Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer speaks at the election party of District Attorney candidate Chesa Boudin at SoMa Streat Food Park on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Recall effort against Fewer panned as ‘PR stunt’

Signature drive inspired by anti-SFPOA chant faces ‘procedural hurdles,’ little support

A group of Richmond District residents are seeking to recall Supervisor Sandra Fewer for leading an anti-police union chant on election night, but the effort lacks a key supporter in the San Francisco Police Officers Association.

SFPOA President Tony Montoya told the San Francisco Examiner on Wednesday that it “just doesn’t seem feasible” to attempt to recall Fewer when she is up for re-election next November, in less than a year.

“If they want to do a recall, that’s on them,” Montoya said, adding that his union has had no part in organizing the recall effort. “We’ll expend our energies on what is going to happen in 2020.”

Thirty-one residents filed a notice of intention with the Department of Elections on Tuesday to start gathering signatures for the recall attempt.

The petition would need more than 8,500 signatures from registered voters in District 1, or 20 percent of registered voters in the district, to land on the March ballot or to trigger a special election by July 8.

The residents are upset that Fewer shouted “F— the POA” at an election party for District Attorney-elect Chesa Boudin after the police union spent hundreds of thousands of dollars opposing his campaign.

The group called the chant “obscene” in its filing with the Department of Elections, as first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Supervisor Fewer’s failure to deliver for District 1 residents is one thing, but this is simply shameful,” the residents wrote. “She has insulted the hardworking men and women of San Francisco’s police force, who do their best to protect our community… She needs to be removed from office immediately.”

But political strategist Jon Golinger said “procedural hurdles” would make it “close to impossible” for the group to succeed in recalling Fewer during her final year in office.

Golinger said the group has missed the boat for adding the recall to the March ballot. And he questioned whether it would be worth the resources for the group to gather signatures for a special election after March when Fewer is up for re-election in November 2020.

“It feels more like a PR stunt than a real recall,” Golinger said. “If any voters are truly unhappy with their elected official, then they have every opportunity to address that in their next election.”

The group would need to have the signatures validated 105 days in advance of the election to qualify for the March 2020 ballot, according to Golinger. And the group cannot begin gathering signatures until mid-December because of deadlines in place for the Department of Elections to review the petition and for Fewer to respond.

“March is too early for them, November is too late,” Golinger said. “The only way they could do it would be a special election.”

Golinger said the group could gather enough signatures by March 1 to trigger a special election. But it would have to be held by July 8, six months before the end of Fewer’s term.

Among the residents who started the effort is Alexandra Jansen, a member of the Community Police Advisory Board at Richmond Police Station. Frustrated about needles on the street and tent encampments, Jansen said there has recently been a push within the neighborhood to improve safety.

“The election night outburst really made some of us mobilize,” Jansen said. “We deserve better than a representative that is speaking this way about people that are supporting us and support our safety in the neighborhood.”

“I expect more from a public official,” Jansen continued. “She can feel that way at a dinner party, but at election night party I think that’s poor conduct.”

Fewer has previously apologized to any officers who she offended with the chant, but she refused to say sorry to the SFPOA.

The SFPOA had demanded an apology from Fewer and accused her of endangering police officers with the chant.

On Wednesday, the supervisor issued a statement in response to the recall effort.

“I apologize to SF police officers, my 80,000 District 1 constituents, and residents across the city for causing any offense with my choice of language,” Fewer said. “I recognize that the language I used has caused some to be disappointed in me as an elected official, and I pledge to hold myself to a higher standard.”

But she doubled down on her decision to not apologize to the SFPOA.

“I should also clarify that I do not see police officers and the POA as one and the same,” Fewer said. “I do not hold the same respect for the POA, who as an organization has a long history of racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric and publicly targeting and threatening any of their critics.”

“While I was communicating my deep disappointment with this organization,” she continued, “I chose to use language that caused offense to SF residents—and for that, I sincerely apologize.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct a deadline for the March election.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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