Skip to main content
Politics & Policy

San Francisco mayor’s race is getting ugly as fight for endorsements heats up

San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks at a podium with a group of people in construction vests and helmets.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed has no interest in working with her moderate Democrat challengers in the upcoming election, even if it might open the door for a progressive like Supervisor Aaron Peskin to win the race. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Mayor London Breed faces a daunting decision heading into November’s election: Duke it out with her “moderate” Democrat challengers for the local party’s endorsement or work with her opponents to ensure an arch-nemesis doesn’t slip in the back door.

Last week’s election results show a moderate political wave is ripping through San Francisco, and moderate Democrats now hold a virtual lock on the Democratic County Central Committee, which will hand out key party endorsements for November.

Most of the moderate political groups in the city—Neighbors for a Better San Francisco, TogetherSF Action and GrowSF—are telling soon-to-be-installed DCCC members to support a moderate slate for mayor, whether it be dual endorsements for Breed and former Mayor Mark Farrell or a ranked-choice option that also includes nonprofit founder Daniel Lurie, according to sources who spoke to The Standard.

The strategy has less to do with any of the moderate candidates and more to do with blocking Aaron Peskin, the progressive president of the Board of Supervisors, who is expected to announce his candidacy at any moment.

But one notable candidate for mayor is less than keen on that strategy: the mayor.

Power couple Jay and Kanishka Cheng, who operate the groups Neighbors for a Better San Francisco and TogetherSF Action, respectively, have been among those advancing the ranked-choice strategy, rankling Breed’s camp.

Key members of TogetherSF Action’s staff worked for Farrell when he was a supervisor and are now assisting his campaign. Michael Moritz, who is chairman of The Standard, has provided funding to TogetherSF Action and its 501(c)(3) nonprofit, TogetherSF.

A man in a suit is speaking at a podium with microphones, gesturing with a raised fist, showing enthusiasm or making a point.
Mark Farrell, a former San Francisco supervisor and mayor, could benefit from a ranked-choice endorsement by the local Democratic party. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Maggie Muir, the mayor’s political consultant, said that Breed has no interest in a dual or ranked-choice endorsement.

“It’s pretty obvious to everyone involved at this level of politics that all of those folks who either worked for Mark Farrell and are with these other organizations are now backing him and his campaign as well,” Muir said.

Both of the Chengs said their groups have not made any decision on the mayor’s race, but Jay Cheng—whose group Neighbors for a Better San Francisco spent almost a million dollars on the March primary, continuing the trend of being the biggest contributor in recent elections—said it’s “critical for moderate and responsible candidates to work together in this race.” 

Peskin, a longtime foe of moderates, particularly on housing, recently said he’s “warming up” to running for mayor, while Supervisor Ahsha Safaí—who’s been tacking left of late—announced his campaign last year.

Kanishka Cheng said her organization, which is circulating petitions on two charter reform measures for November’s election, has not made any decision on whom to endorse.

“We will give our community the opportunity to hear from all the candidates and are planning a mayoral forum where the candidates can present their vision and plans for San Francisco,” she said.

Having wrested control of the DCCC away from progressives in the March 5 election, moderate Democrats not only want to retain the mayor’s office in November but also secure a majority on the 11-member Board of Supervisors while also strengthening the powers of the mayor through charter reform in November.

While the stated goal is to create a more functional city, key steps in this process would include cutting down the number of commissions and giving the mayor more power to hire and fire department heads.

A man converses with someone in a street lined with red lanterns and festive flags.
Mayoral candidate Daniel Lurie has criticized Mayor London Breed and former Mayor Mark Farrell as ineffective City Hall insiders. | Source: Philip Pacheco for The Standard

Lurie seems unlikely to get a whiff of consideration from the DCCC, which is expected to roll out its endorsement in late May or early June. Unlike Breed and Farrell, he chose to stay out of endorsing the moderates’ Democrats for Change DCCC slate. In a statement, Lurie made it clear he doesn’t see his moderate opponents as allies.

“San Franciscans are hungry for the type of full-scale change that we know won’t come from any of the City Hall insiders who’ve managed the decline of our city,” Lurie said in a statement.

Jade Tu, Farrell’s campaign manager and a newly elected DCCC member, said that if Breed will not cooperate on some kind of ranked-choice endorsement for mayor, that could lead to a Peskin victory—similar to how Chesa Boudin, a far-left progressive, emerged from a crowded field to become district attorney in 2019.

“The only way a moderate mayor wins in 2024 is through a ranked-choice-vote strategy,” Tu said in a statement. “Otherwise, Mayor Breed is only strengthening the chances of a Mayor Aaron Peskin.”