Moderates set to take over SF Dem Party committee

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday March 6, 2024
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Steven Buss, left, joined Mayor London Breed, center, and state Senator Scott Wiener in looking at early election returns Tuesday night at Anina in Hayes Valley. Photo: John Ferrannini
Steven Buss, left, joined Mayor London Breed, center, and state Senator Scott Wiener in looking at early election returns Tuesday night at Anina in Hayes Valley. Photo: John Ferrannini

It appears more moderate candidates for the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee have prevailed over a slate of progressive ones.

The members of the committee were voted on by registered Democrats March 5, by Assembly district. Assembly District 17, covering downtown and neighborhoods including the Castro, is represented by 14 members. Assembly District 19, covering the westside and much of southern San Francisco, is represented by 10 members.

The DCCC, or D-triple-C, as politicos refer to the committee, is the governing body of the county Democratic Party. It endorses local candidates and ballot measures, helps to elect its endorsed candidates, and governs local Democratic clubs. It also passes resolutions that state the local party's positions on various issues.

Moderates, running on a slate as SF Democrats for Change, allege that the committee has been out of touch with the mainstream of the Democratic Party and are seeking to correct course. Progressives, running as the Labor and Working Families slate, charge that the moderates are carrying out the wishes of downtown business interests and Republicans.

Voters appear to have decided that the moderates have the better of the argument, according to preliminary election returns from the San Francisco Department of Elections, which showed 12 of the top 14 slots filled with members of the SF Democrats for Change slate in Assembly District 17. They are, in order of most votes to least, gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey; Nancy Tung; Lily Ho; Trevor Chandler, a gay man running for District 9 supervisor; Bilal Mahmood, who's running for District 5 supervisor; Emma Heiken, who identifies as fluid; Michael Lai; Joe Sangirardi, a gay man; Carrie Barnes; Lyn Werbach; and Cedric G. Akbar.

Progressive former supervisors John Avalos and Jane Kim, of the Labor and Working Families slate, also ranked in AD 17.

SF Democrats for Change filled nine of the top 10 slots in Assembly District 19. They are Catherine Stefani, who's running for Assembly; former supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier; Marjan Philhour, who's running for District 1 supervisor; Parag Gupta; Mike Chen, a gay man; Jade Tu; Lanier Coles; Dan Calamuci; and Brian Quan.

Progressive District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan, of the Labor and Working Families slate, also ranked.

Dorsey stated to the Bay Area Reporter March 6 that "the vote isn't final yet, but the trend is certainly compelling."

"I'm truly grateful and humbled by the support San Francisco Democrats have entrusted in me — and I'm thankful for the strong support most of my slate partners from SF Democrats for Change received. I'm excited to get to work — 2024 will be an important year," he added.

Joe Sangirardi, a gay Castro resident, also ran on the slate. Sangirardi, director of development for California YIMBY, stated March 6 that "I'm fighting to make our party a pro-housing party to make our neighborhoods — like the Castro — affordable and to save their legacies. The election results feel pretty clear. We need to build more housing in SF!"

Tung, a former candidate for San Francisco district attorney in the 2019 race against incumbent DA Suzy Loftus and eventual winner Chesa Boudin, said March 5 that the slate together had knocked on 25,000 doors. Tung now works for District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, who was appointed by Mayor London Breed after Boudin was recalled.

Graeme Joeck, the lead organizer and strategist with SF Democrats for Change, stated to the B.A.R. that "we're incredibly encouraged by the initial results and the leadership of each of the candidates who represented the SF Dems for Change Slate."

"With proud queer representation from five of the candidates, the next step will be harnessing the power built on this campaign to work collaboratively on a bright vision for the city," Joeck added.

Steven Buss, director and co-founder of GrowSF, told the B.A.R. before results came out that he was expecting it to go the moderates' way. He said his group helped out the slate.

"I think voters are ready for some change," he said. "We helped out a ton. We wrote, of course, the voter guide. It was our most deeply researched voter guide and we distributed it to 370,000 households."

The mood was jubilant when Buss, Breed, and gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) saw the first batch of results on Breed's phone at an election night party at Anina in Hayes Valley. Breed, herself aligned with moderate Democrats, said that the results were "promising."

"To see these initial promising results is incredible," Breed said. "All the change slate candidates raise their hands! I see you guys. I saw you out there working your butts off and it looks, thus far, like it's paying off."

Wiener, who easily won his own primary reelection bid with over 70% of the vote, according to preliminary returns, framed the results as a big win for Breed.

"I just have to say, Madam Mayor, you have my complete support and thank you for all of your service to the city," said Wiener, a former elected DCCC member and onetime chair of the local party who now has a seat on it due to holding legislative office.

It remains to be seen if the outcome of the DCCC race is a bellwether for moderates running in the fall municipal races. A San Francisco Chronicle poll last month showed Breed, a moderate seeking reelection in November, faces the disapproval of 71% of likely voters.

Fellow moderate Mark Farrell, a former supervisor who replaced Breed as interim San Francisco mayor in 2018 after the sudden death of mayor Ed Lee, is now challenging Breed in November. He acknowledged the SF Democrats for Change slate in a post on X, stating, "Congrats to the @SFDemsForChange slate for all the hard work they put in and for the strong showing in the early results. We can drive the change we want to see and need San Francisco. It's up to us and let's keep it up!!"

Levi Strauss heir Daniel Lurie and District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, who are also running for mayor, did not return requests for comment. Both are considered moderates, though Safaí is courting progressives in the race.

Michael Nguyen, a gay attorney and former chair of the GLBTQ+ Asian Pacific Alliance, ran on the Labor and Working Families slate, is ranked No. 17 (out of 14 slots in AD17) as of press time. Nguyen stated to the B.A.R. the night of March 5 that he is "cautiously optimistic."

"All the ballots have not been counted, and we know that progressives are known to return their ballots later," he stated. "I would be honored to represent Democrats in San Francisco and bring much needed empathy, transparency, and accountability to our local politics."

The morning of March 6 he added, "The Labor and Working Families slate, each and every member, give me so much hope for a better and brighter future for San Francisco. I'm staying hopeful the rest of the ballots will continue to push our progressive numbers up and up and up."

Peter Gallotta, who is queer and currently a DCCC vice chair, is ranked right below Nguyen. He shared Nguyen's sentiment when he spoke with the B.A.R. the night of March 5.

"I think it's too early to tell," Gallotta said. "I think we'll see the numbers in the coming days."

Leah LaCroix, a straight ally who is also currently a DCCC vice chair, said, "I think right now I am cautiously optimistic. I know a lot of people the past few days turned in their ballots later on and their votes have not been counted yet. ... I am really proud of the slate we have put together and that the voices of San Franciscans who love the city are represented and being heard."

Update, 3/6/24: This story has been updated with remarks from Sangirardi.

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