As the implosion of the No on Prop. 8 campaign devolves into a melee of finger-pointing — Blacks! Mormons! Black Mormons! — the issue of same-sex marriage has probably hurt Mayor Gavin Newsom's aspirations for higher office, whether he likes it or not. But that's not the case for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, another ambitious San Francisco politician widely believed to be eyeing a promotion. If anything, local political wags say, the battle over gay marriage has improved Herrera's chances at becoming mayor, a job he is often rumored to covet.
"Dennis Herrera has to be considered one of the more credible candidates for mayor at this point," says San Francisco political consultant David Latterman. "He's done a lot of the heavy lifting on gay marriage and he tried his damnedest, and I think everybody who follows this issue knows that you can't attribute the bad stuff that's happened to Herrera because he hasn't done anything wrong."
It does seem that no matter how you look at it, Herrera will come out looking good on this issue in a future citywide campaign. When Newsom impetuously declared San Francisco the Las Vegas of gay weddings in 2004, it was Herrera and his team that took the cause to the state Supreme Court — and won. If he loses his current battle with the Supreme Court to overturn Prop. 8, hey, he was dealt a bad hand. But if he wins — well, same-sex couples will probably name their adopted children after him.
"He has the best of both worlds," says Charles Sheehan, a strategist with Whitehurst Campaigns. "He's been a high-profile city attorney and garnered tremendous support in the progressive and LGBT communities, but he doesn't have a legislative record that will haunt him."
Herrera is also unhaunted by being tied in the public eye to the much-maligned No on 8 campaign. Instead, he served as chairman of a committee called Californians Against Eliminating Basic Rights, which independently raised more than $1 million to combat Prop 8, including a $100,000 donation from Brad Pitt. And when it comes to fund-raising for a mayoral run, it doesn't hurt to have Brangelina in your brain trust. "Right now, I'm focused on running for re-election as city attorney," Herrera tells SF Weekly. "That race will be next year. And we'll see what happens after that."