Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Political Notebook: D10 supervisor race rematches incumbent with challengers


District 10 challenger Tony Kelly Photo: Courtesy Tony Kelly for Supervisor campaign
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San Francisco District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen is once again on the campaign trail, seeking support from voters in the city's southeastern neighborhoods fronting the bay for another four-year term at City Hall.

District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

The race is a rematch, of sorts, from her first campaign in 2010 when former nonprofit theater executive Tony Kelly placed second behind Cohen after 20 rounds of calculations under the city's ranked choice voting system. Although Cohen was in fourth place out of 21 candidates in the first round of voting, the then political novice emerged the winner weeks later.

After factoring in voters' second- and third-place choices, Cohen came out on top with 52.7 percent, or 4,321 votes. Kelly emerged second with 47.3 percent or 3,879 votes. He is now trying to oust Cohen from office and has secured strong support from the city's progressive political camp, with backing from former Mayor Art Agnos, District 11 Supervisor John Avalos, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), and District 9 Supervisor David Campos .

Cohen has lined up endorsements from an array of unions, local political clubs, and moderate Democratic politicians such as Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Congresswomen Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco-San Mateo), and Barbara Lee (D-Oakland).

Also running a second time are Marlene Tran and Ed Donaldson . In 2010 Tran landed in third place with 3,330 votes or 30.2 percent; Donaldson, with 206 votes, was bumped out early in the IRV process. Neighborhood activist Shawn M. Richard rounds out the list of candidates.

Among this year's supervisor races – all of the incumbents in even-numbered districts are running for re-election in November – the District 10 contest is seen as the most competitive. Yet during a recent editorial board meeting with the Bay Area Reporter , Cohen dismissed such a characterization of her re-election contest.

"It depends on how you define serious. I don't consider it serious," she said of her opponents' campaigns. "The money is not there; the endorsements are not coming in."

She described her opponents as "one trick ponies" who "know one issue and they know it well."

Cohen, 36, one of two African Americans serving on the Board of Supervisors, claimed views of the race have been impacted by "some elements of racism and sexism," pointing out that most of her critics are white men in their 50s or older.

"There is very little room for diversity at that part of the Democratic Party," said Cohen.

Kelly, seen as the most formidable of Cohen's five challengers this year, told the B.AR.'s editorial board that he entered the race because the seat is not guaranteed to the incumbent.

"People should earn their second four-year term. It is why we have four-year terms," said Kelly, 51, a longtime leader of the Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association. He added that, "I am running for a different job than Supervisor Cohen. I think she has different concerns as a politician."

Looking at the electoral map today, Kelly sounded confident of his chances.

"The district has changed," he noted. "I would have won if the district was drawn as it is today in 2010."

Due to redistricting and an influx of homeowners seeking more affordable dwellings, District 10 has seen significant changes over the last four years. It comprises Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, Bayview, Hunter's Point, and Visitacion Valley. (The Portola neighborhood was removed from District 10 and added to District 9 when the city revised the boundaries of supervisor districts due to the 2010 census.)

Gays and lesbians priced out of the city's gay Castro district have increasingly turned to District 10, where home prices are substantially cheaper. Cohen estimated that 12 percent of her constituents now identify as LGBT.

"It is growing. It is actually really exciting," said Cohen, a straight woman who grew up in the city and is the oldest of five girls. "I call it 'Beyond Castro.' There are also LGBT people living in public housing in my district who are not connecting to public services that are more Castro-focused."

The ethnic makeup of the district is broken down roughly by thirds between blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Caucasian residents. It has the city's highest pockets of unemployment and public safety continues to be a concern. Kelly released a five-point public safety plan for the district.

"Are we safe? We are not," said Kelly, who is straight and a second-generation San Franciscan.

Increasing public safety will be one of her top priorities during a second term, said Cohen, in addition to "tackling housing affordability" and "bringing more living wage jobs to residents in District 10."

She rejected being pigeonholed into either the progressive or moderate camps on the board.

"I will vote with moderates and progressives if it will rebuild public housing, lift up poverty, and solve the violence," she said.

In terms of this fall's local ballot measures, Cohen and Kelly both support raising the city's minimum wage to $15 by 2018 and the proposed development at Pier 70. But they differ when it comes to the proposed sugary beverage tax.

Even though Kelly five years ago cut out soda from his diet, helping him to lose 55 pounds, he is not taking a stance on the soda tax measure, known as Proposition E.

"I am neutral on it," said Kelly. "We don't have a grocery store in District 10 but the first thing you want to talk about is taxing folks? If you want to restrict the purchase of it, admit it."

Cohen, who is a main backer of the tax, argues it will improve her constituents' health and combat rising rates of diabetes in both children and adults.

"I have a lot of poor, unhealthy, obese people in my district," said Cohen, who described the Bayview as a "food desert" due to its lacking a major grocery store. "This is an opportunity to help save lives."

And she was critical of Kelly's refusal to take a position on the measure.

"It is easy to stand on the sidelines and be a hater," she said.

Wiener may skip Chronicle endorsement meeting

Gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener , who is up for re-election this fall, may skip the San Francisco Chronicle's endorsement meeting should one of his opponents be allowed to attend.

The city's daily paper invited candidates in the race to meet with its editorial board September 25, including gay blogger Michael Petrelis, who is under court order to stay 150 feet away from Wiener. The restraining order is due to Petrelis photographing the supervisor in a City Hall bathroom in October 2012.

In June 2013, Petrelis pleaded no contest, which is similar to a guilty plea, to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge and agreed to abide by the stay away order. But after entering the supervisor race, he petitioned the court this summer to modify the restraining order so he could participate in candidate forums.

In August Superior Court Judge Samuel Feng said he would consider doing so on a case-by-case basis and requested Petrelis to seek a modification at least five days in advance of the events. According to a Facebook post this week, Petrelis intends to seek permission to attend the Chronicle meeting, and the paper is providing him with the details Feng has asked for in order to make his determination.

"San Francisco democracy will be tremendously enhanced with this forum and of huge value to District 8 voters," according the post on Petrelis's Facebook page. "While the Chronicle's forum is not open to the public and, as far as we know won't be streamed on the web, it's still the only debate any entity in this town is organizing before the election."

Wiener has repeatedly said he will not participate in any forums that include Petrelis. But when asked this week by the B.A.R. if he would skip the Chronicle endorsement meeting should the judge allow Petrelis to attend, Wiener was noncommittal.

"It's too soon to say," he said. "The Chronicle is aware of the situation."


Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column featured on update about a proposed drag club in SF's SOMA district.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail mailto:.

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