Progressive Convention Won’t Nominate a Candidate

by Paul Hogarth on June 1, 2007

That’s what Chris Daly said when we talked about tomorrow’s convention at the Tenderloin Community School that he called to launch a progressive challenge to Mayor Newsom. As currently scheduled, the Convention will have two hours of Workshops in the morning, a lunch with cultural performances, and a very long list of speakers. It will probably be the largest gathering of progressive elected officials in San Francisco history, with over 15 speakers confirmed to address the crowd.

But there will be no formal process for delegates to nominate a candidate for Mayor, followed by an actual endorsement from the convention. It’s more about “setting the stage” for a progressive campaign this year, he explained. At the same time, Daly has insisted that the Left must have a candidate – which will be him if nobody else declares at the Convention. Meanwhile, State Senator Carole Migden will be there to shore up progressive credentials for her re-election campaign while her opponent, Mark Leno, is tied up in Sacramento working on the state budget.

“It’s never been about a formal process for a nomination,” said Daly when I asked about the Convention’s schedule. “From the start, I was careful to never use the term ‘nominate.’” In the mass e-mail that he sent out on May 11th to first announce the Convention, Daly invited progressives to “set the stage for our campaign this summer and fall” and “launch our candidate(s) for Mayor of San Francisco.” While the Convention will “launch” a progressive mayoral campaign, there will be no decision-making process among delegates to pick who that candidate will be.

For progressives planning to attend a Saturday kick-off, the whole idea of having a convention was to end months of speculation and – finally! – get behind a candidate who chooses to run. In a May 30th interview on KPFA (94.1 FM), Daly said that the Convention will showcase the City’s strong progressive movement and “hopefully on Saturday we will have a strong challenger to the Mayor’s office.”

But a nominating process is certainly what people had in mind. Matt Gonzalez, the sentimental choice for many progressives, has said that he does not wish to be considered at the Convention but that he may enter the Mayor’s race a few weeks later. “If I have a chance to address the gathering,” he said, “I will be arguing for why Art Agnos is my preferred candidate.”

Rather than a nominating process with floor debate, most of the Convention’s “Main Program” will consist of speeches by 15 progressive elected officials including Ross Mirkarimi, Mike Hennessey, Jane Kim, Tom Ammiano, Eric Mar, Jake McGoldrick and Jeff Adachi. In national politics, such conventions are also a series of speech after speech by various elected officials and very little time for delegates to deliberate on making a recommendation.

However, everyone goes into the Democratic National Convention knowing who will be the party’s nominee because there’s been a series of state primaries to decide that, and the nomination is basically a done deal. Here, with 24 hours to go before the Progressive Convention, nobody knows who will be “the candidate” to take on Newsom and the schedule isn’t set up to have that process – although there will be a workshop in the morning to set up an issue-based platform.

But we do know two things. First, Matt Gonzalez may still run for Mayor but he doesn’t want to be considered at the Convention. Second, Chris Daly has said that if the Left doesn’t have a candidate by the end of the day he will declare his candidacy. Based on the agenda, one can conclude that the Convention will be a long pep rally of speeches by progressive politicos with Daly announcing at the end that he will be running for Mayor.

Another persistent question people have asked is — who is a progressive? Daly has touted the fact that so many elected officials have confirmed their attendance, and the list is impressive. Six Supervisors, four School Board members, three College Board members, one BART Director, and one State Senator will all be there. Daly invited “every progressive elected official who hasn’t appeared at a Gavin Newsom campaign event” – an interesting litmus test for who is considered a “progressive.”

Under that rationale, Mark Leno is not a progressive but Sophie Maxwell is. A State Assemblyman who is the “go-to” guy for every activist who wants something done in Sacramento on tenants’ rights, marriage equality and police accountability doesn’t pass muster, but a Supervisor who sold out Bayview-Hunters Point to the Redevelopment Agency does. Liberal legend John Burton, who has endorsed Newsom, also wouldn’t qualify.

In fairness, Daly said that if Burton or Leno wanted to address the Convention, he would give them a chance to speak. But Mark Leno can’t make it because he’s tied up in Sacramento for the next seven days. Leno is one of only six legislators from both chambers to serve on the Budget Conference Committee that finalizes the state budget before it hits the floor. Drafting the state budget is something that a progressive legislator from San Francisco, when invited to take part, can’t afford to miss.

One state politician who will be there is Senator Carole Migden. Daly has made it no secret that he’s upset at Mark Leno for not running for Mayor and instead running for Senate, and has gone all-out to help Migden defeat him. After having been missing-in-action for years in the progressive community, Migden is suddenly appearing at events throughout the City.

With word that the Progressive Convention will not formally “nominate” a candidate against Newsom, what outcome could there be other than Chris Daly announcing that he’s running for Mayor? And with Carole Migden there to rally the troops as a progressive, could it be that the Convention is also about her re-election campaign? Whatever it is, it ain’t like the progressive conventions I knew in Berkeley.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As a private citizen, Paul Hogarth has endorsed Mark Leno for State Senate but does not play an advisory role in the campaign. He has not and will not endorse Gavin Newsom for re-election. Send feedback to

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