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Politics & Policy

In shock vote, Peskin elected board president after 17 ballots

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, pictured inside San Francisco City Hall, was voted board president on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. | Brian Feulner for The Standard

In a session that prompted flashbacks to the chaotic votes for speaker of the House, Supervisor Aaron Peskin was elected to a third term as president of the Board of Supervisors in a shock move on Monday. 

“This was not on my list of things to do today,” Peskin said at the meeting, a point he later confirmed with The Standard.

Peskin was elected after an unprecedented 17 ballots that began with incumbent Board President Shamann Walton heavily favored to win.

Members of the board, and later Mayor London Breed, framed Peskin's election as a compromise.

“My hope is that we can really take this as an opportunity to start fresh," said Breed in an appearance toward the end of the meeting. "I think the voters of San Francisco sent us a strong message this election—they want us to work together.”

Peskin's election was preceded by a deadlock that saw Walton fall just short of another term as board president, a powerful role that determines committee assignments and other legislative politics.

District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman and District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan, a former aide to Peskin, were also in the running.

Chan, who had been nominated by District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar, never got more than two votes but forced a stalemate in several rounds of voting between Walton and Mandelman, with no candidate gaining the needed majority to win. 

After five deadlocked ballots—and a growing chorus of groans from residents who compared the stalemate to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s painful slog last week—supervisors opened discussion. 

“I think we’re at an impasse,” said newly elected District 4 representative Joel Engardio, before urging more votes for Mandelman.

Peskin then recommended that either one of the candidates withdraw, or that the board take new nomination, in order to avoid surpassing the 15 ballots it took to elect McCarthy.

Voting continued to deadlock for another five ballots, at which point Chan moved that nominations be reopened. At that point, Peskin nominated himself, asserting both his prior experience as president and his reluctance to assume the job again. 

After more voting and two breaks, members of the board’s moderate bloc eventually joined Chan and Melgar in supporting Peskin, handing him the majority on the 17th ballot. Mandelman switched his vote to Peskin, effectively withdrawing from the contest, after the 15th ballot. 

Both Dorsey and Joel Engardio, who was just sworn in to represent District 4, cited a need for consensus in switching their votes to Peskin.

“We have a lot of hard work and are wasting time,” said an exasperated Engardio.  

After Peskin's victory, Walton congratulated him and joked that he had "some big shoes to fill. […] Now, I get to be the one making the outbursts; I look forward to that.”

“Nothing changes as we move forward for these next four years in terms of what we are going to continue fighting for,” Walton said.

"We’re going to continue to fight for justice in the city, to fight racism, to continue to fight for the voiceless, disenfranchised and isolated. That’s never going to change,” he said.