I was genuinely torn between Aaron Peskin and Julie Christensen in the race for District 3 Supervisor. I had a good relationship with each of them and had reasons to support both. But on Aug. 12, the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee was making its endorsement decision, and as a voting member, I needed to make a difficult choice.
I have spent much of my political career recruiting and supporting women in public office and I think Supervisor Christensen has the potential to do great things. Peskin is a former ally of mine. He recruited me to run for the Democratic Party board and supported me in my first two races. But in 2012, our interests diverged. I worked hard to get more women elected to the DCCC, and he worked hard to undermine my efforts. I understand his perspective — to him, political ideology is more important than a candidate’s gender, and many of the candidates on my slate failed Aaron’s ideological test.
One reason why I worked so hard to elect women is because I thought it would change the tenor at City Hall. Those who watch local politics remember how toxic that environment was just a few years ago. Policy debates often disintegrated into shouting matches and personal attacks, and then-Supervisor Peskin was one of the main culprits. My hope was that bringing more women to the table would moderate the tone, and maybe more good things could be accomplished.
This summer, I met with each candidate twice. I considered their positions on the issues, their effectiveness in office, their viability as candidates and our personal relationships. Both candidates made strong cases for my vote, and each had politically influential people call me. Christensen supporters emphasized her accomplishments and her qualities as a leader. Peskin supporters told me I should side with him because his win was inevitable, and that I didn’t want to cross him. He told me that he would “remember it” if I voted for his opponent. It sounded to me like a threat. I don’t respond well to threats.
And then, a local progressive activist/journalist — an ally of Peskin’s — published some sensitive information about me. It was clearly an effort to shame me into voting for Peskin, and it had the opposite effect.
The DCCC endorsement went to Christensen, and mine was one of the deciding votes. After the meeting, I received a few dozen angry messages and threats, including an image that was posted on Twitter. As if on cue, former Supervisor Chris Daly posted “Beware the wrath of Peskin” on my Facebook page. I couldn’t believe it! More intimidation.
This nastiness is exactly why I ran the women’s slate in the 2012 DCCC race, and why I ran for office myself. Today, women comprise five out of 11 seats on the Board of Supervisors, and the most acrimonious members are gone. We have also achieved gender parity at the DCCC, and Peskin is no longer a member. And I must say, both the board and the Democratic Party are more pleasant, productive and collaborative places to work. Ask anyone who serves on these bodies.
All of the news coverage about this race is about Aaron’s personality and here’s why: The candidates are actually not that different from each other on the issues, but their styles couldn’t be more distinct. If you agree with me that scorched-earth tactics and threats are not the way to do the people’s business, vote for Julie Christensen.
Alix Rosenthal is an attorney in San Francisco, Second Vice Chair of the SF Democratic Party, and former President of the San Francisco Elections Commission.