Multiple sources close to the process on Sunday told Mission Local that Mayor London Breed will today name SFPD Director of Strategic Communications Matt Dorsey as the next District 6 supervisor, replacing Matt Haney.
Let the record show that Dorsey, the former longtime spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, is an extremely smart and competent man, is a savvy political operator with longstanding relationships in this city, and possesses a deep knowledge of the dark arts of San Francisco politics. He is someone ready for a street fight, certainly on the moderate-friendly streets of the newly formed, Tenderloin-free District 6.
But, make no mistake: Tapping the cops’ spokesman for political office, a career communications pro and political operative, who also recently served as a lobbyist for a firm representing tech and business titans, is a hell of a thing.
That’s a hell of a resume for the supe representing D6, which still has its fair share of struggling tenants and abject poverty, even with the TL now grafted onto District 5.
So, it would seem public safety is likely to be Issue No. 1 here, with the hope that voters will be enthused that the former chief strategist for the cops will know who in the department to call to get police on the scene to crack down on crime and lawlessness in the streets.
Dorsey is also a recovering addict of drugs and alcohol, which is highly germane in District 6. Today’s 12:15 p.m. announcement of his appointment is, not coincidentally, to be held at Delancey Street.
With this move, the mayor has triggered what figures to be a political brawl in SoMa. One with no small amount of risk for yet another precariously placed Breed appointee. And, frankly, for Breed, too, on the eve of her own re-election bid.
Breed’s pick, Dorsey, will, in November, be running against Haney’s preferred successor, his former chief of staff Honey Mahogany. She will, barring unforeseen lunacy, announce her candidacy in relatively short order. Yes, other candidates could jump in and complicate matters. But this has the makings of a proxy battle between the mayor and Haney in a district Haney just carried, overwhelmingly, in his crushing Assembly win.
“If the mayor chooses somebody and that person loses, why would you want to create a referendum on yourself right before running for re-election?” ponders a longtime city political operative. “Having a mini-campaign and making this into a proxy race about you? That is high-risk. If you had a choice, right now, to have London Breed show up to campaign for you or Matt Haney, who would you pick?”
The voters, rather recently, have certainly given Haney a resounding thumbs-up. And, according to polling I’ve seen coming out of that race, Haney is far more favorably received in this neck of the woods than the mayor. Our newly ensconced assemblyman has (token) races to run in both June and November. So, unlike many city figures who decamp to Sacramento and disappear into the scenery, Haney will remain a presence in San Francisco. He’ll be spending money here. It is conceivable he’ll be spending more money than the supe candidates will spend, and he has already made it clear he will put his former chief of staff by his side and campaign hard for her.
Mahogany will also have the full backing of labor, which was the understated but key factor in Haney’s trouncing of David Campos in last month’s Assembly race. It is also likely (though not yet certain) that Mahogany will have the same personnel operating her ground game that propelled Haney to runaway wins in D6 in 2018 and in Assembly District 17 earlier this year.
Erstwhile AD-17 candidate Bilal Mahmood supported Haney after coming third in February’s primary. He, too, was passed over for the vacant District 6 seat. It remains to be seen where The YIMBY favorite Mahmood will come down regarding the November contest. It’s hardly inconceivable he and Haney could be allies here, too.
Unless Mahmood runs for the post, too. You never know.
Dorsey is openly gay and HIV-positive. A generation ago, this would be somewhat revelatory. But San Francisco voters, particularly relatively young San Francisco voters, do not seem to give all that much deference to white, male, gay and/or HIV-positive candidates, even candidates who faced terrible discrimination in their lifetimes and suffered horrible personal losses during the AIDS crisis. Just ask Mark Leno. Or, for that matter, Jeff Sheehy.
Mahogany, on the other hand, is both Black and trans. That would be a truly unique background for a potential elected official in this, and perhaps any, city. The loss of the Tenderloin denies her potential progressive-leaning tenant voters — and even the prior, more ostensibly lefty iteration of District 6 had no trouble electing white, male supervisors. But experienced neighborhood political hands told me that the TL still harbors a level of transphobia you won’t likely find among the dwellers of million-dollar condos. Separate and apart from Mahogany’s abilities and C.V., a pioneering candidate could appeal to a wide range of voters.
Much remains to be determined. But this isn’t in doubt: It’s going to be a heavily contested race. It’s going to be a bruising, hard-fought contest. And that was the mayor’s choice. It didn’t have to be.
Now, nobody is saying Honey Mahogany deserves to be handed the District 6 crown like some municipal William of Orange.
And she won’t be. If Mahogany is going to be supervisor, she’s going to have to run for it and earn it. But there is plenty of political logic behind London Breed avoiding a knock-down, drag-out fight with the one candidate who has made it damn clear she’s running, who has the stalwart backing of labor, who is the preferred successor of the popular and influential outgoing incumbent, and with whom she probably agrees with on 85 percent of the issues.
The mayor could’ve ostensibly had both Mahogany and Haney with her, moving in (roughly) the same direction. Instead, she’s now neatly cauterized the wounds of the city’s hard left, which were opened up in Haney’s battle with Campos. The city officials who apparently went to the Ja Morant school of Twitter to berate Haney after his blowout win could now join arms with him.
Also, rather than have the entire LGBTQ community united behind the appointment of Mahogany, a Dorsey-Mahogany race will spark a damaging LGBTQ civil war.
You don’t have to search far for examples of a mayor who inherited the wind after shoe-horning in a preferred appointee and snubbing an ambitious but less-preferred candidate who had unimpeachable community ties. In 2012, Mayor Ed Lee passed over Breed herself to anoint Christina Olague District 5 supervisor, only to watch Breed run for it and earn it.
Three years later, Lee chose Julie Christensen to be District 3 supe instead of picking Rose Pak’s preferred candidate Cindy Wu, which goaded Aaron Peskin back into public life.
We will never know what would’ve happened if Leno had listened to his backers’ pleas and took on Lee in 2015. But if Breed has yet another appointee to elected office crash and burn, even political allies may take notice, and weigh their options. This is the sort of thing that emits a whiff of political vulnerability.
It could’ve been easy. But it’s going to be hard. That was a choice.
A mayor can put a supervisor into office. But it’s constituents who keep them there. That’s not a choice.