Progressive Slate Keeps Control of San Francisco DCCC

by Paul Hogarth on June 9, 2010

If there’s one lesson from last night’s election for the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC), it is that slate politics works. When voters have to select 12 candidates, having a team of candidates can yield results. Two years ago, progressives used that strategy to get a majority on the DCCC – which elected Aaron Peskin as Chair. Last night, progressives netted an extra seat on the moderate West Side – and have likely kept their 10-2 seat majority on the East Side. While some DCCC candidates raised huge amounts of money for their races, running solo campaigns proved to be a losing strategy. The progressives still have a majority – but with Mayor Gavin Newsom and D.A. Kamala Harris having won their statewide primaries, they now have seats on the DCCC as ex officio members. Which can make a difference in close endorsement races.

On the West Side, four DCCC incumbents lost re-election – two progressives (Hene Kelly and Jake McGoldrick), and two moderates (Matt Tuchow and Meagan Levitan.) But they were replaced by three progressives (Milton Marks, Sandra Fewer and John Avalos) and one moderate (Bill Fazio), netting the progressives an additional seat.

But the bigger story on the West Side is that moderate Mike Sullivan, who chairs Plan C, spent a huge amount of money in the race – but still lost. That’s because he ran independently, whereas lesser funded progressives ran on a slate. Sullivan’s glossy mailers that hit West Side homes were likely tossed – because what average voter knows or cares about the DCCC?

It was a bad night for the Firefighters – Dan Dunnigan and John Shanley both lost on the West Side, and Keith Baraka is in 13th place on the East Side. Baraka may still win (he is only 300 votes behind Eric Quezada), but the contrast in spending is dramatic. Baraka sent out mailers to voters that must have cost a fortune – and also campaigned harder than most – but he ran as an individual. Quezada barely spent any money, but was on the progressive slate.

Joe Julian was the only East Side incumbent to lose – but progressives retained his seat with Carole Migden, and have probably defended the two open seats (incumbents Chris Daly and Laura Spanjian did not run) with Alix Rosenthal and Quezada. If Quezada’s numbers hold, the number of progressive seats on the East Side will remain the same.

On the more moderate side, incumbents Leslie Katz and Scott Wiener were re-elected. Wiener finished about 400 votes ahead of his District 8 rival, Rafael Mandelman. But because DCCC seats are by State Assembly District rather than by Supervisor District, it remains to be seen how well Wiener and Mandelman did with the District 8 electorate they will need for the Supervisor race in November. Such data is not yet available.

Mayor Gavin Newsom won his primary for Lieutenant Governor last night, and D.A. Kamala Harris received the nod for Attorney General. This makes them Democratic Party officials, which gives them automatic seats on the DCCC as “superdelegates.” Progressives may have netted a seat last night in DCCC elections, but this could be cancelled out – depending upon how Newsom and Harris vote on endorsements.

And if there’s one lesson to be learned from this DCCC election cycle, there is a dire need for campaign reform. First, candidates must limit their contribution to $500 per donor – just like all other local San Francisco candidates do under City law. Second, electing DCCC by Supervisor District – rather than Assembly District – would allow independent minded candidates who don’t have tons of money to make credible runs.

In other news, San Francisco voters passed both tax measures (Propositions A and B) – and the Retirement Pension Reform (Prop D.) They rejected the Charter Amendment change for the Film Commission (Prop C), and the Financial Hardship Ordinance for tenants (Prop F.) But they passed Prop E, which requires the Police to disclose in their budget how much the City spends on dignitary security – just like the Secret Service.

My friend Melissa Griffin had predicted that Prop E would pass, because voters “always like information.” But Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who authored Prop E, expressed some surprise last night of its passage. “I didn’t spend any money on it,” he laughed.

Filed under: Archive