Time is short for 4 may­oral hope­fuls try­ing to sway vot­ers

San Francisco Chronicle - - BAY AREA - HEATHER KNIGHT

San Fran­cis­cans, get ready.

You have just 20 weeks to de­cide who should lead our eco­nomic pow­er­house of a city, who should de­cide how its $10 bil­lion an­nual bud­get is spent, and who should set the agenda on clean­ing its filthy streets, rec­ti­fy­ing its shame­ful home­less prob­lem and en­sur­ing that not just those whose trust funds have trust funds can af­ford to live here.

He or she will com­plete the rest of the late Mayor Ed Lee’s term and have the chance to run for two more four-year slots. Any glance at how dra­mat­i­cally San Fran­cisco changed un­der Lee’s seven-year ten­ure shows you just how much the next mayor could af­fect our city — for bet­ter or worse — if he or she re­mains in Room 200 un­til Jan­uary 2028, a good bet in a city that last booted an in­cum­bent in 1991.

So, you know, no big­gie.

Con­sid­er­ing the dra­matic con­se­quences of the first wide-open mayor’s race in San Fran­cisco since 2003, I was sur­prised more po­ten­tial can­di­dates didn’t throw their hats in the ring. In the end — 5 p.m. Tues­day — just four house­hold names en­tered the race.

Other can­di­dates may have been scared off by the quick pace of the race, moved up 17 months be­cause of Lee’s death. Or act­ing Mayor Lon­don Breed’s strong early show­ing on the job and in gain­ing sup­port from the tech and busi­ness worlds. Or for­mer state Sen. Mark Leno’s early jump into the race last spring and his $415,000 in cam­paign cash.

And so we’re left with Breed, Leno, Su­per­vi­sor Jane Kim and for­mer Su­per­vi­sor An­gela Alioto (plus four other, far lesser known can­di­dates) who so far don’t have a whole lot of pol­icy dif­fer­ences. But then, that’s how it of­ten works in San Fran­cisco, where small dis­agree­ments be­tween lib­er­als and even-more-lib­eral lib­er­als are blown up into huge deals. They’re all talk­ing about ad­dress­ing home­less­ness, clean­ing the streets, build­ing af­ford­able hous­ing and ad­dress­ing gen­tri­fi­ca­tion.

In seek­ing out what dif­fer­en­ti­ates them, I found their ap­pear­ances at the Depart­ment of Elec­tions to file their pa­pers to en­ter the race some­what il­lu­mi­nat­ing. Here’s a quick snap­shot of each.

Lon­don Breed: The act­ing mayor brought 10 lit­tle girls with her and po­si­tioned them around a wooden con­fer­ence ta­ble.

“Guess what?” she said, rais­ing her eye­brows and lean­ing in as if to di­vulge some­thing juicy. “I’m run­ning for mayor!”

“When I was a lit­tle girl grow­ing up in San Fran­cisco, I never thought it was pos­si­ble that some­one like me could be your mayor,” she con­tin­ued. “I want all of you to know that it’s pos­si­ble that you can be mayor too.”

It’s a great mes­sage in 2018, dubbed the Year of the Woman. Breed would be the sec­ond fe­male mayor in San Fran­cisco his­tory. The first was Dianne Feinstein, who be­came mayor in 1978 af­ter the as­sas­si­na­tion of Ge­orge Moscone. Both Breed and Feinstein were pres­i­dent of the Board of Su­per­vi­sors and there­fore took the top post when the mayor died. By the way, why does it take the death of a man for a woman to claim Room 200?

Breed would be­come the city’s first African Amer­i­can fe­male mayor, fol­low­ing a small but grow­ing group of black fe­male may­ors in ma­jor cities. The fact that she grew up in pub­lic hous­ing in the Western Ad­di­tion makes her story even more in­spir­ing.

That’s why the board’s dis­cus­sion about pick­ing an in­terim mayor — some­one dif­fer­ent — to serve un­til June has both­ered some women. Co­me­dian Chelsea Han­dler tweeted, “I stand with Lon­don Breed ... Per­fect op­por­tu­nity to show up for a woman. She de­serves us.” Ac­tress Lena Dun­ham’s fem­i­nist blog, the Lenny Let­ter, pub­lished a piece en­ti­tled “San Fran­cisco Is Fail­ing Lon­don Breed.”

Mag­gie Muir, who’s man­ag­ing Breed’s cam­paign, said the pro­gres­sives’ charge that Breed would be a con­tin­u­a­tion of the past three mod­er­ate, down­town-backed may­ors — Wil­lie Brown, Gavin New­som and Lee — is “sex­ist” and “dis­ap­point­ing.”

For this undecided city voter, Breed’s his­tory and iden­tity are pluses, but don’t put her over the fin­ish line. I want to hear far more about how this un­pre­dictable voter on the board, with a some­what thin leg­isla­tive record, would run the city.

Jane Kim: The pro­gres­sive su­per­vi­sor would be the city’s first Asian Amer­i­can fe­male mayor. She filed her pa­pers along­side some well­known pro­gres­sives and stressed her ide­ol­ogy of go­ing big, even if she loses. She backed the suc­cess­ful ef­fort to make City Col­lege free, but some other ideas, like free birth con­trol and a tax on CEOs, haven’t gone any­where.

“I have a track record of be­ing bold and fight­ing for re­ally big ideas for the city,” Kim said. “I haven’t been scared to go big and to lose, but I’ve also won for our res­i­dents.”

She’s sure to be the nat­u­ral can­di­date for the “Bernie bros” who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders in his cam­paign for pres­i­dent. Sanders en­dorsed Kim in her failed state Sen­ate run. Kim even posed for self­ies with a few of them in City Hall’s base­ment elec­tions of­fice and dis­cussed the mer­its of the new iPhones with them.

Mark Leno: The only se­ri­ous con­tender in the race who’s, gasp, a man, showed up to file his pa­pers in black mo­tor­cy­cle boots and his trade­mark beam­ing smile. (The guy’s den­tist should get a cut if he wins.)

Leno would be the city’s first openly gay mayor. He was ac­com­pa­nied by sev­eral well­known mem­bers of the LGBT com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing a cou­ple of drag queens, and talked about los­ing his life part­ner, Dou­glas Jack­son, to com­pli­ca­tions re­lated to AIDS in 1990.

“San Fran­cisco has given us ac­cep­tance, a feel­ing of be­long­ing, a com­mu­nity and a place to call home,” he said. “I met the love of my life here, and I lost the love of my life here to HIV in an epi­demic that has im­pacted all of us and trag­i­cally con­tin­ues to this day.”

Leno pledged to re­ject sup­port from in­de­pen­dent ex­pen­di­ture com­mit­tees and is po­si­tion­ing him­self as a pro­gres­sive who would lead the city in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion. Look for him and Kim to use ranked­choice vot­ing to their ad­van­tage, telling their sup­port­ers to choose the other as their No. 2.

An­gela Alioto: She showed up with scores of sup­port­ers, who posed for pic­tures on the City Hall steps car­ry­ing yel­low and blue signs read­ing, “The heart of S.F., with the word heart rep­re­sented by the shape of a red heart.

She says she’s run­ning solely be­cause the city’s home­less­ness epi­demic is so dire, but get her talk­ing (not hard to do), and she is clearly nos­tal­gic for old-time San Fran­cisco. She talks about the flower stands and street artists that have dis­ap­peared, about kids who can’t play in sand­boxes be­cause of dirty nee­dles, and about the days when Sum­mer of Love-style hip­pies were em­braced rather than ridiculed.

“There’s a love of life, a joie de vivre that San Fran­cisco al­ways had that’s been lack­ing in the past 20 years, and it’s just get­ting worse,” she said. “It’s a heart­breaker for some­one like me.”

Elec­tion day on June 5 will be a heart­breaker for three of these peo­ple, but let’s hope it leads to some heart-swelling pride for San Fran­cisco. We could sure use it.

San­ti­ago Me­jia / The Chron­i­cle

Mark Leno would be the first openly gay mayor.

Lea Suzuki / The Chron­i­cle 2017

An­gela Alioto wants to ad­dress home­less­ness.

Michael Ma­cor / The Chron­i­cle

Jane Kim touts her pro­gres­sive stance.

Michael Ma­cor / The Chron­i­cle

Lon­don Breed is the city’s act­ing mayor.

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