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Leno endorses Mandelman in D8 supe race

by Matthew S. Bajko

District 8 supervisor candidate Rafael Mandelman, left, received an endorsement from former state Senator Mark Leno. Photo: Georg Lester
District 8 supervisor candidate Rafael Mandelman, left, received an endorsement from former state Senator Mark Leno. Photo: Georg Lester  (Source:Georg Lester)

San Francisco mayoral candidate Mark Leno has endorsed Rafael Mandelman in the 2018 race for his old District 8 seat on the city's Board of Supervisors.

Leno, a gay man who had been appointed a supervisor by former mayor Willie Brown, was the first person to win the seat, which includes the gay Castro neighborhood as well as Noe Valley where Leno resides, when supervisors reverted to being elected by district in 2000.

Mandelman, a gay attorney who serves on the board that oversees City College of San Francisco, is running against Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, a gay married father who is the first openly HIV-positive person to serve on the board.

They are running against each other in a special election next June as Sheehy was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee earlier this year to fill the vacancy created by gay former Supervisor Scott Wiener's election to the state Senate. Sheehy is seeking to serve out the remainder of Wiener's term on the June 2018 primary ballot.

He would then run for a full four-year term on the November ballot next year, a race that Mandelman has also filed to run in no matter the outcome of the June race. It is the second time Mandelman has sought the District 8 seat, having lost to Wiener in 2010.

In a brief phone interview Tuesday with the Bay Area Reporter, Leno said he decided to support Mandelman because he was impressed with his leadership while president of the community college board as the school fought to keep its accreditation and deal with a resulting financial deficit. In the state Legislature, Leno secured special funding for the school to help it survive the crisis.

"I was very impressed with his leadership and contribution in keeping our city college open. And I am confident that he will bring a similar passion, expertise, and professionalism to the Board of Supervisors," said Leno, who declined to say if any action Sheehy has taken so far as supervisor had influenced his decision.

Mandelman told the B.A.R. he is "enormously grateful" for Leno's support.

"I think it is a great thing for the campaign," Mandelman said. "He is a well-respected figure in the district, and it signals his confidence in my ability to be a good supervisor."

Leno's endorsement comes after another gay former District 8 supervisor, Bevan Dufty, endorsed Mandelman last week, as the B.A.R. reported on its blog Thursday (October 19). Dufty, who now serves on the BART board of directors, said in a brief interview that morning that his decision "was not easy," as he has known both Sheehy and Mandelman for years, but that he felt Mandelman was better suited to lead the district.

As for the third former occupant of the District 8 seat, Wiener endorsed Sheehy in the spring. He told the B.A.R. in May that he "thinks the world of Jeff" and that he had already proved to be "a strong leader" on the board.

Asked about Leno's and Dufty's endorsement of Mandelman, Sheehy told the B.A.R. this week that he was "honored" to have the endorsements from lesbian former citywide supervisors Roberta Achtenberg, Leslie Katz, and Susan Leal in addition to that of Wiener and former mayor Gavin Newsom, now the state's lieutenant governor.

In his emailed reply to the B.A.R., Sheehy said voters "will look beyond endorsements to decide on issues - especially which candidate supports building housing."

Mandelman told the B.A.R. that his endorsements from Leno and Dufty show that he is "the right choice for District 8. These are two figures who are familiar with my work, who I have worked with in different capacities over many years, and it means a lot to have their support."


Expected to Refrain

It had been expected that Leno would refrain from endorsing in the supervisorial contest due to his ambitions to be elected to Room 200 in City Hall in 2019, cementing his political legacy as the first out LGBT person to become mayor of San Francisco. The city's LGBT vote will likely be critical in the mayoral race, leaving many to assume Leno would not want to upset the supporters of either gay supervisorial candidate.

Yet Leno said this week he doubts his supporting Mandelman for supervisor will be an issue for LGBT voters in the mayoral race.

"I don't believe that it will be," he said.

Mandelman early on endorsed Leno's mayoral bid, while Sheehy had yet to as of this week. When asked about doing so by the B.A.R. in the spring, Sheehy noted how the election was more than two years away and he was focused on his own election.

Reiterating that comment this week, Sheehy told the B.A.R. that he would "look at" endorsing in the mayor's race after his own election next year. As for Leno's decision to endorse Mandelman for supervisor, Sheehy said he "can assure that this announcement will have zero impact on my decision."

Long considered a moderate leader in the city, Leno in recent years has been touted as more progressive. Yet in several local elections last year, Leno endorsed the moderate candidate; decisions that some progressive leaders have criticized.

He sided with Wiener in his race for Leno's state Senate seat against District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim. He also endorsed Ahsha Safai in his successful run for the District 11 supervisor seat against lesbian labor leader Kimberly Alvarenga.

In 2014 he drew ire from some progressives for remaining neutral in the Assembly race that pitted progressive gay former District 9 Supervisor David Campos against moderate former District 3 Supervisor David Chiu, who won the legislative seat that had been held by out lawmakers for 18 years.

In recent weeks Leno had been getting flak for remaining neutral in the District 8 contest. Tom Ammiano, a gay former supervisor and state assemblyman, called out Leno and other progressive leaders on Facebook last Thursday for having yet to endorse Mandelman for supervisor.

"Leno's endorsement history is particularly revealing," noted Ammiano in one comment to his original post, adding, "you can't have it both ways and we have enabled this ..."

The timing of his endorsement of Mandelman was not influenced by Ammiano's comments, as Leno said he wasn't aware of them until asked about them by the B.A.R. on Tuesday. Mandelman said he had been talking to Leno for weeks about having his support in the race.


Contact the author at m.bajko@ebar.com .

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