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Politics & Policy

Mark Farrell, ex-San Francisco mayor, could challenge London Breed in 2024

A man in a suit gestures emphatically at a podium with microphones, flanked by onlookers.
Mark Farrell, who served as mayor of San Francisco for roughly six months in 2018, speaks at a rally outside City Hall. Supporters of Farrell have urged him to challenge Mayor London Breed in 2024. | Source: Jeff Chiu/AP Photo

A movement to draft Mark Farrell, who briefly served as interim mayor in 2018, to challenge San Francisco Mayor London Breed in next year’s election appears to be growing. 

Rumors of a possible Farrell candidacy started to surface in September; his name appeared as a possible candidate in at least one poll the following month. Now, a group of supporters has launched a website urging him to run as a moderate alternative to Breed, whose efforts to address problems like crime, homelessness and drug abuse “are now too little, too late,” according to the website.

Farrell himself was silent on the rumors until now but said in a text message Wednesday that “like many San Franciscans, I am deeply concerned about the state and future of our city.

“San Francisco cannot afford to continue down the path we have been on and we all deserve better from City Hall,” Farrell added. “Any decision I make about the future will not be taken lightly.”  

Farrell was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2011, succeeding Michela Alioto-Pier and representing the Marina and other northern neighborhoods. He served in that office until January 2018, when the board voted to appoint him as interim mayor after the death of Mayor Ed Lee. He was succeeded in that office by his aide, Catherine Stefani. 

Farrell’s appointment was a politically charged surprise: In a dramatic meeting, progressive supervisors blocked the appointment of Breed, who, as Board of Supervisors president, was elevated to acting mayor right after Lee’s death. The move denied Breed the advantage of incumbency in the subsequent special election in June, but Breed won the election anyway, serving out the remainder of Lee’s term. She was reelected in November 2019. 

Farrell, a San Francisco native and political moderate with a background in venture capital, provoked the ire of progressives during his roughly six-month tenure as mayor, pushing policies such as hiring 250 more police officers and an “aggressive crackdown” on street encampments. 

Supporters listed on the website include marketing professional Brian Mullin; Eric Chiang, a former San Francisco police officer; and science teacher Kevin Terjesen.

If Farrell entered the mayoral race, he would add to a growing field with multiple moderate-leaning candidates. Other than Breed, the highest-profile candidates for mayor include nonprofit founder Daniel Lurie and Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. Like Lurie, Farrell has considerable wealth and may be able to partly self-fund a campaign.

“These rich guys with no chance of winning only benefit one person: Aaron Peskin,” said Conor Johnston, an advisor to Breed’s reelection campaign.

Political insiders expect Peskin, or another progressive challenger, to jump into the race for mayor next year. Breed, whose favorability ratings have sagged in recent months, is viewed as vulnerable to a serious challenge. The Standard reported in October that supporters of Peskin have been urging him to throw his hat in the ring

“This is a democracy, and anyone is welcome to run,” Derek Jansen, Safaí’s campaign manager, told The Standard. “We look forward to what he would bring to the conversation.”