Mayoral question perplexes the pundits

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Today's post-election analysis session at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association featured the usual room full of smart political minds from across the ideological spectrum – including those of hosts Alex Clemens and David Latterman – but nobody had any real insights into the big question on everyone's minds: who will be the next mayor?

Everyone agrees that Gavin Newsom is headed to Sacramento in January, and state law calls for him to become lieutenant governor (and resign as mayor) on Jan. 3. At that point, Board President David Chiu becomes acting mayor, and the current Board of Supervisors is scheduled to meet Jan. 4 and could vote for a new interim mayor. The newly elected board takes office a week later and as its first order of business it will elect a new president, who becomes the new acting mayor, and if the old board can't elect an interim, then the new one could elect an interim mayor, who would serve until after the mayoral election in November.

It's tough enough for anyone to get to six votes, particularly considering supervisors can't vote for themselves, but the deal-making could also involve the district attorney's job. If Kamala Harris holds her slim current lead for attorney general, the new mayor would get to appoint her replacement. And if Rep. Nancy Pelosi decides to resign, that plum job would mix things up further. So everything is revolving around the vote for mayor right now.

“Everything comes back to this,” Latterman said, as he and Clemens basically had to shrug off questions about who has the inside track to be mayor. There are just too many variables involved, too many possible deals that could be cut, too many ambitious politicians in the mix, not to mention innumerable outsiders who could be tapped (hmmm...Mayor Jones, it does have a ring to it).

Latterman, a downtown consultant who helps update the Progressive Voter Index (created by SF State Professor Rich DeLeon), noted that the citywide results in the election once again showed that the overall city electorate is more moderate than progressive, particularly because the districts that have the strongest voter turnout (Districts 2, 4, and 8) are also some of the city's most conservative.

As a result, he said, “The city is not voting for a far left mayor come November, so [progressives] will do whatever they can to get a mayor now.” Progressives are indeed hoping to get one of their own into Room 200 in January, and they hope that would allow whoever is chosen to win over enough voters to remain after November.

As a result, conservatives and most moderates will dig in, with many pushing the idea of a “caretaker mayor” so the playing field between left and right is still fairly even this fall.

“This is a World Series for political junkies,” Clemens said, who had the funniest way of casting the question: Normally, about 11 people run for mayor and the whole city picks one, he said, “but this is the opposite.” These 11 supervisors have the whole city to pick a mayor from, and at this point, it's anyone's guess who that will be.