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Politics & Policy

San Francisco’s most powerful political group endorses Farrell, Lurie over Breed

The image features three people. On the left, a man in a dark suit is speaking. In the middle, a woman in a blue blazer holds a microphone. On the right, a man in glasses and a suit is talking.
Neighbors for a Better San Francisco, a moderate political group, is encouraging its members to vote for either Mark Farrell or Daniel Lurie before Breed in a ranked-choice vote this November. | Source: Adahlia Cole for The Standard & Tâm Vũ/The Standard

Neighbors for a Better San Francisco—the city’s most powerful political group after spending millions to support moderate candidates and policies in recent elections—sent an email to supporters Monday telling them to back two challengers over Mayor London Breed while leaving one candidate off the ballot completely.

The email from Neighbors called Aaron Peskin, the most progressive of the major candidates, a “threat” and recommended voters leave the District 3 supervisor off their ballots while voting for either Mark Farrell or Daniel Lurie, both moderates, as their first and second options.

Breed was slighted with a third-place endorsement because she has not “demonstrated an ability to govern with the degree of persistence and consistency necessary to solve San Francisco’s problems,” officials wrote.

San Francisco has a ranked-choice voting system that allows voters to rank candidates and then losing candidates’ votes are redistributed until someone finishes with a majority.

While the email knocked the mayor’s record after six years in charge of the city, Neighbors’ strongest criticism was reserved for Peskin. 

“We consider the mayoral candidacy of Aaron Peskin to be a very real threat to the future of San Francisco,” officials wrote. “Peskin’s ideological extremist policies have caused many of the problems that plague our city today. Nevertheless, he is likely to attract a significant amount of the vote and therefore his candidacy should not be underestimated.”

“No surprise here,” said Peskin’s campaign consultant, Jim Stearns. “And now we see where the big Republican money is going. It is going to Farrell and Lurie. Great.”

The decision to back both Farrell and Lurie as first-place options comes as somewhat of a surprise after the organization was found to be getting especially cozy with Farrell’s campaign. A spokesperson for Lurie’s campaign declined comment.

“The realities of ranked-choice voting (RCV) weighed heavily in our decision,” Neighbors officials wrote, citing recent polling conducted by Neighbors by FM3. “We took into consideration that most of our members will be able to come to their own conclusions regarding who to vote for mayor, but are likely to need more information regarding the implications of RCV.”

The polling found that Breed, Farrell and Lurie are in a “statistical tie” for initial first-place votes, although Farrell had the highest overall polling support.

Joe Arellano, a spokesperson for Breed’s campaign, said the endorsement rankings were not a surprise. He noted that Bill Obendorf—a conservative investor who funded the bulk of Neighbors’ Boudin recall efforts—also contributed $45,000 to a committee Farrell created to support charter reform in November’s election.

“We appreciate their #3 endorsement,” Arellano said in a statement, “but it’s hard not to think that the fix was already in for Mark Farrell, given his campaign’s collusion with Neighbors.”

Jade Tu, Farrell’s campaign manager, said that polling has consistently shown Farrell is leading the race.

“It is clear that voters want change in the Mayor’s Office and a leader who is experienced and deeply understands the challenges our City faces,” Tu said. “Mark’s background, experience, and bold policies and vision for San Francisco are resonating with voters across every neighborhood.”

Neighbors gained prominence in local politics back in 2022 by helping with the successful recall of three school board members and leading the effort to oust former District Attorney Chesa Boudin

It has been a tumultuous few months for Neighbors, which not only had to explain its close ties to Farrell’s campaign but also experienced a moment of crisis in May when old sexual assault allegations were raised about the group’s executive director, Jay Cheng. The organization’s board ultimately decided to keep him in place.

Neighbors directors are scheduled to have a call with members on Tuesday and Thursday to discuss its mayoral endorsement as well as supervisor and school board races.