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    Who Is Not Running for DCCC?

    Zoe Dunning

    Zoe Dunning

    The San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, or DCCC, has become the hottest ticket in town. The most down-ballot of races has suddenly become the most sought-after elected office in San Francisco. Just ask the 60 (yes, 60) candidates that have filed their paperwork to run in the June 7, 2016, election.

    I’ve written previously in this column about the financing loophole that is a DCCC campaign—which has no limits on campaign contributions—and how candidates for other offices can also run for a seat on the DCCC and use the DCCC account as a general marketing slush fund. My prediction came all too true as fourteen candidates running for election or re-election this November are also running for a seat on the DCCC. Five are DCCC incumbents, and many like Scott Wiener and Rafael Mandelman have served on the DCCC for years. That still leaves nine who have seen the benefits of raising money that can be leveraged to increase name recognition in their district for the fall race.

    It’s not just candidates. Current office holders who are not up for re-election this year also threw their names into the ring in an effort to help tip the balance of the committee to a progressive or moderate majority. D2 Supervisor Mark Farrell, Community College Board Trustee Brigitte Davila, and School Board Commissioner Emily Murase headline that list.

    Last but not least, we have former elected officials, most of whom have not been in elected office for years and have not attended a DCCC race since I’ve been a member: Former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, CA Democratic Party Chair John Burton, and Former Supervisors Sophie Maxwell, Tom Hsieh Sr. and Angela Alioto have all come out of SF political retirement to run for this down-ticket office.

    All totaled, we have 21 current or former elected officials (including 9 current and 4 former supervisors) running for 24 seats. That does not leave much room for the grassroots activists to capture a seat. How do we solve that?

    At the last DCCC meeting, member Alix Rosenthal proposed a by-law change that would move all Supervisors and the Mayor to ex-officio members of the DCCC, thereby freeing up seats for the worker-bees who want to be members. It would expand the body from 31 total members to 43, which some felt diluted the voice of the elected members. She addressed that by adding seven more elected seats, to enlarge the group to 50 total. She made compromises accounting for Supervisors currently elected to the committee, so that they could continue to serve on the DCCC after their Supervisor seats term out.

    Further, she addressed concerns that high-visibility candidates who win might move to Ex-Officio or resign, thereby giving the Chair the power to appoint a new member to replace them. In her proposal, the next vote getter in the June election would fill any new vacancies, thereby respecting the voters’ wishes. In the end, though, the compromise was not enough. The DCCC’s Progressive minority garnered enough votes to block the bylaw change (which requires a 2/3 majority vote, and the proponents fell just shy with 62% of the vote). So much for the so-called Reform Slate, which in this case blocked reform.

    Alix will try again, as the matter was referred to the Bylaws Committee to develop a new recommendation to go before the DCCC at its April meeting. The bottom line is that the system is broken. The DCCC race has become the ultimate political name-dropping game, and the voters of San Francisco need to look long and hard at what kind of a Democratic Party they want.

    Do we want the DCCC to be a campaign slush fund for candidates for fall elections? Do we want it to be a place for retired politicians who have already held office? Do we want it to be a second elected office for current office holders? Or, do we want it to be an opportunity for grassroots Democratic Party activists to participate in local politics and strengthen the party? As you listen to candidates and read campaign literature, I encourage you to ask how active they have been with the party and the DCCC before this campaign season. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and we need committed and active leaders for our party and our city. Too much is at stake.

    Zoe Dunning is a retired Navy Commander and was a lead activist in the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. She served as Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. She currently serves as the First Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party and as a San Francisco Library Commissioner.

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    LGBT activist Rebecca Prozan (center), who is a candidate for San Francisco DCCC, with volunteers helping new citizens register to vote.

    San Francisco Democratic Party

    To learn more about the SF DCCC, including its purpose, current members and upcoming meetings, visit the website: sfdemocrats.org

    The San Francisco Democratic Party works with many Chartered Democratic Clubs representing communities that reflect the diversity of the Party. Among these are the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club. For a complete list of the chartered clubs: http://www.sfdemocrats.org/chartered_clubs