Thought we were done with elections last month? Not even close, San Francisco.
If 2022 is the year of the election quadrathlon, this year’s final heat takes place in November, with competitive Board of Supervisors races that could reshape the city’s politics for years to come. That means campaign season is here—yes, again.
Four years ago, the city’s progressive political bloc solidified its dominance on the board and then reliably stymied Mayor London Breed’s agenda on housing and other issues. But political winds have shifted, with public safety, education and overall frustration with government rising to the fore among voters. A few upstart candidates hope to ride that momentum into an office at City Hall.
Here’s a look at the board seats potentially in play this November—and what those races could mean for the city.
District 2: Clear Skies for Stefani
Appointed in January 2018, District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani faced four challengers that November. This year—with ample support in her district and considerable fundraising prowess—she’s unopposed.
Stefani has put good government and public safety at the core of her agenda, with legislation ranging from banning “ghost guns” to reforming the Behavioral Health Commission. She’ll continue to advocate for victims’ rights and more effectively fighting crime, serving as the baseline for political moderates in the city. As of her last campaign finance filing in January, she has $82,000 in her war chest.
Outcomes in other districts could even give Stefani the votes for a presidency at the Board of Supervisors, one of the city’s most influential roles. Even those who rooted for her to be appointed District Attorney would admit that would be a great consolation prize.
District 4: Mar(red) by Recall
A former director of the Chinese Progressive Association, District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar won District 4 in 2018 and brought a more progressive brand of local politics to the Sunset and Parkside neighborhoods. From 2000 to 2018, the district was represented by more center-leaning Chinese Americans.
Mar made a name for himself as a workers’ watchdog, with achievements that include an emergency medical leave bill made permanent by voters in June. He was also a vocal critic of Senate Bill 50, a failed state bill that sought to incentivize denser housing in neighborhoods like the Sunset.
Last year, most would have concluded that Mar’s reelection was as safe. But that may no longer be the case.
Mar’s opposition to the school board and district attorney recall—both overwhelmingly popular in his district—has made him appear vulnerable. Redistricting also brought new neighborhoods into District 4, along with one of two challengers.
Those include Lakeshore resident Joel Engardio, former Examiner columnist and public safety advocate, and Parkside resident Leanna Louie. Both were active in the campaign to recall former DA Chesa Boudin, and both are likely to paint Mar as being out of touch with his district. Together—assuming they can get voters up to speed on how it works—they could use ranked-choice voting to their advantage.
Engardio says he raised $20,000 the weekend after he declared his candidacy, while Mar has around $39,000 in his account, according to recent filings. Louie has not reported any fundraising yet.
District 6: A SoMA Showdown
District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, a former police spokesperson and longtime politico, was a surprise choice when Mayor London Breed appointed him to the seat in May. But Dorsey may also epitomize how his district, anchored by fast-evolving SoMa, has changed.
This year’s redistricting peeled off the Tenderloin into District 5, and along with it went major progressive constituencies—affordable housing interests and other advocacy groups—that dominated District 6 for years. November’s race could test how much that matters.
So far, Dorsey has based his agenda on public safety, housing affordability and tackling drug addiction—all big issues with SoMa’s growing voter base. But November brings a formidable challenger.
That’s Honey Mahogany, a former aide to Dorsey’s predecessor Matt Haney, a noted performer and—in the eyes of many—the rightful inheritor to District 6. Her resume, which spans politics, activism and the arts, and her leadership in the Democratic Party, could favor her to win in November—at least for now. If she did, she’d become the first out transgender person on the board, making history.
The District 6 race will prove interesting, if not disruptive: Also running are labor activist Cherelle Jackson and Billie Cooper, former Grand Marshall of the SF Pride Parade. A Black trans person living with HIV, Cooper’s reputation for forthright activism will enliven debates.
Dorsey’s pro-housing agenda will help attract developer money, while Mahogany will likely tap into friendly unions, progressive groups and other more grassroots efforts. But in a district where so much ground has been uprooted, it remains to be seen how much grass is left.
District 8: Mandelman’s Steady Pivot
District 8 runs from Cole Valley in the north to Glen Park in the south, with the Castro at its heart. It’s one of the most progressive voting districts—but since Supervisor Rafael Mandelman was first elected in 2018, there’s been some buyer’s remorse on issues like homelessness and crime.
It’s also a housing battleground, given high rates of homeownership along with renters more likely on rent control, according to a recent study commissioned by Mandelman, a public law attorney.
Once a solid progressive, he’s evolved in response to changing attitudes in his district. Mandelman has fought uphill battles at the board over behavioral health conservatorship, expanding immediate homeless shelter options, and densifying neighborhoods—if incrementally.
For District 8 challenger Kate Stoia, that incrementalism is an issue: At a recent forum organized by Activ8SF, she accused Mandelman of empty rhetoric with scant results. Mandelman remains formidable, however: His campaign war chest, close to $100,000 according to filings, is just one reason.
District 10: Still Walton’s World
Like District 6, District 10 encompasses neighborhoods in drastic transition. Incumbent Supervisor and Board President Shamann Walton, a former community organizer and school board president, was elected in 2018 in a mixed field.
Since then, and now as president of the board, he’s been the progressive bloc’s standard bearer on justice reform, job equity and development, often in opposition to Mayor Breed. He’s a strong opponent of state density mandates and decried phasing out car access on JFK Drive as a “segregationist policy.” Walton has also tackled regional issues, working to leverage more control over Caltrain from San Mateo County.
He dodged a redistricting bullet when rumored attempts by the mayor to swap Potrero Hill with Portola failed. It was a pain point between him and Breed, and avoiding it smooths his path to reelection this November: Recent filings show $53,000 in Walton’s coffers, and Democratic Party support is certain.
His only opponent, civil servant Brian Sam Adam, faces very long odds. But with a focus on “transforming the city,” he represents a nouveau vision in a city often resistant to change. November will tell whose vision wins out.
Mike Ege can be reached at [email protected]