Mayor Gavin Newsom faces one of the easier roads to re-election in modern San Francisco history. After much hand-wringing on the part of various progressive leaders — and attempts at putting forward a consensus candidatewho could tap into perceived discontent with the mayor among liberal San Franciscans — no candidate emerged. Instead, we are left with a field of 11 challengers, several of whom are serious-minded but lack the political background, name recognition and fundraising capability to mount a credible challenge. Then there are candidates named “Grasshopper” and “Chicken John.”
The lack of a vigorous and credible exchange of ideas within the mayor’s race is not good for democracy or for our city — we’d rather the mayor were forced by formidable candidates to justify and defend his administration. But what the lack of challengers indicates is not a lack of political ambition in San Francisco. It’s an acknowledgment that Newsom is virtually unbeatable because he is solidly in line with most San Franciscans’ vision of The City. That’s why he deserves re-election when local voters go to the polls next month.
Newsom has spent the last four years crafting nonideological and pragmatic solutions to The City’s myriad problems. He made his first big splash, both locally and nationally, by backing gay marriage, a stance that positively cemented his standing with many San Franciscans. But he’s shown a refreshing ability to buck San Francisco’s prevailing liberal winds and pursue more moderate agendas. His support of development both downtown and in existing neighborhoods and new industries such as biotech have been refreshing, as has his budgetary support for more police on the streets and nuts-and-bolts priorities such as parks and well-kept roads rather than ill-defined social causes prized by the left.
He’s also been a vocal and effective spokesman for San Francisco, sending the message that San Francisco welcomes visitors, new businesses and new technologies. While he can’t take credit for it, he has been a factor in a surging local economy in which revenues are up, tourism is back, hotels are humming and San Francisco has furthered its status as an importantnexus for high-tech companies.
On the subject of homelessness, long thought to be virtually unsolvable, Newsom has made strong inroads. His Care not Cash program strikes the right balance between compassion and pragmatism and appears to have reduced the number of chronically homeless on the streets. And his Project Connect program, which connects hundreds of volunteers with poor residents needing access to services, has been an unqualified success.
In a town with as many outspoken factions as San Francisco, it’s inevitable that mayors will be heavily criticized. But Newsom has taken a moderate, sensible approach to most issues that puts the greater good of all city residents above the needs of small but vocal special interests. Voters should mark his name on the ballot with confidence.