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Political Notebook: SF Sup Sheehy remains undecided in mayor's race

by Matthew S. Bajko

Former state Senator Carole Migden, Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, former state senator Mark Leno, and current state Senator Scott Wiener were all smiles at Sheehy's swearing in in January 2017. Photo: Cynthia Laird
Former state Senator Carole Migden, Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, former state senator Mark Leno, and current state Senator Scott Wiener were all smiles at Sheehy's swearing in in January 2017. Photo: Cynthia Laird  

With just weeks to go before absentee ballots begin hitting voters' mailboxes, gay District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy remains undecided on which of the candidates to back in the race to be San Francisco's next mayor.

Of the nine members of the Board of Supervisors who aren't seeking Room 200 at City Hall on the June 5 primary ballot, only Sheehy and District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani have yet to endorse in the mayoral contest. As it happens, both Sheehy and Stefani were appointed to fill vacancies on the board.

Sheehy is running in June to maintain his seat, while both he and Stefani will be running for full four-year terms in November. The late Mayor Ed Lee, who died in December, named Sheehy to the board last year following gay former supervisor Scott Wiener's 2016 election to the state Senate.

After a majority of the supervisors in late January chose Mark Farrell to be the city's mayor until the winner of the June election is declared, he named Stefani to his seat on the board. She had been his supervisor aide before becoming county clerk.

The other board members have all endorsed or co-endorsed three of the leading mayoral candidates: Supervisors Jane Kim and London Breed or gay former supervisor and state lawmaker Mark Leno.

According to the trio's campaign websites, Supervisors Malia Cohen and Ahsha Safai have co-endorsed Breed and Leno, whereas Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Sandra Lee Fewer, and Hillary Ronen have co-endorsed Leno and Kim. Supervisor Katy Tang is backing Breed and Supervisor Norman Yee is supporting Leno.

When asked by the Bay Area Reporter if he was ready to endorse for mayor, Sheehy said he wanted to wait and first see the candidates' proposals on a variety of issues, from homelessness and housing to public safety.

"I haven't decided yet whom to endorse for mayor," said Sheehy last Friday, noting that he has long known both Leno and former supervisor Angela Alioto, a civil rights attorney who is also running to lead the city.

Hours prior Leno had released his plan to end street homelessness in the city by 2020. Breed released her homelessness plan Monday afternoon, while Kim has issued plans to improve the city's transit system and clean its streets.

Of the three gay men who have followed Leno in the District 8 board seat, Sheehy is the only one to yet endorse him for mayor. Bevan Dufty was an early backer of Leno's mayoral bid, while Wiener officially endorsed Leno, his longtime political ally, last fall.

"Mark has been a friend for over 20 years now. We have worked together very, very closely over the years and I have enormous respect for him," said Wiener. "He has delivered on many core progressive priorities."

Stefani did not respond to the B.A.R. by press time Wednesday on if she plans to endorse in the mayoral race.

Absentee ballots will start being mailed out in early April to military members overseas and in May to anyone else who has requested to vote by mail. Because it will take several weeks for elections officials to certify the results of the special election in June and the supervisors must then approve the outcome, the city's next mayor isn't expected to take their oath of office until July.

According to a memo from the city attorney's office, the election results likely won't to be finalized until after June 20. Thus, the soonest the board could approve the results would be July 10 - it is off during the week of July 4 - unless the supervisors schedule a special meeting prior to their board meeting that Tuesday. The latest the next mayor could assume office, according to the memo, is likely July 28.

EQCA fundraises for Leno
One answer as for how Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization, would abide by Leno's promise not to accept money from and to denounce independent expenditures funded by political action committees came this week.

After EQCA officially endorsed Leno in early March, the organization said it was "exploring all our options" for how to ask its members to support Leno's bid to be San Francisco's first out LGBT mayor without violating his super PAC pledge.

On Monday, EQCA sent out a fundraising pitch to its members on behalf of Leno's mayoral bid. Instead of directing people to donate to the EQCA PAC, the email signed by EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur asked people to donate directly to Leno's campaign and included two links to do so online.

"San Francisco needs a dynamic fighter who will take on special interests and stand up for our community. San Francisco needs Mark Leno," wrote Zbur.

There is a donate box at the very end of the email for people to donate directly to EQCA. Those donations do not go toward the EQCA PAC, however, they are directed to EQCA itself and pay for things like its communication to its members. It is included on nearly all the emails EQCA sends to its membership.

SF ethics fines former entertainment panelist
The San Francisco Ethics Commission has fined lesbian former Entertainment Commissioner Audrey Joseph $2,550 for accepting VIP tickets from the organizer of the Outside Lands Music Festival in violation of annual gift limits and public disclosure requirements in 2014 and 2015, the agency announced Monday night.

By April 1 of each year commission members are required to file their annual Statements of Economic Interests, including any gifts they received worth $50 or more in value. According to an ethics staff report, the ticket Joseph received from Another Planet Entertainment LLC in 2014 was worth $595, above the gift limit that year of $440. The 2015 ticket cost $695, once again more than the limit of $460 that year.

Joseph reported the 2014 ticket on her annual form but did not report the 2015 ticket, according to the staff report. Both times Joseph said she paid Another Planet for her ticket in the amount that put it over the gift limit.

However, Joseph was unable to provide documentation to prove her payment for the 2014 ticket. She was able to show a credit card statement for the $310 she paid in 2015.

Ethics could have fined her $10,000 for the two violations for accepting a ticket over the allowable value limit and failing to disclose the one ticket. The agency concluded she should have known of the rules having been trained on the city's ethics policies.

But as the staff memo noted, Joseph did not intend "to mislead the public" and cooperated with the investigation. Thus, the agency recommended fining her the lower amount, and the ethics commission signed off on the fine at its March 16 meeting.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Joseph said, "I want to be done with it. I am going to pay it and be done."

She said she received the tickets not because of her seat on the entertainment commission but because she works in the local entertainment industry. She noted that she uses the same beverage vendor as the concert promoter.

"I am an industry person. They give out hundreds of tickets," said Joseph, adding that she thought she had reported both tickets as "I reported everything."

Joseph was out of town last week and unable to attend the Friday meeting. She told the B.A.R. she is concerned that the ethics office fining her for what she feels is "a minor infraction" will have a chilling effect on recruiting other entertainment industry professionals to serve on the commission.

The "complicated ethics reporting structure creates negative incentives," said Joseph, for people in the industry as they "attend events on a regular basis as part of their job" and may not want to serve for fear they could unwittingly violate the ethics policies.

Trans nurse mounts write-in bid for CA gov
Having failed to qualify for the ballot, transgender hospice nurse Veronika Fimbres has decided to mount a write-in campaign in the California gubernatorial race.

The Navy veteran had sought to make the June 5 primary ballot as a Green Party candidate but failed to raise the $3,916.12 filing fee by the deadline to do so this month. After a fellow Green Party candidate sent her the information for how to wage a write-in campaign, Fimbres decided to take the long-shot strategy.

"I am already a trans pioneer and a living legend, but this is about making history for my party, the Green Party. The Green Party would be the first party to put a trans and black woman up for governor. This is the big picture I am looking at," Fimbres said this week during a brief phone interview.

Fimbres, 65, who lives in San Francisco's Sunnyside neighborhood, was already facing insurmountable odds of surviving the primary. Only the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, will advance to the November general election.

Asked what she thought her chances are, Fimbres said, "I honestly don't know; I will do the best I can. If I get enough people and generate enough excitement, people will put my name on the ballot anyway."

Recent polls on the race, which have not included Fimbres among voters' choices, continue to show that Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (D), the former mayor of San Francisco, is the front-runner, with Democrats state Treasurer John Chiang, former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D), and Republican attorney John Cox all battling for the second spot.

The only LGBT candidate for statewide office to make this year's ballot was state Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens). Should he win his race for insurance commissioner, Lara would make history as the first out statewide elected leader.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on LGBT chambers tackling homeless issues.
Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes .
Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail mailto:m.bajko@ebar.com.

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