The results of San Francisco’s local election have come in, but there is one more vote for a City Hall post that is yet to occur – who will serve as the president of the Board of Supervisors, arguably the second most powerful position in city government.
On Jan. 8, four new members of the Board of Supervisors are expected to be sworn into office – the three who won in open elections this November for the District 1, 9 and 11 seats and whomever Mayor Ed Lee appoints to serve in the District 8 seat vacated Monday by Scott Wiener, who was elected to the District 11 state Senate seat in Sacramento.
The board will then vote on who will become the next board president for a two-year term. The current board president is the moderate London Breed, who prevailed in her District 5 election in November against tenant rights advocate and progressive Dean Preston to continue to represent the Fillmore, Western Addition and Haight neighborhoods.
The power of the board president is manifold, including assigning the board members to serve on certain committees, which can determine one’s political career, and making appointments to the significant bodies like the Planning Commission and Board of Appeals.
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Past board president votes have had no shortage of backroom drama and have resulted in multiple nominations and votes during the meeting before someone picks up the required six votes.
But there may be little intrigue this time around.
Breed was elected as board president two years ago with the backing of the board’s moderate majority. And while the for the past year the board has had a progressive majority with a 6-5 voting margin, the results of the November election have flipped the board’s majority back to the moderates.
It was Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s election last year to the District 3 seat, beating out mayoral appointee Julie Christensen, that gave the progressives the majority, but this November the moderates regained the majority when the District 11 race went to moderate Ahsha Safai, ending 16 years of progressive representation in that district.
Another reason Breed is expected to be voted in as board president on Jan. 8 is that there is a past precedent for board presidents to serve more than one two-year term. Prior to Breed, former Supervisor and current Assemblymember David Chiu set the record for serving three consecutive two-year terms as board president, and before Chiu, Peskin had served two consecutive two-year terms as board president when he previously served in the District 3 seat.
The path for anyone to unseat Breed seems likeliest for progressive Supervisor Jane Kim, who could shore up progressive support being the elder elected on the board giving her five votes.
But Kim would need a moderate supervisor’s vote, and while she may have scored some points with Safai by dual-endorsing in his contest – she endorsed Safai and his progressive challenger Kimberly Alvarenga – odds are that wouldn’t be enough to prompt him to break from the moderate bloc.
Safai wasn’t committing to voting for anyone on Friday when reached by the San Francisco Examiner. Safai said he hasn’t discussed the vote with board members.
“I really don’t know. I haven’t had any conversations with anyone.” Safai said. “Everything is still up in the air. No member of the board has approached me about board presidency.”
Safai added, “It’s just sinking in that I made it onto the board.”
Safai is taking the seat currently held by Supervisor John Avalos, who is termed out of office and therefore won’t be voting for the board president. Avalos supported Alvarenga in the contest.
Alvarenga lost by about 400 votes and faced more than $1 million in third-party spending from tech and real estate interests combined with Safai’s own campaign spending.
Avalos said that Safai “seems to be the swing vote” for board presidency in determining whether Breed holds on to the post or if it goes to Kim.
Avalos then went on to use Game of Thrones terminology in predicting the outcome. “I expect the Lannisters have a good shot at holding on to the Iron Throne,” Avalos said in a text message to the Examiner.
(The Lannisters refers the a group widely considered the “bad guys” in the popular TV show.)
“About a million dollars of tech, real estate and POA [Police Officers Association] money went into giving Cousin Lancel a seat on the small council. I’m sure they’ll be calling in the chits.”
(Cousin Lancel is a character on Game of Thrones who is considered a pawn.)
But when asked Friday if she wanted to be board president, Kim texted the Examiner: “No, I do not.”