Will San Francisco’s 2024 Elections Change the City?

by on July 24, 2023

Photo shows London Breed, Ahsha Safai, Aaron Peskin, Daniel Lurie
London Breed, Ahsha Safai, Aaron Peskin, Daniel Lurie

A New Direction for SF?

I’ve followed San Francisco elections since 1979. There’s never been so much focus on mayor and supervisor races with 15 months to go.

Why are people so focused on November 2024? Three main reasons.

First, it’s the city’s first mayoral election in an even numbered year. That means more voters than ever will be engaged with the mayor’s race.

Second,  every supervisor’s race will be vigorously contested. Some of this is attributable to redistricting of incumbents.

Third, and possibly most important, many see San Francisco at a critical crossroads. The stakes have been high in prior mayoral elections (1987, 1991, 2011) but I sense a concern about the city’s future direction that equals if not exceeds what we faced in the past.

So where do things stand? Here’s my very early campaign preview on the races.

Mayor’s Race

London Breed

Mayor Breed has been actively campaigning and fundraising for months. She is not taking re-election for granted.

The mayor has made her core campaign themes clear. First, she blames the Board of Supervisors for many of the city’s problems. Second, she sees concerns over public safety, open air drug markets, downtown vacancies, and a potential “doom loop” as part of the structural challenges that all cities face post-COVID. The mayor’s success at avoiding blame for these problems will define the campaign.

The mayor must also convince voters that after more than six years in office she needs another four. That’s why her campaign is arguing that the Board of Supervisors and a failed commission system—both of which the 2024 election could correct—has frustrated the mayor’s agenda.

In the modern history of San Francisco, a mayor seeking re-election has only lost twice (Jordan beat Agnos in 1991 and then lost to Brown in 1995). But Breed is the first mayor to face voters after already serving over six years.

Ahsha Safai

Ahsha Safai is the mayor’s only major announced opponent. A recent poll had him leading Breed, though polls matter much less this far before an election.

The main social media rap on Safai is that as a supervisor working in City Hall he’s “part of the problem.” Supervisors inevitably cast votes that alienate some voters. The only supervisors elected mayor since the 1950’s are Gavin Newsom and London Breed—and both defeated opponents who were currently or had previously been supervisors.

Expect Safai to challenge Breed’s claim that her power to solve the city’s problems was undermined by the Board.

Joe Eskenazi of Mission Local just did a long interview with Safai where the supervisor lays out his campaign message.

Daniel Lurie

Daniel Lurie has not announced a mayoral run but the SF Standard made it pretty clear he’s entering the race. Lurie brings what many see as a major advantage: he has not been part of city government. Voters blaming “City Hall” for the city’s problems may prefer an “outsider;” Lurie fits the bill.

Lurie likely sees his outsider status as an asset given polls showing unhappiness with the city’s direction. Although his nonprofit background differs from the corporate roles played by Richard Riordan in LA and Michael Bloomberg in NYC when they were elected mayors, if Lurie’s campaign takes off expect stories on how these cities fared after electing non-politicians.

The last time San Francisco elected a mayor with no local or state political experience was Frank Jordan in 1991. But as Police Chief Jordan had been a high profile city official.

Aaron Peskin?

Will Aaron Peskin run? Many think he will. Yet he told the New York Times last week that “I am tired, and my next chapter in life is not in electoral politics. It’s time for me to exit the stage.”

If Peskin decides to run he has an existing funding and political base. He does not have to make an early campaign launch. He knows that Matt Gonzalez entered the 2003 mayor’s race on the eve of the  deadline, made the runoff, and only narrowly lost to Newsom.

Peskin arouses strong reactions. Polls show him with high negatives.  I am struck by how many say they don’t like him personally but would support him because he knows how to get things done.

Other Candidates?

If Peskin doesn’t run the city’s “progressive” camp is likely to find another candidate. I can’t see progressives accepting a 2024 race with three “moderates”— Dean Preston put Prop H on the ballot last November because he believed an increased voter turnout was needed to elect a progressive mayor in 2024.

I don’t think Assembly member Phil Ting has enough progressive support to become the consensus progressive candidate. But some potentially winning progressive will look at the field and enter the race.


Campaigns are already launched to defeat incumbent supervisors. This will not be easy. After all, Joel Engardio’s 2022 win over Gordon Mar in D4 was the first time an elected incumbent was defeated since district elections returned in 2000. And that was in a district long represented by supervisors whose politics were closer to Engardio’s than Mar.

In November 2024 Supervisors Chan, Melgar and Preston are expected to face well-financed challengers. No candidates strong enough to defeat them have yet emerged.

Various names are rumored. And there’s still plenty of time. But given the steep competition for campaign funds—we’ve never before had mayoral campaigns in the same election cycle as supervisors– candidates who are not self-funded should be careful. Waiting too long to start raising money could be a big mistake.

District 9 seems to have already come down to a race between Jackie Fielder and Trevor Chandler.

Danny Sauter will try again in D3. He will likely face Sharon Lai, who has been long rumored to run. Lai spoke at the Chinese-American Democratic Club last week and then tweeted that “something is wrong when 1/3 of population is API but only 9% of @sfbos reflects that.” She’s clearly running.

That leaves District 11, which has been off my political radar. I know of candidates in that race but its too early for me to assess whether they can win.

Every available Board seat is in play. That hasn’t happened since 2000, when district elections began and all seats were up.

A big challenge for all San Francisco candidates is that in fall 2024 most San Franciscans will be focused on Biden’s re-election and whether Democrats can win both houses of Congress. That’s why local candidates who can attract volunteers to do voter outreach will have a big edge.

I’ll have more on these races in the fall.





Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw's latest book is Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America. He is the author of four prior books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. He is also the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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