Mayor London Breed wasn’t on November’s ballot, but holy hell did she lose this election.
Moderate Democrat candidates Breed endorsed in contentious Board of Supervisors races lost by solid margins to progressive-leaning Dems.
And, of course, Proposition C won handily.
That measure, which will tax wealthy businesses to help solve our homeless crisis, was backed to the tune of roughly $10 million by — of all people! — Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. Though granted he is a San Francisco native, who expected a literal representation of the Monopoly man to be more in touch with the will of San Franciscans than the mayor?
Her picks to lead District 6, Christine Johnson and Sonja Trauss, lost. Her pick to lead District 4, Jessica Ho, appears to have lost.
The neighborhoods of San Francisco resoundingly rejected Breed’s recommendations.
It’s a fascinating development for our mayor, whose own election was won in a squeak against Supervisor Jane Kim and former State Senator Mark Leno. When you win that narrowly, you don’t carry the public mandate to pursue your political priorities carte blanche — you’ve gotta sweat for every ounce of goodwill from The City.
And you’ve got to be careful.
Breed could have stayed neutral in key races. Hell, she could have stayed neutral on the homeless tax, but that’s not how she decided to play it. Breed is an all-in kind of person, for better or for worse. This time she went all in, and lost.
Come January, the now progressive-led Board of Supervisors will be stacked with politicians who not only oppose her ideologically but whom she opposed in real-world terms.
And with the apparent election of Matt Haney in District 6 and Gordon Mar in District 4, and boosted by allies in other districts, the progressives have a veto-proof majority within reach. Friendly moderate-leaning supervisors could help them achieve an alliance of eight votes to meet Breed toe-to-toe, thwarting her when need be.
Her bungle doesn’t just hurt Breed politically, either, it hurts us all: As the numbers tally for Proposition C, it’s clearly not reaching a two-thirds threshold. Though it will pass with 59 percent of the vote, that’s not a high enough percentage to shield it from a possible legal challenge from tax hawks.
Outside an election party at Silver Clouds bar on Lombard Street, in the Marina District, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman told me city leaders widely endorsing Proposition C could’ve made the difference in climbing that hill. He also said “The City owes Benioff a debt of gratitude. He’s a major mensch.”
Political consultant Jim Ross, who ran Gavin Newsom’s first mayoral run, explained the disconnect as a narrative problem. Breed won her election largely on her inspirational story, but without a clear message for The City’s future, he said. I saw this a lot myself when talking to San Franciscans who love London — they often told me they loved that she pulled herself out of poverty and blossomed into a strong woman leader, but could hardly name a single policy London ever wrote, or passed, that they liked.
“That’s the problem with getting elected on your story,” Ross said, “there’s no rationale behind your governance.”
And after the City Controller’s Office analyzed Prop. C and found its impact on middle-class jobs to be minimal, Breed also lost her strongest rationale against Prop. C. Sadly, she still opposed it.
At Roccapulco in the Mission District on election night, surrounded by blue and yellow balloons, Coalition on Homelessness director Jennifer Friedenbach danced under bright lights to celebrate the passage of Prop. C. I hated to be the rain on her parade but sauntered up to ask — what will happen now that Prop. C will likely be tangled up in court?
While that lawsuit proceeds, “people will die,” she said simply.
Thousands of people, shivering and cold on San Francisco streets, from city natives to those who, yes, came here seeking a better life. One of those homeless souls on the streets at night is my own former student, Roger, who readers of this column will recall struggles with mental illness, and often sleeps in Inner Richmond parks only blocks from where he grew up.
While Friedenbach is confident Prop. C can beat any legal challenge, it will take time. That’s time some people don’t have.
“Historically, the only (ballot) measures to make it over the two-thirds threshold are the ones with all of the powerful people in San Francisco behind them,” Friedenbach said.
She added, “If London had backed it, we could have won” that threshold.
But she didn’t.
London, I want you to hear this: Every soul sleeping on the concrete between now and the end of Prop. C’s legal challenge?
Their lives are on you.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.