Who will San Francisco Dems back in November?


In a city dominated by Democrats, the endorsements of the San Francisco Democratic Party carry a lot of weight. Its slate card mailer, showing candidates’ headshots and the party’s positions on local measures, can serve as a cheat sheet for Dems heading to voting booths on Nov. 4.

At tomorrow’s [Wed/13] meeting, the Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC), the steering committee of the city’s Democratic Party, will vote on endorsements for the upcoming election – and while some votes may be predictable, others will be closely contested and could go either way.

Here are a few items we’ve been keeping an eye on:

Prop. G: “Anti-speculation tax”

Earlier this year, hundreds crowded into the Tenderloin Elementary School for a daylong Tenant Convention that sought to find ways to curb the tide of evictions sweeping San Francisco. Emerging out of that was the “anti-speculation tax,” a measure that will appear on the November ballot as Proposition G. Sponsored by Sups. Eric Mar, John Avalos, David Campos, and Jane Kim, the formally titled Additional Transfer Tax on Residential Property Sold Within 5 Years of Purchase seeks to discourage real estate speculators from buying up properties with the aim of flipping them, a process that tends to involve bringing down the hammer of the Ellis Act to evict long-term tenants.

Some tenant activists are concerned that the DCCC won’t throw its considerable weight behind this tenant-friendly initiative, crafted as a direct response to the city’s affordability crisis and ongoing displacement problem. “Many of the members of the Democratic Central Committee seem to have forgotten the core values of the Democratic Party,” tenant activists with the San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition wrote in a Facebook post, urging supporters of the anti-speculation tax to turn out at tomorrow’s meeting.

Mary Jung, who chairs the DCCC, also serves as a paid lobbyist for the San Francisco Association of Realtors, which strongly opposes the anti-speculation tax. Following the June election, Jung came under fire for authorizing funds to be used for last-minute voter calls opposing Prop. B, a measure that was ultimately adopted, requiring voter approval for increasing waterfront building height limits. The DCCC came down against Prop. B, putting the party in line with developers and real-estate interests. Will the DCCC’s vote on the tenant-friendly Prop. G reflect this same allegiance? 

For Prop. G, “I have a really hard time believing that the Realtors will put together a coalition for a ‘no’ vote,” said DCCC member Alix Rosenthal. “I’m sure the Realtors would settle for a ‘no endorsement,’” on that measure, she added, but said that outcome seemed doubtful too. Last June’s vote on Prop. B shouldn’t serve as a guide, she added. “Because the Warriors made the Prop. B vote very complicated, I think you’re not going to see the same voting coalition against Prop. G.”

BART Board: Fang vs. Josefowitz  

As the Guardian noted in last week’s print edition, there are some fascinating political dynamics at play in the DCCC’s endorsement vote for BART’s Board of Directors. Longtime member James Fang, a Republican, faces a challenge from a well-funded newcomer in his early 30s, Nick Josefowitz, who’s a Democrat. That might sound like a no-brainer for the Dems, but there’s a catch. The city’s largest public employee union, SEIU Local 1021, is rooting for Fang over Josefowitz.

Organizer Gabriel Haaland says that’s because the Fang made a show of support for BART employees by walking the picket line last year during the BART strike. "It's a priority for us to elect Fang," Haaland told us. Plus, he pointed out, Josefowitz is in line with Mayor Ed Lee and has been championed by leaders in the tech sector, serving as a mayoral appointee to a city commission and benefitting from a fundraiser organized by Lyft cofounder Logan Green.

But DCCC member Matt Dorsey sounded a different note. “I get that some of my DCCC colleagues may have loyalties that may prevent them from supporting Nick,” he said. “But I'd plead with them not to make our party an instrument for Republican empowerment -- because that's exactly what a 'no endorsement' in the BART race will do."

The DCCC can’t endorse Fang outright, because of his political affiliation, but it can decide whether to help or hurt Josefowitz by choosing to back him or vote “no endorsement.” The latter would limit his exposure as a candidate in a race where incumbent Fang has both wide name recognition and the backing of many prominent San Francisco Democrats.

District 10 race

Based on questionnaires submitted by candidates in the upcoming Board of Supervisors’ races, District 10 Sup. Malia Cohen has lined up a much longer list of endorsements than her challenger in that race, Tony Kelly.

But Kelly does have some prominent supporters, including former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, Sups. John Avalos and David Campos, and the Sierra Club.

While both Kelly and Cohen stated on their questionnaires that they are supportive of ranked-choice voting, Cohen has evidently requested a sole endorsement from the DCCC for her reelection. While there seems to be little doubt that Cohen will secure the DCCC’s backing, there’s a possibility that Kelly – or for that matter, any other District 10 candidate – could be added to the slate with a second- or third-place endorsement. Rosenthal, who is friends with Cohen, said this is unlikely since state and federal elected officials who send proxies to the DCCC tend to back incumbents to maintain existing working relationships.

Cohen also happens to sit on the DCCC, which means she can cast a vote for her own endorsement.

This perk is actually a reason why many politicians opt to get involved with the Democratic Party in the first place. “One of the reasons to get involved on the DCCC,” Rosenthal said, “is to help ensure that you yourself get endorsed by the Democratic Party.”

Check back here on Thu/14 for an update on how the votes went down.