The winner in District 5 could face a significant new challenger next year

San Franciscan’s votes are still being tallied. The voting machines are still warm from a day of scanning paper ballots. Candidates Dean Preston and incumbent Supervisor Vallie Brown are still waiting on the edge of their seats.

There’s no official winner yet to represent District 5.

But that isn’t stopping potential challengers from emerging for the next round.

Board of Education President Stevon Cook announced to his followers in an email newsletter Monday that no matter who takes this year’s election — Preston or Brown — he’s considering a run in 2020 against the winner.

The commissioner’s decision isn’t final yet, but could potentially pose a significant challenge to either of the candidates who just ran a grueling election that is, nail-bitingly, down to a scant few hundred votes between them.

Cook can already set himself apart from Brown and Preston with one important distinction: He’s a native.

Cook is a graduate of Thurgood Marshall High School, and like one successful former District 5 supervisor, Mayor London Breed, (who narrowly beat Preston in 2016) Cook was raised in the district itself.

That gives him cultural cachet. And as a man of color, progressive or not, he could also add more much-needed diversity to the Board of Supervisors.

“I’m going to take the next few months to make my decision,” Cook said. “I love my work on the school board and i love the city in general.”

In Cook’s email to his supporters, he spared neither Brown nor Preston. “I’m not convinced either candidate has enough of what our district needs,” he wrote.

This year’s close-as-hell race between Preston and the incumbent, Brown, is a special election to fill out the remainder of Mayor London Breed’s term in the supervisor seat. Next year’s election in 2020 would be a run for a whole four-year term.

Cook told me he was initially raised in Glen Park until about the age of ten, living on welfare in hardscrabble conditions as his parents “had their own battles, which were tough.”

When he moved into his grandparents’ home in Hayes Valley on Oak Street, he enjoyed a more stable life, he said. Both were government workers, and he suddenly found himself living a safer life.

“What clicked in high school was I didn’t have to be that anymore,” he said. His friends would steal cars, or sell drugs — a life he no longer was part of. “It took a while for that to sink in,” he said.

Cook told me he thinks The City needs “bold leadership,” and someone who will solve the problems that affect “everyday people” like his neighbors.

Perhaps a political weakness of Cook’s from either a more progressive or moderate point of view is the Washington High School mural debacle. Progressives may lambast him for proposing to cover it, instead of destroying it, whereas moderates may take umbrage that he elected to cover it at all.

As of Tuesday evening, Brown had pulled ahead of Preston in ranked choice voting by only 88 votes.

When I texted Preston’s campaign manager Jen Snyder to gauge her reaction to a potential Cook run Tuesday afternoon, she told me she was too eagerly anticipating the newest numbers to think of much else.

“Honestly 4 p.m. seems like 100 years away right now,” Snyder wrote. “2020 is an eternity.”

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.

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez covers transportation for the San Francisco Examiner. He also writes the weekly political On Guard column. Reach him at joe@sfexaminer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @FitzTheReporter.

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