Amazing scenes were witnessed last week on the evening the Sunset Community Democratic Club held its endorsement meeting. First of all, it wasn't foggy (though it was cold). But, more importantly, despite Mayor Gavin Newsom actually showing up to make his case, the Sunset Dems — a seemingly Newsom-friendly group — deadlocked between the mayor and de-facto progressive standard-bearer Quintin Mecke and made no endorsement at all.
"This is one of the few places where I've seen anybody able to ask questions of Mayor Newsom," says Avrum Shepard, the Sunset Dems' immediate past president. "When we asked Mecke questions, he gave answers. Mayor Newsom was much more elusive. He's uncomfortable in front of people."
In the end, it was six votes for the mayor and six votes for Mecke.
That the sitting mayor couldn't win an easy endorsement in the Sunset isn't exactly a sign that the sky is falling on Newsom's pomaded head. Yet the ramifications of the mayor's non-win in a Newsom stronghold may yet reverberate past the room on 24th and Taraval where a dozen Sunset denizens sat on folding chairs and weighed their mayoral options.
The Sunset nonendorsement played into Mecke's major thesis that the mayor is afraid to talk about anything substantive.
"I think that when you get past the image and the press releases, there are real issues not being addressed in San Francisco. And it was clear after I gave my presentation that some of the [Sunset Dems] felt similarly," said Mecke, whose supporters packed the house at the Sept. 12 Young Democrats meeting and forced a similar nonendorsement.
Newsom's political consultant, Eric Jaye, downplayed the Sunset Dems' actions, painting the group as über-progressives out of place in San Francisco's conservative fog belt. But while it behooves Jaye to paint the Sunset Dems as the Spartacist Workers' League, even a cursory glance at their record doesn't bear that out: In the last election they endorsed Hydra Mendoza, the mayor's candidate, for school board — and no one else. Assessor Phil Ting, a Newsom ally, is on the group's board.
"When Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, or Nancy Pelosi endorses [Newsom], it's not particularly news," bemoaned Jaye. "But when a group of 20 deadlocks I get a call from a reporter."
Fair enough. But if the Appalachian State football team went into Michigan — and lost — that wouldn't be news either.