City College trustee Shanell Williams has confirmed to Mission Local she will wind down her campaign to be the next District 5 supervisor, citing “stress-related health issues” that led her to fear for her long-term well-being.
The 34-year-old says she’d been clocking 14-hour days between campaigning and holding down a full-time job at University of California at San Francisco. This has, of late, led to migraine headaches, high blood pressure, and other maladies that made her question whether running a serious campaign while working full-time was feasible for her.
“As a black woman with the family [health] history I have, I cannot take anything for granted,” says Williams. “These things can snowball. Audre Lorde said it best: The best form of resistance is self-care. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone. I did really well in my City College race; I received the most votes for that office in history. As much as I do want to serve on the Board of Supervisors, this is not the end.”
Williams said that she had been privately considering withdrawing from the race for a brief period of time after several unnerving health incidents. Friday’s sudden death of Public Defender Jeff Adachi — whom she had known since she was a teenage ward of the court and was represented by his office — was, for her, the deciding factor in whether to stay in the district race or drop out.
“I had been thinking about it, but after what happened with Jeff, I told myself, ‘Shanell, this is a lot for you, physically,’” she said. “I am damn sure nobody in the political realm is going to say ‘hey, take care of yourself.’ It’s just too cutthroat. I have to be the one to stand up and say enough is enough. Black women are always told they can’t be soft, fragile, vulnerable: ‘Keep pushing, sister! You’ve got to do your thing!’ But I can’t keep pushing if I don’t feel good. I can step back from this.”
District 5 is among the city’s most liberal. It skirts City Hall along Van Ness Avenue; includes the Upper and Lower Haight; portions of the Inner Sunset; Hayes Valley; the Fillmore and the Western Addition. The latter two neighborhoods are traditionally African American and, today, are among the few remaining predominantly African American corners of San Francisco.
Williams belatedly declared herself a candidate for D5 — where she grew up and has lived much of her life — in September. London Breed appointee Supervisor Vallie Brown and Dean Preston already had a healthy campaigning and fundraising lead. Williams did not start receiving donations until the very end of October and, in the first reported fund-raising haul, she trailed far behind Preston and Brown ($102,000 to $93,000 to $4,600). Williams, however, was not fazed by this discrepancy. Her goal, she says, was to raise perhaps $150,000, qualify for city funding, and take advantage of the on-the-ground connections that come with growing up in the Buchanan Park Apartments and knowing generations of neighborhood residents.
Her 191,317 votes for City College trustee indicate she would figure to be a formidable candidate, even if her fund-raising totals remained off the mark. Now, however, Williams notes that she has been doing that trustee work for the past three years in addition to her job as director of community engagement for UCSF’s California Preterm Birth Initiative — and running for office in her spare time. “The intensity of a Board of Supervisors race does not compare to a City College board race,” she confirms.
Williams said she “will not be sitting at home,” and will be committed to some form of public service: “This is my life’s work.” As for the District 5 race, “Vallie and Dean, they’ll be fine. They are both strong candidates.”
She declined to endorse one or the other “at this time. At a later point, I will probably make a decision.”