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Politics & Policy

Top Democrat quits sexual assault committee over support for disgraced Newsom aide

Michela Alioto-Pier was asked to resign over a letter she wrote in support of Nate Ballard, who was convicted of domestic violence in 2021.

A woman in a black jacket sits at a desk with a microphone, papers in front of her, in a wood-paneled room.
Former Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, pictured here in 2010, may run for the Board of Supervisors again in 2026. | Source: Lea Suzuki/SF Chronicle/Getty Images

A new committee looking into accusations of sexual assault by prominent members of San Francisco’s Democratic Party is already facing an internal reckoning, as a former supervisor stepped down from her role after advocates pointed out her past support of a man convicted of domestic violence. 

Michela Alioto-Pier, who served on the Board of Supervisors from 2004 to 2011 and is the granddaughter of former Mayor Joseph Alioto, left the committee because of a letter of support she wrote in 2021 for Nate Ballard, a former staffer for Gov. Gavin Newsom who was convicted of domestic violence and child abuse, The Standard has learned.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Alioto-Pier confirmed her decision to step down, saying she never intended to be a distraction.

“I did not want to be a part of the story,” Alioto-Pier said. “This is about survivors and making sure these people feel they’re in a safe environment where they're going to be heard. That’s the most important part right now.”

Alioto-Pier said that, in retrospect, she would not write the letter defending Ballard again. Others in San Francisco politics wrote letters in defense of Ballard, including mayoral candidate Mark Farrell.

Democratic leaders formed the committee after The Standard’s investigative report detailing disturbing allegations against once-rising political star Jon Jacobo. The goal of the committee is to provide a platform for people to provide information about instances of sexual assault and harassment in San Francisco’s political community.

After the committee was announced Friday, the San Francisco Women’s Political Committee raised concerns about Alioto-Pier’s past actions in support of Ballard.

Alondra Esquivel Garcia, president of the Women’s Political Committee, told The Standard in a statement that an “official ask” was made for Alioto-Pier to step down.

“Michaela reached out to our organization and we spoke to her Monday,” Esquivel Garcia said. “She decided to step down from the committee following our meeting, and we appreciate her doing so to keep the work survivor-centered."

Nancy Tung, the chair of the Democratic County Central Committee, said in a text message that a replacement on the committee has not yet been chosen but the group should be able to move forward without adding anyone else.

The committee will be chaired by Tung and include DCCC members Emma Heiken, Trevor Chandler, Bilal Mahmood, Lily Ho, Michael Nguyen and Carrie Barnes. The members will be meeting for the first time on Thursday.

On Saturday, Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to Democratic Party officials expressing her support for the new committee looking into sexual assault and harassment allegations against local political leaders—one of whom, Kevin Ortiz, worked in her office as recently as two years ago.

In announcing the committee, Tung cited The Standard’s report on Jacobo and also referenced allegations of impropriety against the leader of a local Democratic club. Multiple sources confirmed this person to be Ortiz.

The move to step down by Alioto-Pier comes at a particularly sensitive moment for the former supervisor’s political career. In late March, Alioto-Pier pulled papers for the 2026 race for the District 2 seat. In an interview, Alioto-Pier said she hasn’t made a final decision on whether she will run for the seat.

Supervisor Catherine Stefani is the current District 2 supervisor, but she is the frontrunner to win the Assembly District 19 seat after the March primary election. Stefani would need to vacate her supervisor seat to move on to the Legislature, leaving an opportunity for Mayor London Breed to make an appointment that would last until 2026.

On April 15, the same day The Standard’s story about Jacobo was published, Supervisor Hillary Ronen called for a hearing to investigate how the city deals with sexual assault and harassment.

Alioto-Pier comes from a storied San Francisco political family. Her grandfather served as mayor from 1968 to 1976 and was a gubernatorial candidate. Her aunt, former Supervisor Angela Alioto, served from 1988 to 1996 and also ran for mayor.