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    A Clear Path for San Francisco’s Unlikeliest Mayor, Mirkarimi and the Left, and City College Update

    rafealTo the disappointment of some and the relief of others, State Senator Mark Leno will apparently not be running for Mayor next year. “After significant consideration and examination,” Matier and Ross reported, Leno had determined that “now is not the time for me to enter the race.” With the November 2015 election still nearly a full year away, Mayor Ed Lee’s re-election is no sure thing. At the same time, Leno’s decision not to run, at least “not at this time,” certainly must have been a relief to the folks in Room 200. For the moment, Team Lee has dodged a bullet, and with no other big name candidates floating their names, San Francisco’s unlikeliest mayor looks to be well on his way to another term.

    There are some progressives who believe it is essential for the Left to field a mayoral candidate in 2015, and I get that.  San Franciscans are anxious and angry about skyrocketing housing costs, the displacement of long time residents, and the City’s inability, quite literally, to make the trains run on time. What’s worse, instead of addressing the rising chorus of popular frustration, City Hall seems intent on giving away the store to the rich and powerful. Surely, this is just the moment for a strong progressive reformer to make our case to the voters.

    The trouble is that we do not have that candidate. And I question the value at this moment of another hard-fought, heart-filled campaign that summons up the best of San Francisco only to lose in the end. Might our energies be better spent focusing a little lower on the political food chain, spending 2015 identifying and building up the progressive candidates who can win School Board races, College Board races and Supervisor races in 2016?

    Whatever happens with the 2015 mayor’s race, there’s another office of potentially even greater import for progressives next year — Sheriff. One thing seems certain: rightly or wrongly, that race will not be primarily about how well or poorly the incumbent is doing the job, or whether his opponents are more likely to pursue policies that avoid violence in the jails and reduce the likelihood of former inmates recidivating upon release. No, for many voters, that contest will come down to a simple question: whether a domestic violence offender should be Sheriff.

    Back in October 2012, Supervisors Avalos, Campos, Kim and Olague voted to re-instate Ross Mirkarimi to the job to which the San Francisco voters had elected him just one year earlier. I believe each of them voted the way they did because they made an honest determination that the legal standard for removal of a democratically elected official had not been met. The consequences of that vote, however, have been dire for those Supervisors and for progressive politics generally. Absent that vote, there’s a good chance Christina Olague would still be the District Five Supervisor, and a strong likelihood David Campos would be celebrating his recent election to the State Assembly.

    Ross Mirkarimi has been the gift that keeps giving for San Francisco’s Right, his name functioning as a sort of campaign shorthand for the false message that progressives don’t care about domestic violence and don’t care about women. That message, of course, is kryptonite for progressives, because without women, we do not win. I was reminded of this fact canvassing for Campos the weekend before Election Day, when a twenty-something lesbian answering a door in Bernal Heights was simply unwilling to talk to me about the race. She knew everything she needed to know about David Campos: he had voted to re-instate a wife-beater as Sheriff, and for her that was the end of the story.