John Burton and clown car of Democratic Party candidates roll over reform effort

Memes making light of all the folks running for DCCC have made the rounds on Facebook.

Memes making light of all the folks running for DCCC have made the rounds on Facebook.

Let’s start with a number that is, frankly, insane: 60.

There are at least 60 candidates running for San Francisco’s democratic party’s board, known as the Democratic County Central Committee (an unbelievably wonky name, to be sure).

It’s a little-known body that does the grunt work of registering democrats in San Francisco and stamping key political endorsements.

Consider how many people don’t research candidates and instead heavily favor endorsements to inform their votes. That’s the DCCC’s political sway.

Now, moderate and progressive politicians in San Francisco are waging an “arms race” for the DCCC. Both sides are stuffing a gaggle of old-timers with big names into the candidate clown car.

John Burton. Angela Alioto. Tom Ammiano. Tom Hsieh Sr. Sophie Maxwell.

These are big political names, with big lofty titles — like Burton, storied in California politics and the current state democratic party chair.

The man served in Congress! It’s akin to seeing President Barack Obama moving back to Illinois to run for mayor. He’d stomp out any competition.

And even more troubling, a number of sitting officials from the Board of Supervisors are running, too. Loose ethics laws allow supervisors running for office to raise money with few of the same fund limits that apply to their supervisor races.

Nine out of 11 of the sitting San Francisco supervisors are running for DCCC right now. Nine! There is no word to capture how out of their minds this should make any San Francisco citizen feel.

Though the supes have strict campaign limits in their races, at the DCCC, they’re essentially able to take blank checks from donors with few restrictions.

Talk about a loophole, it’s more like a loop-vortex.

Memes making light of all the folks running for DCCC have made the rounds on Facebook.
Memes making light of all the folks running for DCCC have made the rounds on Facebook. This one was created by Paulina Maldonado.

These big names crowd out the “little guys” — newcomer DCCC candidates like the much-loved Gary McCoy, former aide to Supervisor Julie Christensen — who are seeing their chances stomped out.

To curb some of this, DCCC member Alix Rosenthal introduced a resolution Wednesday night at the last meeting of the democratic party. It would’ve made The City’s supervisors and mayor “ex-officio” members of the DCCC.

Essentially, they’d be automatic members, leaving elected seats for grassroots candidates.

“I think it’s fair to say that the bulk of this work is done by folks who don’t hold another elected office,” Rosenthal said, justifying her measure.

That’s when all hell broke loose. Moderate DCCC member Kat Anderson (and, full disclosure, a former employer of mine) lambasted Burton. Jay Cheng, employed by the Realtors Association but also a chair of a local democratic club, blasted progressives who pushed back against Rosenthal’s measure.

It’s a fair measure, progressives shot back, but the timing is suspect.

Since it’s taking place so close to the June election, it was seen as a swing at progressive candidates, who are lined up against an ideological ally of Rosenthal — DCCC Chair Mary Jung.

Supervisor Eric Mar, a progressive member of the DCCC, called out the “elephant in the room,” he said, by which he meant the Realtors’ Association ties to Jung.

You see, the national, state and local realtor associations together spent over $1.5 million to defeat a 2014 ballot measure intended to protect renters against real estate speculators who flip houses and erroneously evict people, Proposition G.

That’s a small window at their constant political spending against renters.

It’s no secret that if the progressives win a majority on the DCCC, their first order of business will be to unseat Jung. Her role gives realtors too much sway over city politics.

Mar hinted that Rosenthal’s real goal was to protect Jung, because of the timing of the measure. He then asked what may be, perhaps, the most San Franciscan way to challenge a fellow politician I’ve heard in a long time.

“We’ve gone to Burning Man together,” he said to Rosenthal, “but I still ask, ‘Why now?’”

Rosenthal showed grace under pressure, and reminded the members that she compromised on the measure multiple times — amending parts of it to take effect after the election, writing a carve-out for the current supervisors who are still DCCC members — and more.

“I just want to fight against this arms race, of who can bring the people with the biggest name recognition to register,” she said.

Ultimately her measure lost. It needed a two-thirds vote of DCCC members to pass, and the progressives scrounged enough votes to block it.

But, hopefully soon, it will return during a less key political moment. Rosenthal told me it will.

And preferably, it will include necessary tweaks to reform campaign contributions.

That will be good — it was exactly the right measure, introduced at exactly the wrong time.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell. Email him at of SupervisorsDCCCDemocratic County Central Committee

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