Everyone knew that the DCCC, the endorsing arm of the San Francisco Democratic Party, would have trouble choosing candidates in the heavily contested D. 10 race. After all, the member decided at the August endorsement meeting to punt the D. 10 decision for four weeks.
But the DCCC’s September 8 endorsement of civil rights attorney Dewitt Lacy, former Newsom staffer Malia Cohen, and biodiesel activist Eric Smith, in that order, was somewhat mind-boggling. It left the San Francisco Democratic Party in the position of endorsing a candidate who is utterly unreliable on tenant issues and passing over perhaps the most progressive contender in the race.
D. 10 candidate Tony Kelly, who has a long history of progressive involvement in the district and who thought he had strong support on the DCCC, felt as if he'd been thrown under the endorsement bus. And it left fellow progressive Chris Jackson feeling that the DCCC endorsement process didn’t take the community’s wishes into consideration.
It’s common knowledge that DCCC members felt they had to endorse an African American in this district, since it contains the city’s largest remaining black community, and since it's unlikely that a black candidate will get elected from any other district this fall, potentially leaving the board with no African American representation.
But that does not explain why the DCCC, after giving Lacy its first place endorsement, gave its second slot to Cohen, a moderate who told the Guardian in a recent endorsement interview that she doesn’t support further controls on evictions and condo conversions because that would infringe on property owners’ rights.
And in the end, you have to wonder: Does this end up helping Steve Moss, the candidate most progressives on the DCCC most fear?
Insiders point to two hidden plays that worked against Kelly, and for Cohen, in terms of getting the DCCC’s nod.
The first was a push by downtown interests to have their representatives on the DCCC make no endorsements in the race. The idea was to keep Kelly off the slate, so that downtown’s preferred D. 10 candidate Steve Moss would have a better chance of sewing up the vote on Potrero Hill, where Kelly is expected to do well.
The other play was a push among some DCCC members to put a black woman on the slate. This made Cohen, despite her moderate stance on some progressive issues, their choice, since she was born and raised in the district and has raised enough money to run a competitive campaign.
DCCC chair Aaron Peskin told the Guardian that he wanted Kelly to get one of the slots.
“My failure to do so proves that the DCCC isn’t a machine,” Peskin said. “I wanted Tony on there somewhere, and for a while it was looking like he might get second or third place.”
Kelly told the Guardian that he was surprised not to get the DCCC endorsement—and that he has received 8 phone calls from DCCC members apologizing for what happened.
“Nobody wanted those three candidates, except perhaps Scott Wiener,” Kelly said.
“At the same time, there have been so many gyrations around this in the last week. I’ve had more than half of the DCCC members tell me directly, ‘You’ll make the best supervisor—and I’m supporting someone else.’ But now they don’t even have three progressives in the slate.”
Kelly added: “This is a weak moment for the Democratic Party. This is not a machine, it’s not something that has strength or relevance to the district. This is the most clueless endorsement possible.”
Jackson believes that what happened last night was purely politics.
“This was a very political process and they made a political decision,” Jackson said. “But ultimately, it’ll be up to the neighborhoods and community to make their own choice.”
“Unbelievable,” is how Smith described the DCCC’s D. 10 slate. “Right before this vote started, Eric Quezada told me, no matter what happens, there are better things in life than this. But now I feel great. It’s given my campaign a big boost.”
“I’m close to Tony Kelly, I consider him as a friend,” Smith added. “But in some ridiculous karmic way, the stars aligned, and I’m one lucky bro.”
Lacy for his part was clearly elated at getting the DCCC’s top slot.
“I’m really excited,” Lacy said. “I believe this means D. 10 has a strong opportunity to get its fair share of good things and the Democratic Party will take part in making that happen.”
It also means Lacy -- whose campaign has been a little slow and underfunded -- is really going to have to ramp up his efforts in the next few weeks to take advantage of the DCCC nod. And it means Moss will get a boost, since Kelly could take Potrero Hill votes away from him. Kelly's the only candidate who got the Potrero Hill Democratic Club endorsement.