Editorial: SF DCCC recommendations

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday February 21, 2024
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DCCC candidates in the 17th Assembly District include Vick Chung, left, Michael Nguyen, and Luis Zamora. Photos: Courtesy the candidates
DCCC candidates in the 17th Assembly District include Vick Chung, left, Michael Nguyen, and Luis Zamora. Photos: Courtesy the candidates

The San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee may be the most influential political group that many voters have never heard of. The committee, a mix of specific elected officials or their representatives and Democrats elected by voters in Assembly districts, makes important endorsements and uses its platform to share those recommendations via mailers and other efforts. The committee also takes public stands on important issues.

This year will see a significant change in the makeup of the DCCC, as it's known. While elected officials have long run for the regular seats, this year there aren't as many. (We've opined in the past that most elected officials have enough to do with their day jobs and should leave the central committee to grassroots Democrats, but they certainly have the right to run.) Additionally, several incumbents are not seeking reelection. In short, the March 5 election will likely see a lot of new members, and we believe that's a good thing.

There are two main slates of candidates running: the more progressive Labor and Working Families and the more moderate SF Democrats for Change. We're recommending some candidates from each, as well as a few elected officials. Significantly, nearly all of our endorsed candidates support supervised consumption sites, which allow people to use their own drugs under the supervision of trained staff. Below are our recommendations.

Assembly District 17

The 17th Assembly District covers the eastern half of the city and voters can select up to 14 candidates. There are a lot of LGBTQ candidates running, and most of them returned our endorsement questionnaire. Those who identified as part of the queer community are: Trevor Chandler, City College of San Francisco Trustee Vick Chung, District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, Peter Gallotta, Jeremy Lee, Michael Nguyen, Joshua Rudy Ochoa, Sal Rosselli, Joe Sangirardi, Sydney Simpson, and Luis Zamora. Additionally, Emma Heiken stated that while she tends toward the heterosexual, she believes gender and sexuality are a spectrum and has been attracted to women and nonbinary individuals.

Each of these candidates brings an important perspective to the DCCC, especially with LGBTQ rights under attack in other areas of the state. Gallotta, who's running on the progressive slate, wrote, "We need city leaders to stop playing the blame game and focus on the needs of everyday people in our community: artists, drag queens, small business owners, working families, renters, seniors, and everyone who is struggling to make ends meet."

Chung, who is pansexual and nonbinary, is also running on the progressive slate. In response to our question about what they would do to help elect LGBTQ people in San Francisco, they stated they hope to empower more student leaders, "particularly queer, Black, and Brown students who are rooted in ethnic and social justice studies — to engage as organizers within the system and to seed aspirations for them to run for office."

Rosselli, a longtime labor leader, is running on the progressive slate. He noted that the city needs LGBTQ+ elected officials and that the slate hopes to empower young people.

On the more moderate slate is Chandler, who's also running for District 9 supervisor in November. We asked candidates how they would mobilize the Democratic Party to urge people to vote to repeal the "zombie" Proposition 8 language that remains in the state constitution. It will be on the November ballot. He stated that he would mobilize DCCC resources to make calls throughout the state to educate and persuade voters. That's another key part of the central committee's role, and had been used successfully in past elections under gay former co-chair David Campos. Chandler did have some qualifications regarding supervised injection sites, and stated that they needed to be implemented "thoughtfully." But he did note that he supports an all-of-the-above approach to addressing addiction.

Zamora is also running on the more moderate slate. He's worked with the state Democratic Party's LGBTQ Caucus and expanded queer representation by codifying and requiring LGBTQ representation from central California, "a historically neglected part of our state and an area that is experiencing a record number of anti-LGBTQ actions," he wrote.

Straight allies who we recommend in AD 17 are former supervisor Jane Kim and union organizer Anita Martinez, an elected member of the City College board. Both have done significant things to support the LGBTQ community. Kim worked with transgender leaders to create the Transgender District, the first of its kind in the nation. Martinez argued for implementation of the City College board's resolution passed in 2020 to name a building after the late gay supervisor Harry Britt.

DCCC candidates in the 19th Assembly District include Michela Alioto-Pier, left, Mike Chen, and Natalie Gee. Photos: Courtesy the candidates  

Assembly District 19
This Assembly district covers the west side of San Francisco and voters can choose up to 10 candidates. This district does not have as many out candidates, so we considered mostly straight allies. A gay candidate who did return our questionnaire, Mike Chen, has our endorsement. He ran before in 2020 but came up short. We'd like to see him be successful this time.

Regarding the Prop 8 repeal measure, Chen stated the DCCC's role will be to turn out San Francisco voters, who voted 90% for the proposition to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution in 2022, and to turn out Democrats across the state by phone banking and coordinating with strategically important legislative races.

Straight allies who we endorsed are: former supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, Dan Calamuci, District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan, former supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, Natalie Gee, Parag Gupta, Hene Kelly, former supervisor Gordon Mar, and elected Public Defender Mano Raju.

Most of these candidates are with the progressive slate. Fewer, who's a former member of the DCCC, pointed out that the body brought an important voice to issues she was dealing with as a former school board member and supervisor. But she also thinks it's a platform to introduce non-elected people to the political process. She has long supported LGBTQ youth and young women through mentorship and leadership development.

Gupta stated that he cut his teeth in San Francisco politics in 1999 by working on the No on Knight initiative, the state's first ban on same-sex marriage, which was eventually overturned. A first-time candidate, Gupta indicated he would need to learn more about supervised injection sites. He does, however, support Wellness Hubs that are planned for the Mission, Tenderloin, and South of Market that would offer services to those with addiction issues, though not consuming drugs on site.

Mar, Chan, Gee, Alioto-Pier, Calamuci, Kelly, and Raju support supervised consumption sites.

We asked that question because getting public buy-in for any site will be necessary, though it appears that an actual facility is nowhere near opening. State legislation by gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to allow San Francisco to implement a pilot program has been vetoed and there are no immediate plans for him to bring back the proposal.

We think all of these endorsed candidates would serve city Democrats well. Many of them have new ideas for increasing voter turnout and engaging people with the political process. At a time of polarization in states across the country and in Washington, D.C., local party committees like the DCCC can reflect San Francisco's values.

As an aside, we did send our questionnaire to several candidates for the Republican County Central Committee who requested it. None were returned.

Updated, 2/22/24: We messed up for AD 19. Out candidate Frances Hsieh, a lesbian, also returned her questionnaire.

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