Darcel Jackson in his Mission District home. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

Darcel Jackson, a formerly homeless man who was widely profiled last year after working to bring wi-fi to San Francisco shelters, just became the sixth candidate to enter the race for District 9 supervisor.

Jackson promises to run the thriftiest campaign in San Francisco history, saying he won’t accept individual donations more than $10 — the limit is $500 per individual for supervisorial campaigns — because he doesn’t want the election controlled by moneyed interests.

“I don’t want to owe anybody any favors,” he said.

The 55-year-old was an ironworker for 16 years before an accident in which he dropped a tool on his leg convinced him that his construction days were over. “I got to the age where I couldn’t hang off of a 30-story building and weld,” Jackson said.

After the 2008 recession, work was scarce. Jackson blew through his savings and ended up bouncing among homeless shelters for eight months. He took advantage of a cooking program offered at the Next Door shelter, got a place in the Mission District, and partnered up with tech workers to install wi-fi in homeless shelters around the city.

He is now working on rolling out an app that connects homeless people to city services and says he fields calls from people around the country interested in using his model. Public office, however, held greater promise.

“I figured I could do more as a supervisor,” Jackson said. “I’ve gotten a lot done without a lot of money.”

Homelessness and housing would be the cornerstone of Jackson’s campaign. Meeting with social workers, finding food, and nailing down a place to stay at night was a full-time job when Jackson was homeless. He’s convinced the process can be streamlined at the city level to transition people into housing more quickly.

But sheltering the homeless, also requires building more, he said.  Jackson will push for 40 percent affordable housing in private developments and wants more mixed-income developments, fewer 100 percent affordable projects.

“I don’t believe in housing poor people together,” he said, saying he would avoid putting up fully affordable housing towers near each other. This, he said, is the case in the Tenderloin.

Jackson is the only candidate who has personally navigated the bureaucratic hurdles faced by the city’s unhoused masses, but he’s facing a full field of better-financed and higher-profile candidates vying to replace termed-out Supervisor David Campos.

Hillary Ronen, Campos’s chief of staff, is well-financed and has pulled in heavy local endorsements from politicos and unions. The progressive half of the Board of Supervisors has lined up behind her, and her union endorsements will bring hundreds of volunteers for door-to-door flyering.

Josh Arce has a history of union organizing and sits on the board of the non-profit housing developer Mission Housing. He is also backed by strong unions and has even deeper pockets, but the money he’s raised so far is reserved for another local campaign and he has not yet submitted finance filings for the supervisorial race.

Edwin Lindo — born and bred in the Mission — has amassed a formidable war chest but is not yet racking up heavy-hitting endorsements. Lindo’s local roots and neighborhood activism — he was heavily involved in the Mission moratorium and frequently participates in protests against police shootings — may give him an edge in the district.

Rounding out the field are Iswari España and Melissa San Miguel, two relatively unknown candidates who have not yet disclosed their financial situations. España works as a job training officer at the Human Services Agency and has lived in the Mission since his childhood. San Miguel, another Mission native, is an education consultant formerly employed by the National Center for Youth Law.

Such a full field of candidates — many of whom have no significant political experience — is no surprise in a race to replace a termed-out supervisor, said Jim Stearns, a political consultant with a history of working for progressives in the city.

“It’s very common when you have an open seat for a bunch of people to join the race,” Stearns said, adding that most of the candidates would “have a tough time putting together the resources to be top-tier.”

The District 9 race is key for the so-called progressives on the Board of Supervisors. They won a 6-5 majority last November that could be threatened by the upcoming elections, since progressive Supervisors Eric Mar, Campos, and John Avalos are termed-out this November.

That leaves the traditionally progressive Districts 1, 9, and 11 up for grabs, and a loss in any of those would likely change the balance on the board until 2018.

For his part, Jackson says such political calculations are one of the problems with city hall. He and others in this campaign say that elected officials have ignored local issues in favor of city-wide power grabs, and adds that “people forget why they’re in positions” of power.

And he’s not naive about his odds.

“I probably won’t be elected, but I’ll make them talk about some serious things,” he said.

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Joe was born in Sweden, where the Chilean half of his family received asylum after fleeing Pinochet, and spent his early childhood in Chile; he moved to Oakland when he was eight. He attended Stanford University for political science and worked at Mission Local as a reporter after graduating. He then spent time in advocacy as a partner for the strategic communications firm The Worker Agency. He rejoined Mission Local as an editor in 2023.

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  1. Finally, a candidate who doesn’t pretend to know the ins & outs of issues they grew up worlds away from. He’s probably more to the left me, but he’d have my vote if that were my district. A normal, intelligent man with good intentions and nothing to prove. An anomaly for politics in SF today.

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  2. Rather than working on that app, why not work to improve city services first?

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  3. I would love to know more about his app that connects homeless people to city services…

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