San Francisco Chronicle
Safaí may challenge Breed in mayor’s race
San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safaí has publicly confirmed what City Hall insiders have known for months: He is considering running against Mayor London Breed, who’s up for re-election next year.
Safaí, a two-term supervisor who represents the Excelsior, is a former ally of Breed who has grown increasingly critical of her and her administration, sparking widespread speculation that he was preparing to run for the city’s top political job in November 2024.
He confirmed to The Chronicle on Thursday that he was exploring a potential mayoral bid and would make a final decision “sometime around the summer.”
“The city is in crisis right now,” Safaí said. “A lot of people feel like the city is headed in the wrong direction, so I’m talking to people, I’m listening, and I’m actually getting a lot of encouragement.”
Safaí said he was motivated to scope out a mayoral run because he thought San Francisco was suffering from deteriorating public safety, unacceptably high levels of homelessness and a persistent housing shortage. He hasn’t announced any specific plans for what he would do differently than Breed. The San Francisco Standard first reported that Safaí declared interest in potentially running for mayor.Other candidates may also enter the race. Daniel Lurie, founder of the anti-poverty organization Tipping Point Community, recently tweeted about his desire to turn San Francisco around and “rebuild our reputation and our city,” which some took as a hint that he may run for mayor.
Reached by The Chronicle on Thursday, Lurie would only say, “The city needs to get better. … I’m all in to help make it better, and I’ll do that any way I can.”
A former union leader and city government staffer, Safaí may find himself competing for some of the same constituencies as Breed, a moderate who has been mayor since 2018.
Safaí defeated a progressive candidate to win election to the Board of Supervisors in 2016, a victory that was seen as giving moderates a majority on the board and strengthening political support for the late Mayor Ed Lee. However, Safaí said at the time that he did not think he “fit neatly into either” the moderate or progressive camps, and he drew support from some progressive leaders in his first campaign.
In office, Safaí and Breed have at times espoused similar positions on some key issues such as fast-tracking housing development and improving public safety by cracking down on retail crime and sales of stolen goods.
In late 2021, Safaí sponsored
the mayor’s proposal to put forward a ballot measure to streamline certain housing projects, her third attempt to do so. Other supervisors declined to bring it forward for a vote, though Breed and her allies ultimately got a different version on the ballot by launching a successful signature-gathering campaign.
Despite working with the mayor on the earlier version of her measure, Safaí joined with his progressive colleagues and voted in favor of sending a rival housing development measure to the ballot that was supported by the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council. Voters rejected both the Breed-backed Proposition D and the rival measure, Proposition E.
Breed announced her re-election campaign in December 2021, when the election was still scheduled for 2023. Voters passed a measure in November that pushed the race back to 2024 to align with presidential elections. Maggie Muir, a political consultant for Breed who works at KMM Strategies,
confirmed Thursday that Breed is running for re-election.
“The Mayor has a very clear vision and roadmap for the city: Get more police on the street, hold fentanyl dealers accountable, create a downtown thriving with workers and shoppers, and build more homes so everyone who wants to live here can call San Francisco home,” Muir said in a statement. “If Supervisor Safai wants to run for Mayor, San Franciscans will be looking for a record and a plan that will move the city forward. So far he hasn’t demonstrated either.”
Breed, when asked Thursday for her response to Safaí’s announcement, said “the most important thing that I plan to do is continue to do my job. The city is counting on me to be focused on delivering on the most pressing issues.”
On Tuesday, when supervisors approved Breed’s $25 million request to fund police overtime, Safaí unsuccessfully sought to add $3 million to give more money to the city’s district police stations. Breed had originally proposed $27.6 million in overtime funding but scaled it back after pressure from supervisors to save money. Though Safaí had hoped his colleagues would support the effort, they declined to take it up after learning it could delay the implementation of the overtime funds.
Breed and Safaí’s formerly close working relationship has grown more distant. Last week, Safaí and Breed announced their intent to introduce separate measures aiming at cutting different parts of the processing time for housing permits. They said they were unaware the other was working on something similar and did not collaborate.
Safaí has become a vocal critic of the mayor in public and private forums. After the mayor’s State of the City address in February, Safaí approached a Chronicle reporter to offer unsolicited criticism of Breed’s speech and proposals.
“If we’re truly in a state of recovery, I would expect a stronger desire to work in collaboration,” Safaí said. “With the problems that we’re facing and the amount of effort it’s going to take, I would expect a stronger collaboration between the board, organized labor, business community and neighborhood groups. I didn’t hear a spirit of collaboration.”
Safaí also seized upon a chance to paint himself as a leader on the homelessness crisis last year following a Chronicle investigation into the squalid conditions in housing for the formerly homeless under Breed’s homelessness department, which was under her direct control. He proposed a ballot measure to create a homelessness oversight commission, which Breed opposed because she said it would add unnecessary bureaucracy.
Voters passed the measure in November.