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Politics & Policy

Mark Farrell will run to be San Francisco’s mayor again, sources say

Mark Farrell speaks at a press conference.
Mark Farrell served as mayor of San Francisco for six months back in 2018. Now he wants his old job back and plans to announce his campaign in the next two weeks. | Source: Jeff Chiu/AP Photo

For a brief window of time, Mark Farrell was mayor of San Francisco. Apparently, that six months of running City Hall weren’t enough.

Multiple sources have confirmed to The Standard that Farrell—a San Francisco native who also served seven years as a supervisor for the Marina District—will challenge Mayor London Breed in November’s election. Farrell is expected to make a formal announcement in the next two weeks. 

Farrell, 49, has been recruiting people to appear in his campaign ads, according to sources. Among those contacted was a business owner from the city’s Asian American community, which accounts for one-third of San Francisco residents. Farrell also has been receiving help from Margaux Kelly—a top exec for the nonprofit TogetherSF and one of his former supervisor staffers—to arrange meetings and coordinate his schedule, according to a City Hall source. 

Mark Farrell speaks.
Former San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell is expected to join the race to get his old job in mid-February. | Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Farrell has some catching up to do in the mayor’s race, as the field of serious contenders has now grown to four. Breed, Supervisor Ahsha Safaí and nonprofit founder Daniel Lurie have all been running campaigns since last year. These three candidates, in addition to the independent committees supporting Breed and Lurie, have already combined to raise more than $4.8 million, according to campaign records.

Farrell currently works as the managing director of Thayer Ventures, an early-stage technology investment firm that he co-founded before his election to the Board of Supervisors in 2011. In early 2018, he became San Francisco’s 44th mayor following the sudden death of Ed Lee. 

Breed, who was the president of the Board of Supervisors at the time, was briefly elevated to acting mayor before a contentious Board of Supervisors vote installed Farrell as the city’s top official. He served in this capacity until Breed won a special election and was sworn in as mayor in July 2018.

Rumors of a Farrell candidacy have been percolating since September. His name appeared as a possible candidate in at least one poll the following month. A group of supporters also launched a “Draft Mayor Mark” website urging him to run as a moderate alternative to Breed. 

Farrell will need to carve out a lane distinct from Lurie, as multiple political insiders noted that the two have similar moderate policy platforms and overlapping supporters. Like Lurie, Farrell has considerable wealth and connections, which should allow him to quickly assemble a competitive campaign.

Farrell and Kelly did not respond to The Standard’s requests for comment on Friday. However, in a text message back in November, Farrell said that he was “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,” he said. “Any decision I make about the future will not be taken lightly.”

Mark Farrell talks.
Mark Farrell took an aggressive approach to clearing homeless encampments during his time as mayor of San Francisco in the first half of 2018. | Source: Ben Margot/AP Photo

Farrell was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2011, succeeding Michela Alioto-Pier and representing the Marina and other northern neighborhoods. Serving in that office until January 2018, when the board voted to appoint him as mayor, he was succeeded as supervisor by his legislative aide, Catherine Stefani. 

As a San Francisco native and political moderate with a background in venture capital, Farrell sparred with progressives during his tenure as mayor, pushing policies that included hiring 250 more police officers and an “aggressive crackdown” on street encampments. 

With a crowded field of moderate candidates, many political observers have wondered who will emerge as the leading progressive candidate for mayor.

Safaí has been courting the support of labor unions, while many continue to believe Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who currently serves as president of the Board of Supervisors, will jump into the race after the March primary.

Peskin, however, recently indicated to the Standard that he was not interested in jumping into the race

“I’m not afraid of losing,” Peskin said. “I’m afraid of winning.”

It appears Farrell shares no such fears.

Josh Koehn can be reached at josh@sfstandard.com
Han Li can be reached at han@sfstandard.com