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Politics & Policy

Rumors swirl around Matt Haney’s replacement—Honey Mahogany could make history in a fast-changing district

Honey Mahogany poses in the Castro District on April 19, 2022. | Camille Cohen

Matt Haney’s impending departure for Sacramento as San Francisco’s new assemblymember sets the stage for an unpredictable battle for his current seat. 

Whomever Mayor London Breed appoints as his replacement representing District 6 on the Board of Supervisors currently faces at least two unknowns: the outcome of the city’s fraught redistricting, and who they’ll be running against for a full term in November. 

As of Wednesday morning, the Mayor’s Office has made no indication as to who will be appointed to replace Haney as supervisor until the end of the current term, or when it will happen: “We don’t have a timeline at this point,” said spokesperson Jeff Cretan.

Honey Mahogany, an activist, performer, and aide to Haney, is widely considered a frontrunner among political insiders to replace Haney in the district, which includes Tenderloin and parts of SoMa. Mahogany has not yet filed to run in the November election, but confirmed to The Standard on Tuesday evening that she plans to seek the seat. 

If appointed, Mahogany—whose resume spans politics, activism and the arts—would be the first out transgender person to serve on the Board of Supervisors. Mahogany currently chairs the San Francisco Democratic Party, having been appointed to the local central committee in 2018. A celebrated drag performer, she became a co-owner of the Stud bar in SoMa as part of the new collective ownership organized to save the bar from closure. She also helped establish the Tenderloin’s Transgender Cultural District in 2017. 

The perception of Mahogany as a frontrunner spilled out into the open during the city’s redistricting process, when Supervisor Hillary Ronen posted a tweet appearing to suggest that redrawn lines in District 6 could make it more difficult for Mahogany to win or retain the seat. Haney, at whom the tweet was directed, disputed Ronen’s characterization. 

Haney told The Standard on Wednesday that he “can’t think of anyone more qualified” than Mahogany to assume his seat. Haney, who won a decisive victory in Tuesday’s election with over 63% of votes counted as of late night Tuesday, said that he expects to be sworn in as assemblymember in California’s 17th district on or around May 3. The Department of Elections expects to certify Tuesday’s election by April 28.

But Mahogany is not the only potential replacement Mayor Breed is considering: Sources close to City Hall point to other candidates reportedly on Mayor Breed’s list.

One of those is Bilal Mahmood, a tech investor and former policy analyst who faced off with Haney in the AD-17 primary and later endorsed him in the runoff. Others include San Francisco Police Department communications director Matt Dorsey, Planning Commission president Rachael Tanner, and Vikrum Aiyer, a deputy director at the American Civil Liberties Union, according to sources. None confirmed by press time that they are in the running for the appointment.

Another wrinkle in the equation is uncertainty over what District 6 will look like after the city’s redistricting—and who will be eligible to run under a dramatically different map.

Because of disproportionate population growth in and around SoMa, the city needs to prune a significant amount of real estate away from District 6 in order to comply with election law mandates. Proposed maps that included separating large chunks of District 6 were a major source of controversy in redistricting: As an example, the original final draft map chosen by the Redistricting Task Force on April 9, which resulted in a dramatic late-night walkout, separated the Tenderloin and Civic Center neighborhoods from District 6. 

Separating the Tenderloin and Civic Center from the South of Market would split up constituencies with significant political power in District 6, including nonprofit affordable housing operators and other service organizations. Doing so could also shift the district toward the ideological center, reflecting more recent arrivals to remaining areas of the district.

Partly as a result of those disagreements, the task force blew past its legal deadline of April 15. The City Attorney’s Office has instructed the body to approve a final draft map at a meeting scheduled for April 21, after which time only minor changes can be made. The task force must deliver a final map to the Department of Elections by May 2. 

Whomever Mayor Breed appoints to the District 6 seat may also face a smattering of challengers in a general election scheduled for November 8. Candidates have until June 14 to file.

Candidates who have filed so far include Billie Cooper, a trans activist and 2022 Grand Marshal of San Francisco Pride, activist and union organizer Cherelle Jackson, and disability advocate Tommie Lussier. 

PJ Bastiany, who founded a service nonprofit according to his Facebook page, has also filed to run.