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SF Democratic Party to reconsider voter guide statement opposing school board recall

San Francisco’s Democratic County Central Committee will reconsider its statement in opposition to the recall of three school board members in the wake of a lawsuit filed last week seeking to block the party’s paid statement from appearing in the official voter’s guidebook.

The suit alleges that the party didn’t follow its own endorsement procedure properly and thus has not officially taken a position opposing the recall, rendering the statements against the recall “false and misleading.” Party leaders say they will reopen the endorsement conversation, but time is running out before a late-December ballot deadline. 

The SF Standard obtained a draft of a resolution set to be brought forward at the party’s Dec. 22 meeting which states that “no position has been taken” by the SF DCCC on the February recall election.

The current statement was drafted this fall by the SF DCCC executive board. It followed a resolution passed in May by the local Democratic Party condemning state and local recalls on the grounds that they are usually Republican-funded efforts that waste taxpayer money, particularly when they take place in regular election years.

But not everyone in the SF DCCC agrees that the party’s May resolution dictates its stance on the school board question. 

Autumn Looijen, a founding member of the school board recall campaign who filed the suit, said her goal is for the party to abide by its formal process for endorsing ballot measures, even if that means reaffirming its opposition to the recall of three board members. 

“I hope they look and say, ‘We made a mistake,’” she said.

SF DCCC Executive Committee Chair Honey Mahogany said she thinks the committee followed proper procedure the first time, but that she is willing to reopen the discussion. 

“We may be adjusting our statements,” Mahogany said. “It’s an active conversation.”

Recall supporters say the three school board members—Alison Collins, Gabriela López, and Faauuga Moliga—should be removed after focusing too much on politics and not enough on school issues, like how to safely reopen campuses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Collins, who has been under fire for a series of Tweets her critics say were racist, took to social media on Wednesday to claim she’s been a target of a coordinated misinformation campaign.

The Democratic Party’s paid statement is titled “SF Democratic Party Says: VOTE NO on the Recall,” and says that the recall efforts “are a Republican strategy to overturn fair democratic elections” and “are a waste of money especially when the regular election is just months away!” 

The three statements are set to appear on the official Voter Information Pamphlet books, which are prepared by the Department of Elections and will be sent out to the voters before the early voting starts, likely the second week of January. The price tag for the three paid arguments was about $1,500. 

The party can still change or withdraw its submitted statement. But John Arntz, the Director of the Department of Elections, said the lawsuit presents a possible timing threat as the printing deadline of the Voter Information Pamphlet approaches.

“The key date is December 23,” Arntz said. “We have to have the final decision from the court by that, so on December 24 we will have the final product to the printer.”

The City Attorney’s Office, which will be the legal representative for the election department, confirmed with the SF Standard that they are working on the case. 

“We have reviewed the writ, and we will work closely with our Department of Elections to ensure that this matter is handled in a timely manner,” City Attorney David Chiu wrote in an email to the SF Standard.

In the same Voter Information Pamphlet, but on the other side, are Mayor London Breed, State Senator Scott Wiener, and the San Francisco Republican Party, all of whom submitted paid statements supporting the recall.

In Breed’s statement, she said the school board’s priorities “have often been severely misplaced, undermining the education and the mental health of our students.” The price of each of her statements is $630.