Last night, Club Fugazi was on fire. The energy at Aaron Peskin’s campaign party felt like a current. His supporters wept openly with joy, and jumped into one another’s embrace.
Longtime politicos called it early in the evening: The vote-by-mail ballots, often the graveyard for progressive votes, went decisively to Peskin early on. This, they noted, was a good sign.
Supervisor candidate Peskin may not have declared victory last night, but he did not need to. The votes point to an almost certain win by the once-supervisor, over his opponent Julie Christensen.
Still, anything could happen. But if this win goes to Peskin, it begs many questions for the future.
Mayor Ed Lee must be tearing up his hat (or his mustache, or something else tearable). His appointed (anointed?) candidate,
Christensen, came up short in the District 3 race — the one oft-painted as a proxy battle between progressives and the mayor.
And Lee didn’t do so hot himself, with his 1-2-3 opponents Amy Farah Weiss, Stuart Schuffman and Francisco Herrera netting 43,000 votes to Lee’s 70,000. That’s not a decisive victory for an incumbent candidate with more than $1 million in the bank.
Sandra Fewer, a school board member, put it gently, telling me the voter mandate against the mayor “is a temperature gauge of San Francisco.”
I’ll be more blunt: It’s pathetic. It signals a pissed off San Francisco, at least, for the ones paying attention.
But let’s set aside the ra-ra’s and embrace some harsh reality: Progressives got to this low point of power by performing equally pathetically. There are long-standing rifts in the progressive community that must be healed going forward.
Without this work, this victory against the moderate majority, against the big-business downtown interests, and against the gentrifying developers, will be all too temporary.
Firstly, let’s recognize that despite the amazing support and turnout at Peskin’s party last night, many were of an older generation. That’s not a knock, but it is important to note that progressives have notoriously not trained new generations of politicians.
That’s why Peskin needed to run again in the first place.
Karyn Smoot and Andrew Szeto are two San Francisco natives, both 24 years old, who attended Peskin’s election night party last night. They were conspicuous attendees for their youth.
Smoot works with the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, though she was there as an individual. Szeto is with the SF Tenants Union. Both remarked on the rift between the old progressive guard and the newer progressive groups such as Causa Justa Just Cause and SF Rising.
Those groups have more in common with Black Lives Matter and social movements among people of color. “They also have a bigger group of younger people,” Szeto said.
They’re also groups that aren’t necessarily tapped for candidates by the old guard of progressives. Tom Temprano, who ran for college board, is the rare exception — a progressive on the rise. But he’s from the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, a long-standing source of progressive support.
There were certainly some faces of color at Peskin’s rally and Chinatown in particular came out in strong support of Aaron. But Latino groups have long been at odds with the predominantly white, old school progressive bloc.
That’s got to change and soon. As more and more low- and middle-income San Franciscans are priced out of The City, progressives need to band together.
When Peskin got onto the stage to rally his supporters last night, as victory was apparent, he ended a short speech with an even shorter three words:
“We did it.”
Yes you did, Mr. Peskin. The real question is: What will you do next?
This was just one battle. But to save San Francisco, you’ll need to win many, many more.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.