New progressive board majority could shape mayor’s race

The progressives have the strongest membership on the Board of Supervisors in more than a decade following election night and how they wield that power could impact next year’s mayor’s race.

While more than 100,000 ballots are left to count by the Department of Elections, the latest update Wednesday shows the outcomes on election night are holding and little change is expected.

The most surprising result was progressive Gordon Mar’s apparent victory in the most conservative of districts, the Sunset. His lead over moderate candidate Jessica Ho increased from 1,626 to 1,733 with the latest tally released Wednesday.

San Francisco’s new political reality is already sinking in.

“I’ve been tracking the Board of Supervisors back to 1998 to figure out whether the progressives or moderates have a majority or a plurality,” said lobbyist Alex Clemens during his hosting of SPUR’s traditional post-election recap Wednesday. “This is as high as it gets. There are seven core progressives on the Board of Supervisors.”

Political consultant David Latterman (left) and lobbyist Alex Clemens (right) discuss the newly elected Board of Supervisors’ make up at a post-election recap hosted by SPUR. (Joshua Sabatini/S.F. Examiner)

The progressives have a solid seven of 11 votes and whether they can have an eight-vote veto-proof majority, or a supermajority, will come down to Shamann Walton, who was elected in the District 10 race and was endorsed by both moderates and progressives, according to Clemens.

Clemens said “the pressure on [Walton] will be immense” as the mayor and progressives will seek his vote.

If the progressives can secure it, they can lob veto-proof proposals at Mayor London Breed. “Policy is great, but it does take a backseat to politics when a potential power shift is up,” Clemens said, referring to Breed’s re-election in November 2019.

The seven core progressives on the board are: Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Hillary Ronen, Norman Yee, Gordon Mar, Sandra Fewer, Rafael Mandelman and Matt Haney, according to Clemens and co-host at the talk, David Latterman, a political consultant.

They said the two core moderates on the board are Supervisors Ahsha Safai and Catherine Stefani.

They pointed to Breed appointee Vallie Brown in District 5 as a swing vote, but noted Brown would likely never go against Breed, leaving Walton in that crucial role.

The first order of business for the new board will be to elect a board president in January, after they are sworn into office. Names being floated include Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Rafael Mandelman and Shamann Walton.

Jon Golinger, a progressive campaign strategist, said those were “the most thought of names” and added that “I would never count Aaron Peskin out.”

Another question for the progressives is who might challenge Breed next November.

“When does that mayor’s race start? Just did,” Clemens said at the SPUR talk. He noted that “there have been two times at this point in a mayor’s race when there is an incumbent that the progressives haven’t found their person or people yet — Newsom’s re-elect and Ed Lee’s re-election.”

Clemens said based on the election results, he imagined there are now “lots of meetings” to figure out who will challenge Breed.

The election results included losses by Breed’s endorsed candidates in District 6 and District 4, as well as the success of a homeless tax ballot measure she opposed. The outcome, Golinger said, “was a stark reminder that the city voters are not with this mayor on all of the issues and maybe not on most of them” and it “opened a lot of eyes that had started to close thinking about next year’s mayor’s race.”

“I think a lot of people that were letting that conversation fade are rethinking that today,” he added.

Golinger likened the progressive-controlled board that will officially begin in January to the “class of 2000” supervisors who ran against the politics of then-Mayor Willie Brown. The difference, he said, is that this new class of supervisors did not all run with a uniform message.

“There is definitely some differences of opinion within that [bloc],” Golinger said. “They didn’t run as they did in 2000 on the same slate.”

There is also a question about what strategy the progressive camp will take on the board. “Who knows how it’s really going to shake down,” Latterman said. “It may not be in the board’s interest to try to shout [Breed] down every step of the way.”

Golinger predicted the progressive majority will not delay in pushing policy proposals that will test Breed. He said some of the issues that “have festered will start to quickly emerge,” in areas such as affordable housing, corporate tax breaks and police reform.

“I think you’ll see some big things come out of the board that the mayor will have to decide whether if she is going to work with them on or fight them on.”

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