Race for San Francisco mayor lacks any flare 

You would think that with at least a dozen people vying to be San Francisco’s next chief executive in a city where politics doubles as a combat sport that the race for mayor would be edgy, exciting and energized.

You’d be wrong.

Or as a friend of mine put it the other day: “Is that mayor’s thing still going on?”

Despite a host of relatively big names in the field, the 2011 campaign for mayor has so far turned out to be a certifiable snooze-fest, so lacking in drama and flair that its boringness has become the talk of the town.

Instead of buzz, it’s become buzz-kill.

A few people got excited this week when the so-called progressives in town got one of their own to jump into the race, following a discussion about which person would suffer less political damage when they get trounced in November.

For that role, Supervisor John Avalos volunteered, and jump-started his campaign by voting against a payroll tax exemption designed to produce jobs and bring companies to the long downtrodden mid-Market Street area of San Francisco.

Stop jobs now — a surefire winning slogan.

Granted, it’s still early in the campaign, but some of the candidates have been running for the better part of a year, even if they only officially filed recently. The general consensus, as revealed in recent polls, is that there are no clear favorites and nobody has been able to gain traction in the race.

That will explain the calls for others to jump in, which so far have included Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, though neither appears to have the desire at this point. And since Lee and Elsbernd have been among those leading the charge for pension reform, it may be that the only hope to get it resides in their ability to not be swayed by the affected labor unions, which will play a major part in the race.

So we sit and wait and nod through what passes for a campaign.

“No one has been able to set the pace so far,’’ said one consultant not involved in the campaign. “But yeah, it has been pretty boring.”

How dull is it? Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting hosted a gathering recently that his camp billed as “Solutions Palooza.” I guess “idea fest” was already taken.

To hear the campaign people tell it, the reason it’s so quiet is because the candidates are still setting up their operations and going through the early rounds of fundraising. That would not include former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who announced his candidacy two years ago and has barely moved the needle with voters.

Likewise, his fellow candidates are barely moving.

Observers say one of the main reasons for the stagnancy is ranked-choice voting, which is going to split the vote significantly between the candidates and has them all playing nice, so as to not upset any constituencies that might fall their way. They’re also all mindful of what happened in Oakland in November, when perceived frontrunner Don Perata was defeated by a coalition of voters who backed candidates he outpolled for first-place votes.

That’s why right now the campaign resembles a local version of “Survivor,” with several of the candidates seeing about possible alliances. Calls are being made to rival camps. It’s not quite team-building, but it’s a far cry from anything we’ve seen in an open mayoral election here — ever.

So for the time being, this is what we get. Sen. Leland Yee is holding neighborhood coffee meetings. Those you won’t want to miss. City Attorney Dennis Herrera is issuing regular announcements about his endorsements and piggy-backing on the news. Ting, under the tutelage of consultant Eric Jaye, is using social media to get out the word about his campaign. Can someone tweet their way into Room 200? We should know by the fall.

“What we’re trying to do with Phil and Reset San Francisco is to exist in a different realm and not focus on the same 1,000 people,” Jaye said.

The guess here is that about 950 of them are not awake.

I’ve seen turtle races that had more excitement. Of course, those involve lots of drinking. Maybe that’s what the campaign is missing.

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Ken Garcia

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