With re-election bid on horizon, mayor faces token challengers

With less than a year until San Franciscans go to the ballot box to either re-elect MayorGavin Newsom or hand his office to someone else, few have signed up for the fight.

Six would-be mayors have filed papers declaring their intention to start fundraising for The City’s top office, but political insiders say it will be months before the strongest challengers step into the ring.

“It’s too early, you don’t really know who’s going to be in the final slate until August,” San Francisco political consultant David Latterman said.

According to race watchers, there are no serious contenders among the official candidates to date, which includes an single room occupancy tenant who made an unsuccessful run for District 6 supervisor this year, a paint and drywall contractor and a retired attorney and former New Jersey mayor.

“Unknowns just can’t come out,” Latterman said. “In order to have any serious run, you have to have some sort of base or capital, have to have high name recognition or you have to have a lot of volunteers willing to go to bat for you.”

Although Newsom has strong poll numbers, he comes into an election year in the wake of several political setbacks, including an announcement by the San Francisco 49ers that the team plans to move to Santa Clara, the subsequent loss of a bid for the 2016 Olympic Games and local election results in November that boosted the strength of his progressive critics.

“The only person running against Gavin Newsom is himself, and right now it looks like it’s a tough race,” Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said.

Newsom, who told reporters in October that he had mixed feelings about pursuing a second term in office, is now moving full speed ahead with his re-election effort and has already started to raise funds.

The mayor is prepared to win what is expected to be a “very hotly contested race,” said one of his campaign consultants, Eric Jaye.

In City Hall circles, there is no end to the speculation on who will step up to try and unseat Newsom. Many of the top names discussed have already gone on record saying they’re not interested in running, including Public Defender Jeff Adachi, former Mayor Art Agnos, Supervisors Chris Daly and Bevan Dufty, District Attorney Kamala Harris, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Sheriff Michael Hennessy and Peskin.

One politician who said he’s ready to run is former Supervisor and Treasure Island head Tony Hall, who, at the request of Newsom, gave up his supervisorial seat in 2004 to take up the Treasure Island position, which then gave Newsom the chance to put an ally into the supervisor’s seat.

Hall was later dumped out of office after leveling accusations that Newsom was making deals with potential Treasure Island developers.

“The guy’s got all the money and the media on his side, but I don’t think he has any integrity,” Hall said.

Jaye said recent mayoral races had the most formidable challengers coming in at the 11th hour, citing Supervisor Tom Ammiano’s impressive write-in campaign in 1999, which pushed the then-incumbent, Willie Brown, into a runoff, and former Supervisor Matt Gonzalez’s last-minute run for mayor in 2003, which sent Newsom — who spent a record $3.8 million on his campaign — into a runoff.

Mayor’s opposition, to date

Rodney Hauge: SRO tenant who made an unsuccessful run for District 6 supervisor this year

Robert McCullough: lists occupation as “homeless/champion of Jesus Christ”

Matthew Mengarelli: paint and drywall contractor

Antonio Mims: slam poet who listed his occupation as “politian (sic)/Dollar Mover”

Malinka Moye: made unsuccessful run for District 6 supervisor in 2002

Frederick Renz:retired attorney and former New Jersey mayor

-Source: San Francisco Department of Elections

beslinger@examiner.com

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