San Francisco voters will face four elections in 2022, the result of a confluence of strange political factors starting with the (bad and irresponsible) decision of Dennis Herrera to leave the City Attorney’s Office in the middle of his term for a better-paid job as the head of the Public Utilities Commission. Herrera, who spent 20 years building an office that could be respected for political integrity (not always the case with the SF City Attorney’s Office) ran for re-election then left, allowing Mayor London Breed to appoint David Chiu, her ally, to the critical job.
Chiu then left his Assembly seat, and four candidates are running in a special election February 15.
At the same time, a campaign to recall three members of the San Francisco School Board, backed by rich Republicans and charter school advocates, gathered enough signatures from people angry at the board’s inability to keep the schools open during the pandemic to qualify for the ballot, and the two elections will happen the same day.
Then if, as is likely, nobody gets 50 percent plus one on Feb. 15, a runoff for Assembly with happen April 19. The person who wins that runoff will then take office—but will have to run again in the June 7 primary. Again, if nobody in that race gets a majority, the two top candidates will face off in November.
For a lot of reasons, these are critical races, happening at a time when turnout would be typically low. Every voter got a ballot in the mail, so that may help—but the supporters of the School Board recall have so much money that they will get their people out, and that may hurt progressives in the Assembly race.
So it’s critical that everyone fill out the ballot and put it in the mail or in a drop box (you can find one here.)
Our recommendations follow.
State Assembly District 17
Four candidates are vying for this seat, and the polling data suggests that two—Sup. Matt Haney and former Sup. David Campos—will finish in the top two and face a runoff. Our clear choice is Campos.
We endorsed Haney when he first ran for School Board, and we endorsed him for re-election, and we endorsed him for District Six supervisor.
But now is not the time for him to move to the Assembly.
Campos has far more experience: He served two full terms on the Board of Supes (Haney hasn’t even completed one term) then worked as a senior administrator for Santa Clara County. He’s been chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party and vice-chair of the state party. He has an impeccable progressive record on issues—and has repeatedly shown that he is willing to vote by his principles even if that’s not the politically expedient thing to do.
He also arrived in this country as an undocumented Dreamer, and brings the perspective of an immigrant who grew up in poverty to everything he does. He’s a gay man in a seat that was held for years by LGBTQ representatives men (Carole Migden, Mark Leno and Tom Ammiano).
Haney has of late moved to the right on some key issues. He supports the mayor’s crackdown in the Tenderloin, and has voted with the Yimbys on housing issues. He is running on a platform of building 100,000 new housing units in San Francisco—which simply can’t get done without massive demolitions of existing housing and displacement of residents.
Also: The state and the city don’t build housing. Private developers do. And they don’t build anything unless they can make enough money to satisfy investors. So 100,000 units won’t do much if anything for affordability.
The state is increasingly trying to mandate that cities build more market-rate housing, with no guarantees of adequate affordability—and no protections against displacement of existing vulnerable communities. San Francisco needs an Assembly representative who understands that the free market isn’t going to solve the state’s housing problems. We think Campos is a better choice.
We’re also really disturbed at the independent expenditure money that’s coming in to support Haney. These committees are funded by people who think one candidate is better than the other on the issues that they care about—and in this case, the fact that opponents of single-payer healthcare think Haney is the better bet makes us really nervous. Haney tells us he is a staunch supporter of single-payer, but the big money interests prefer him over Campos.
Thea Selby has been a good Community College Board member, and makes the case that she’s the only woman in the race. But she’s barely registering in the polls and is also a fan of the concept that the market can solve our housing problems. Bilal Mahmood also supports more market-rate housing and wants to increase prosecution for drug crimes, which has never worked in the past and won’t in the future.
So this one’s clear and easy: Vote for David Campos.
School Board Recalls (Propositions A, B, and C)
We get the anger. The School Board should have put the renaming issue on hold during the pandemic. Alison Collins should have resigned after she refused to disown racist tweets (and her lawsuit against her colleagues was about as horrible a response as we can imagine).
But this recall is about a lot more.
For starters, it’s a recall just a few months before a regular election. All three board members named in the recall would have to face the voters in November, 2022 anyway; if you don’t like them, run against them.
Recalls ought to be reserved for situations where an elected official has committed clear misconduct in office and has at least two years left on their term. This is an undemocratic waste of money.
Plus, the biggest financial backers of this recall have a larger agenda than whether some public schools should have their names changed, or what rules teachers and students should follow in a global pandemic. Billionaire Arthur Rock, who has no kids, put almost $400,000 into one of the recall committees. He’s a big fan of charter schools—that is, of school privatization. The California Association of Realtors, which has never shown any interest in supporting public education (for example, by modifying or repealing Prop. 13) put up $90,000.
If the three are recalled, Mayor London Breed will appoint their successors, who will then be well-positioned to run for higher office in San Francisco.
The mayor just named her own choice as city attorney. She could be appointing three School Board members, and if the Boudin recall succeeds, a new district attorney. That’s too much power for the mayor of San Francisco, and the rules that allow the mayor to fill vacancies in any elective office need to be changed.
Meanwhile, vote no on the recalls.
Torres is an appointed incumbent who has no opposition (except longtime gadfly Michael Petrelis, who just qualified as a write-in). It’s an important job: The assessor oversees property tax assessments—a role that’s less subjective in California because of Prop. 13—but also handles the city’s response to big landlords who appeal their assessments and want their taxes reduced.
The Recorder’s Office is the repository and vast amounts of information about property sales and values in the city, and making that available to the public is also a critical part of the job. And Torres has a lot of work to do: The city’s online database containing property records only works properly with a Microsoft browser, so anyone using a Mac, or Chrome, or Firefox, can’t get full access. In a tech-heavy city like San Francisco, that’s just inexcusable.
The folks who work in the Assessor’s Office are typically very nice and helpful. But we’re still in a pandemic, and it’s hard for a lot of people to get to City Hall to do research. Torres needs to make it a priority to make public records easily accessible to the public.
We aren’t big fans of unopposed incumbents, but we see no reason not to support Torres.