Daniel Lurie, the founder of anti-poverty nonprofit Tipping Point Community and an heir to the Levi Strauss fortune, intends to challenge San Francisco Mayor London Breed in next year’s election, The Standard has learned.
The native San Franciscan has yet to formally announce his candidacy or file paperwork to begin fundraising, but a half-dozen sources with knowledge of Lurie’s plans to run for mayor said he has been hosting gatherings to rally support. He’s also been working to recruit staff and receiving help from political consultant Tyler Law, a partner at Thematic Campaigns, whose firm has handled state and national races, including presidential campaigns for Barack Obama and Pete Buttigieg.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of stealth happening at the moment,” said a source with knowledge of the open secret that Lurie plans to run for mayor.
Another source who has met with Lurie said that he “is definitely running—100%.”
Both Lurie and Law declined to comment for this story.
The viability of Lurie’s candidacy will depend on numerous factors, but sources close to him said he believes he can offer a similar but fresher alternative to the moderate Democratic platform of Breed, whose approval numbers have plunged since the early days of the pandemic. Nearly two-thirds of registered voters disapproved of the mayor’s job performance in a poll The Standard conducted in October last year.
More recent polling has found residents are growing increasingly impatient to see progress on homelessness, property crime and public safety, the drug crisis, and a lackluster economic recovery while Downtown businesses flee.
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Supervisor Ahsha Safaí formally announced in May he was running for mayor, and many are wondering if Supervisor Aaron Peskin—a more progressive alternative—will make a run as his final term in office expires next year.
Maggie Muir, the mayor’s political consultant, declined to comment on Lurie’s expected candidacy.
Lurie, 46, comes from a prominent San Francisco family and has especially strong ties to blue bloods in Pacific Heights. His father, Rabbi Brian Lurie, was the executive director of the Jewish Community Federation, and his mother, Mimi Haas, inherited much of the Levi’s fortune after marrying the late philanthropist Peter Haas—the great-grandnephew of Levi Strauss—following her divorce from Brian Lurie.
Daniel Lurie attended Duke University as an undergrad and the University of California Berkeley for a master’s degree in public policy. He and his wife, Becca Prowda, who has close ties to Gov. Gavin Newsom, have two young children, and the family lives in Potrero Hill. His most notable work in San Francisco has been done through Tipping Point, the nonprofit he founded and stepped away from as CEO in 2019. Tipping Point receives private donations and has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to combat homelessness and build housing.
“I know he cares about the city and has some thoughts, and I could see why he wants to do this,” said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who has endorsed Breed.
The rough-and-tumble world of San Francisco politics, however, could be a challenge. Lurie has no experience as an elected official, and sources noted that he has shied away from public criticism in the past. Building up name recognition with voters may be a priority for Lurie, especially when going up against an incumbent as formidable as Breed.
Despite low approval ratings, the mayor continues to draw support from a diverse mix of constituents. As a native San Franciscan, Breed can draw upon a lifetime of connections while tapping into the support of deep-pocketed tech execs and their political groups.
Abundant SF, an upstart political group that has promised to throw millions of dollars into each election cycle, is one organization that will not be supporting Lurie. The group’s political director, Todd David, said his organization is “unwavering” in its support of Breed.
“My take on Daniel Lurie is that he has no chance to become mayor of San Francisco,” David said. “The only thing Daniel Lurie can do is be a spoiler in the race.”
One potential advantage for Lurie would be his ability to self-fund a campaign if he chooses to eschew the city’s cap on publicly financed campaigns.
“Daniel comes into this with a unique outsider perspective, and he’s going to be well-funded,” said a longtime political consultant in San Francisco. “He’s going to have a compelling case to make about the need for some fresh leadership. But what does he know about the city from Day One to do something to change things for the better? Does he have the relationships to do it?”
In September 2020, Lurie wrote an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle in which he seemed to be laying the groundwork for a campaign.
“San Francisco should be a beacon—a city of the future,” Lurie wrote. “A city worthy of its rich history—one that is compassionate and inclusive, one that not only embraces change, but also fights for it.”
Josh Koehn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org