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Big bully Ahsha: Safai campaign targets tiny Democratic club

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Ahsha Safai, left, and Kimberly Alvarenga are the frontrunners for the District 11 supervisor seat.
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http://sfexaminer.com/category/the-city/sf-news-columns/on-guard/

San Francisco politics are a bloodbath. One simple rule, however, can keep your head above the fray: Punch up, not down.

Beating up on political opponents’ stances? That’s part of the game. But in this November’s supervisor’s race, District 11 candidate Ahsha Safai is punching down, targeting the little guy.

The moderate-backed Safai and progressive-backed Kimberly Alvarenga are frontrunners to represent the Ingleside, Excelsior and other District 11 neighborhoods. The election of either could shift the Board of Supervisors’ balance of power.

Safai alleges the San Francisco District 11 Democratic Club’s endorsement of Alvarenga on Sept. 10 was illegitimate. A cheat. A scam.

About 13 voters in the little club of neighborhood locals, his allies charged, were not Democrats or not registered to vote in District 11 at the time they voted to endorse Alvarenga.

“In any world, that’s an illegitimate vote,” Safai told On Guard, a pattern of “cheating or lying.”

Out of the 121 members of the club, 79 voted for Alvarenga, and 27 voted for Safai. So those dozen or so votes wouldn’t have changed the endorsement outcome.

Importantly, as Trump-the-Orange-Tinted-Blowhard bloviates on a national stage, few are paying attention to local races. So the slight slip of cardboard in your mailbox from a local Democratic club may steer less-knowledgeable voters.

The DCCC board also declined to endorse any candidate in the D11 race, making the district club the only game in town.

The drama began when Nadia Conrad-Huayta, the D11 club’s president, discovered her list of members vanished after the endorsement vote.

“When the tally was done, I put them in the bag. Those went missing in the hustle and bustle of things,” she said.

Mysteriously (cough), the club secretary brought the same list back, days later.

The secretary accused 13 or so voters of being ineligible, but later admitted he handed the list off to political analyst David Latterman to run that check.

Latterman works for Safai.

Latterman confirmed this in an email, adding, “The voter file doesn’t lie, and it’s available to (almost) anyone.” He also noted the D11 club recently released a bounty of campaign mailers to blanket District 11 homes, an obvious push for Alvarenga.

Safai supporter and D11 club delegate Mel Flores said SEIU 1021 stacked his club with new members to swing the vote for Alvarenga. “It’s outside influences for other purposes,” he said.

Conrad-Huayta isn’t buying it.

“It’s insane,” she said, and about 10 of the people on the list had sensible explanations: different name spellings, for instance, or registering to vote at a parent’s house. And new members always swell during a presidential election, she said. One of those new recruits targeted on “the list” was Maria Lourdes Nocedal, a former Sheridan Elementary School teacher who is now a teacher coach.

District 11 candidates speak at the San Francisco District 11 Democratic Club, Sept 10. Photo courtesy of Nadia Conrad-Huayta.

District 11 candidates speak at the San Francisco District 11 Democratic Club, Sept 10. Photo courtesy of Nadia Conrad-Huayta.

She said she joined her local Democratic club after catching political fever for Sen. Bernie Sanders. The San Francisco Department of Elections reportedly didn’t change her party from “no preference” to Democrat when she asked, which she later called to clear up.

That was enough to put Nocedal in the crosshairs of Safai’s allies.

She’s no political operative, just a teacher. She spent a Saturday in September listening to the candidates with the rest of her club, engaging in discussion, and voting democratically with the rest of her neighborhood — like an engaged citizen.

“When I found out I had to come back and basically defend myself and say my vote counts, I was appalled,” Nocedal said.

Conrad-Huayta was none-too-pleased either. Ahsha is “trying to discredit our club,” Conrad-Huayta said. “I definitely feel that he uses bullying to get his way.”

Took the words right out of my mouth.

* * *

Sometimes you have to get away from it all, and in that spirit, I took to the skies last Friday with the Breitling Jet Team as part of their two-year American tour for Fleet Week.

I was shakin’ in my boots beforehand. But my mind was eased when I met my pilot at Oakland Airport, 22-year French Air Force ace Paco Wallaert, who has 4,600 hours logged in the air.

Plus, Paco was my grandfather’s name. Instant trust was earned, no matter how irrational.

Together, we flew with seven other jets, each carrying a passenger. The L-39 Albatros clocked in at 350 mph, with just a thin transparent cockpit between us and the frighteningly vast blue sky.

“Ah, the Golden Gate. You see your city?” he asked me with an air of the everyday, as sunny San Francisco stretched before us.

We pulled startling loops and barrel rolls over Mount Diablo with each wingman just 10 feet away. At times, I floated out of my seat as we flew inverted, head pointed to the ground below.

Much to my chagrin, I was the only reporter who lost his lunch (and — sigh — it’s on video at sfex.news/ExJoeFlies).

Still, the view was grand. Just don’t go blaming us for the roaring screams of jet engines. That’s the Blue Angels.

The Breitling planes, however, are every bit as thrilling.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter.

Clarification: The story has been updated from its print version.

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