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Challengers emerge to battle for newly open Sunset District supervisorial seat

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Gordon Mar, executive director of nonprofit Jobs With Justice. Mar is running for the District 4 Supervisor seat being vacated by Katy Tang. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

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Let’s get ready to rummmmmblllle!

Candidates are gunning for District 4’s supervisorial seat, representing the Sunset District.

As of last week the race looked like it was all sewn up for Jessica Ho, a legislative aide to the district’s current supervisor, Katy Tang, who is not running for reelection.

But Ho has only lived in the district since March. Could an SF newbie — from Los Angeles of all places — win a neighborhood that’s home to so many San Francisco locals?

Apparently the competition smelled blood in the water. Insiders I spoke with said Ho’s inexperience, and relative newness to the district, led some to believe they could effectively run against her.

Since Tang bowed out of re-election last week, eight other candidates have filed to run in this November’s race for the D4 seat. The deadline to qualify was Monday at 5 p.m.

In addition to Ho, qualified candidates to run include Adam Kim, Mike Murphy, Li Lovett, Arthur Tom, Tuan Nguyen, Lou Ann Bassan, Trevor McNeil, and Gordon Mar.

Of those names, Mar, McNeil and Lovett may emerge as serious contenders for Ho.

Mar heads Jobs with Justice, and is a long-time labor organizer with deep political roots in San Francisco.

“I want to ensure our district has independent leadership at City Hall and is not beholden to outside interests,” Mar told me. “As you know our last two supervisors were appointed by the mayor, and this last week seemed to show an attempt to undermine the democratic process.”

This race may be a bellwether on exactly that issue. Is the foggy Sunset District fed up with its political coronations? The district saw Supervisor Carmen Chu clear the way for Tang, and Tang effectively doing the same for Ho. Chu and Tang were both strong cornerstones of The City’s moderate-Democratic wing in a district that is homeowner-heavy, with voters who lean toward the centrist end of San Francisco politics.

Unlike Ho, Mar has lived in the neighborhood for 13 years, specifically the Parkside. But does the long-time labor organizer think he has a shot in such a centrist district? His brother, Eric Mar, was a stalwart progressive on the Board of Supervisors.

“There will be some attempts to label me as a progressive,” Mar said. “I don’t think that’s a relevant term to D4 voters. Like most voters, they want a supervisor who will respond to practical issues: cleanliness and public safety. Neighborhood concerns.”

Mar said his key issues involve quality of life and traffic congestion in the off-streets around 19th Avenue.

Lovett is an academic counselor at City College of San Francisco, and has lived in San Francisco for 25 years. She grew up in Chinatown but her family moved to San Jose. She returned to San Francisco after college, and now lives in the Sunset District.

Lovett said her platform includes The City’s housing crisis, building a sense of community in the Sunset and ensuring the emergency water system is up to snuff in the event of an earthquake or fire. “Not enough people know about it,” she said.

Though the Sunset is often regarded as a sleepy district without robust political battles, Mar noted that state Sen. Scott Wiener’s SB827 stirred locals to voice opposition. “I don’t support it,” he said. The bill is expected to re-emerge in some form in the future.

Of the candidates, McNeil has most recently faced an electoral loss, when in running for the Democratic Party local board in June 2016 he garnered 13,044 votes. It wasn’t a bad showing, but a number of grassroots candidates from the moderate Democrat slate got knocked out by bigger-name candidates who don’t traditionally run for the board.

Though West Side Democrat John O’Riordan told me last week he was considering a run, ultimately he decided that this wasn’t his time. “I’m excited to see how the race plays out,” he said.

O’Riordan is in a bit of a bind, however. As a prominent West Side politico, he’ll be expected to endorse a candidate. He stumped heavily — and I mean, he was key — for Mayor-Elect London Breed’s campaign. Though Breed has endorsed Ho’s campaign, O’Riordan told me he has yet to make an endorsement decision.

“I’ll spend time to get to know all the candidates,” O’Riordan said.

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

This column has been corrected to include Lou Ann Bassan’s full first name, Lou Ann.

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