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Court tells SF Dems to change voter guide statement on school recall

The San Francisco Democratic Party will have to take its name off a ballot statement condemning the recall of three school board members in the upcoming February election, a San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled on Tuesday.

A new statement appearing in the official voter guide for the recall election will not contain mentions of the SF Democratic Party and will replace the signature of its chair, Honey Mahogany, with the name of Winnie Porter, a former employee of the San Francisco Unified School District. Mahogany said the change was made to comply with the party’s bylaws while it works to clarify its procedures and discuss its position.

The court ruling came in a lawsuit brought by Autumn Looijen, one of the founders of the campaign to recall SFUSD Board of Education members Alison Collins, Gabriela López and Faauuga Moliga. She argued–and the court agreed–that the SF Democratic Party did not follow its own endorsement procedures when drafting its statement in opposition to the recall. The ruling comes just days before the Dec. 24 deadline to change what appears on the Voter Information Pamphlet that accompanies every ballot. 

“We’re really happy that this got handled so quickly,” Looijen said.

The SF Democratic Party’s original statement was titled “SF Democratic Party Says: VOTE NO on the Recall.” Now, that phrase will be replaced with “Democrats, VOTE NO on the RECALL.” Also now removed is “SF Democratic Party,” which was handwritten below each statement. 

The SF Democratic Party’s executive committee originally crafted the statement in the fall to mirror a resolution passed by the party in May condemning state and local recalls as a waste of taxpayer money. But the court ruled that the May resolution was not a stand-in for the official party endorsement process.

Mahogany said the lawsuit has sparked a conversation within the party about its processes.

“We need to clarify how and when the Democrats can take a position,” Mahogany said.

Last week, The Standard obtained a draft of a resolution that would clarify “no position has been taken” by the party on the February recall. But that resolution is not set to appear on Wednesday’s agenda. Instead, Mahogany said, the court-ordered changes will be made.

But Mahogany said she is open to continuing to discuss endorsements for the February race.  When it comes to the potential recall of Collins in particular, Mahogany said she is not sure how a vote of party members would land. 

“People are torn,” Mahogany said.

This version corrects the position taken by the SF Dems' original voter guide statement. It also corrects Winnie Porter's relation to the SFUSD.