that Newsom has another triple play in mind to expand his control of the board, a possible plan that I heard about way back in June. Already, Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier indicated to the Chron that she may vote against Jew's removal, so all it would take is one more supervisor's vote to keep Jew on the board. Who knows, maybe Daly will end up being that supervisor, although such a move could have a big downside if he's perceived as playing politics with an important decision.

Yet for now, it's Newsom who's playing politics, and Daly is calling him out, "I would like to, at the very least, have the Mayor's Office announce their permanent replacement." Frankly, that's the least we should expect from a mayor who's still trying to rebuild his damaged integrity.