New campaign committee backing London Breed in mayor’s race won’t accept Ron Conway money

New campaign committee backing London Breed in mayor’s race won’t accept Ron Conway money

My fellow San Franciscans, are you ready for an avalanche of cash to fall on our mayoral races? The first waves of green are about to arrive.

Independent expenditure committees, San Francisco’s version of Super PACs, are campaign finance accounts that are not allowed to coordinate with the politician and are allowed to accept contributions of unlimited size (as opposed to candidate accounts, which are limited to $500 donations).

Now, the very first IE committee for the June 2018 mayor’s race has launched — and it’s for Board of Supervisors President London Breed.

That IE will be “women-focused,” said Nicole Derse, a high-powered political consultant whose consultancy firm, 50+1 Strategies, will run the committee along with long-time local consultant Andrea Shorter.

Derse told me the campaign committee will decidedly not accept funding from San Francisco’s most-talked about tech mogul, billionaire and political pincushion.

“Ron Conway has nothing to do with this IE, and he won’t,” she said.

Much ado has been made about Conway’s role in pushing around supervisors to back Breed as mayor, including a tearful speech by Supervisor Hillary Ronen before last week’s vote to name Mark Farrell as mayor.

“It’s offensive to me that everyone assumes that he is controlling everything when there are hundreds of powerful women standing up to support London,” Derse said.

As I told Derse, folks don’t necessarily believe he’s a mastermind — no one has claimed Conway is any clairvoyant political thinker — just that his copious dough allows political schemers to make more headway than they otherwise would.

“Well, I can promise you none of his dough will come this way,” she said.

But don’t count out Conway out. He’s well-known for organizing his tech industry friends to donate to campaigns he favors.

Shorter, a principal officer in this woman-led IE committee, also ran an IE committee against Christina Olague, Breed’s supervisor opponent in 2012, which accepted at least $49,000 from Conway, according to public records.

Derse’s involvement is also notable. As a consultant, she has roots in San Francisco but her firm has lately moved onto campaigns beyond our shores, like that of New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. Her firm also ran progressive supervisor candidate Matt Haney’s school board campaign.

She said progressive supervisors’ move to vote for Farrell as interim mayor over Breed got her “off the sidelines.”

“I felt really disgusted by the power-playing moves,” Derse said. “The IE effort we are running is only positive and it is going to be led, funded and energized by women.”

Notably, mayoral candidates Jane Kim and Mark Leno have both taken pledges to disavow IE campaign funding.

* * *

One of The City’s largest progressive-aligned unions has announced its ranked-choice mayoral endorsements: Jane Kim, London Breed and Mark Leno, in that order.

Those are the picks of the Service Employees International Union 1021, whose 54,000 or so Northern California members put plentiful boots on the ground and garner respect from many San Franciscans. The union’s sway has steered many an election, according to political consultant Jim Ross, who has worked with them in the past.

Ross wasn’t shocked that Kim was SEIU 1021’s top pick, but it wasn’t all expected.

“I do think it’s a bit of a surprise London beat Mark Leno,” he said. “But, you know also, London Breed has been directly involved in city politics for the last seven or eight years and built relationships.”

Leno has been out of office and, perhaps, out of mind for the union members, Ross said.

Joseph Bryant, vice president of the San Francisco Region of SEIU 1021, said the endorsement was the result of a candidate forum on Jan. 25, during which SEIU members asked questions and subsequently voted on endorsements.

The first question on my mind was to what extent — if any — the recent ouster of Breed, and allegations of racism and sexism, had on the vote. Bryant was tight-lipped because the process is confidential, he said.

In a statement, Kim said she was “honored” for the endorsement and thanked the labor community for helping her pass a Free City College program and push for minimum wage.

Ross speculated that members may have preferred Breed over Leno due to her involvement with local unions over her two terms as supervisor.

“It just shows that she’s built real relationships within the city workforce,” he said. But it’s clear, he added, that the endorsement is “a huge victory for Jane Kim … a huge boost.”

That huge boost may manifest soon.

“Our members will be hitting the streets, knocking on doors and talking to their neighbors in the months ahead to ensure that San Francisco’s next mayor will prioritize working families,” Bryant said.

It seems the first big union win goes to Kim.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at

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