Crowded field competes for votes in D10 supe race
by Matthew S. Bajko
The District 10 supervisor race has attracted 21 candidates hoping to replace termed out Supervisor Sophie Maxwell at City Hall. Changing demographics and the difficulty for many of the top-tier candidates to break through the crowded field have made the seat anyone's to win.
The district covers the city's southeastern neighborhoods, including the Bayview, Hunter's Point and Visitacion Valley. Long considered a stronghold of the African American community, the district has rapidly changed into being majority Asian.
Add in a growing number of middle class residents, including a sizeable number of LGBT people, seeking cheaper housing in the area, and it is no longer a given that an African American will represent District 10.
Unlike in the city's other supervisor races this fall, progressives have not lined up squarely behind one candidate, making the election even more of a toss-up. Openly gay Supervisor David Campos endorsed four people in the race: theater founder Tony Kelly; college board member Chris Jackson; civil rights attorney DeWitt Lacy; and Eric Smith, who heads Green Depot, a nonprofit advocating for the use of biodiesel.
"I don't feel strongly enough about either of them to choose one over the other. Each one of them brings something unique, which is why it is hard for me to choose just one," said Campos. "I think District 10 is up for grabs. I think any number of the candidates can win. There is a real opportunity for a progressive candidate to win."
Many LGBT leaders have diverged on whom to support in the race and are backing multiple candidates. Jackson also lined up the endorsement of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club; former AIDS czar Bill Barnes, who had looked at running for the seat; and openly gay BART board member Tom Radulovich.
Lacy is backed by openly gay state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco); out Planning Commission vice president Christina Olague; and former Health Commissioner Roma Guy. He also secured the coveted endorsement of the local Democratic Party.
Kelly also has the support of Radulovich, Olague, and Jewelle Gomez, an out lesbian who is president of the city's Library Commission. In another sign of the tenuous hold the black community has in keeping the seat, Kelly won the first place endorsement of the Bay Guardian, which went with Lacy as its second choice and Jackson as its third choice under the city's ranked-choice voting system.
Among the city's moderates, they have mostly lined up behind BART board member Lynette Sweet. Endorsing her are openly gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty; the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club; and the Bay Area Reporter. Mayor Gavin Newsom has also backed Sweet in the race.
"I think she has been tested as an elected official in difficult situations and has a strong bond to the LGBT community," said Dufty. "I think she will be very open and responsive to her constituents. This district needs some very focused constituent services and I believe she will do that."
Sweet has found herself having to address a series of financial missteps in recent weeks, from not disclosing her recent earnings on her financial disclosure reports she is required to file with BART to owing the IRS back taxes that resulted in a lien on her property. There were also whispers that she was dropping out of the race.
In response, Sweet has lashed out at local progressive media outlets for what she sees as a "smear effort" against her candidacy. In a statement to reporters, Sweet's campaign said it suspected the coverage was aimed at helping to elect environmental activist and community newspaper publisher Steve Moss, who it noted was "a white candidate." [In its endorsement this week, the Bay Guardian called both Sweet and Moss "bad news."]
"Having been born and raised in District 10, I remember better times in our district, that's what I want to bring back. I'm disappointed with what seems to be an effort by outsiders to take control of this district," stated Sweet.
Concerns about seeing someone other than an African American be elected in District 10 have been a constant subtext in the race. It was brought up during a candidate forum in August that the San Francisco Young Democrats co-sponsored with several groups, including the Alice Club.
In asking a question to Moss at the debate, Sweet alluded to the race issue by questioning how he could best represent District 10, noting that there are "some disparities in what goes on" in the different neighborhoods the supervisor represents.
Moss responded that he has worked to improve the lives of residents throughout the district, particularly in leading the fight to shutter its two power plants. And he noted that as he collected 1,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot, he "walked all over the district."
Smith was more direct about the racial undertones in the race when he point blank asked Kelly "in a district losing African Americans at a super fast clip, what makes you being Caucasian the most qualified candidate for District 10?"
Kelly at first joked that, yes, if he is elected, "I will be white next year and I will be white the year after that." But he added that, "I have worked all my adult life for the voices and the rights of people who don't necessarily look like me."
While he agrees with the need to "keep African American representation on the board," Kelly said he doesn't believe the community has done a good job of developing new leaders and pledged he would.
"I will do that. I will fight for the whole district," he said.
In terms of issues in the race, the key concerns have centered on ensuring that redevelopment of the Hunter's Point shipyard and the Third Street commercial corridor provide jobs and include stores and housing that benefit current residents.
"This is our hope for tomorrow," said Sweet of the shipyard redevelopment.
While Sweet supports the shipyard plans, most of her opponents don't and said they would work to bring about changes to it if they are elected. Jackson also wants to see the city reopen the port and provide jobs to the area.
"We can open up the ports and have folks working within the next two years," said Jackson. "We can provide hundreds of union jobs."
Lacy is an advocate of investing in technologies to turn the area's wastewater treatment plant into a provider of clean energy.
"We can make District 10 the green tech capital of America," he said.