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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mayoral Selection: What the Hell Is Gonna Happen Today?

Posted By on Tue, Jan 4, 2011 at 12:01 AM

click to enlarge Should he stay or should he go?
  • Should he stay or should he go?

To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, the ongoing showdown between the progressive supervisors and erstwhile Mayor Gavin Newsom regarding the naming of his successor will end with a bang or a whimper. Or lots of whimpering. Or lots of banging.

The supes are slated today to vote on the next mayor -- but, as Newsom has delayed his swearing-in as lieutenant governor, he claims he remains mayor, thus rendering any vote today purely academic. You can't replace the mayor until the mayor is gone, after all.

So, here are some scenarios that may unfold today.

A. Six supervisors fail to agree on a single candidate, much lamentation occurs, and the process to elect an interrim mayor commences again next Tuesday. Perhaps it will do so with a new board president, as four new supes will be sworn in on Saturday, and choosing a prez is their sole order of business;

B. Six supervisors do indeed reach a consensus on a successor mayor, Newsom gives his royal blessing, resigns, and, lo, we have a mayor. Not bloody likely;

C. Six supes reach a consensus on a mayor Newsom does not approve of. This could lead to a situation described by one political observer as "Ivory Coast-like."

click to enlarge The capital of the Ivory Coast?
  • The capital of the Ivory Coast?

While Newsom claims he is still mayor, opponents question that. They believe his term as lieutenant governor commenced on Jan. 3, whether he was sworn in or not -- therefore rendering him no longer mayor as this city prohibits dual office-holding. There is, as of now, no official written guidance on the matter: City Attorney Dennis Herrera, a mayoral candidate, has recused his office; the substitute Santa Clara County Counsel has said this is a matter of state law; then-Attorney General Jerry Brown echoed support for Newsom, but didn't do so in writing; and the Secretary of State has stated that Abel Maldonado continues to be our lite gov.

Newsom foes, meanwhile, are trotting out a 1956 state Attorney General opinion from then-AG Pat Brown -- yes, the current governor's dad -- regarding when the term of a man named William J. Silva commenced and ceased on the state's Fish and Game Commission. The upshot: One's term depends on "the office" and not "the officer" -- ostensibly meaning that Gavin Christopher Newsom has already ascended to state office.

Of course, shoving a 54-year-old AG's opinion regarding a fish regulator in front of a judge's face may be a somewhat far-fetched scenario. In order for this to happen, a mayoral candidate who received six votes from the board would first have to take Newsom and the city to court. Could this happen? Perhaps. Is it more likely than the alternative of the progressive supes "pissing and moaning for 48 hours," as one City Hall politico predicted? Probably not.

In case of "pissing and moaning" in lieu of litigation, even if the supes settle on an interim mayor today, the vote will be purely symbolic. The new board that gathers next week is not bound to anything that happens today.

Of course, all of these scenarios are dependent on Newsom not tapping Board President David Chiu to replace former District Attorney Kamala Harris, then appointing a moderate as District 3 supervisor.

That would be fairly unreal. But, as Eliot himself said, "humankind cannot bear very much reality." 

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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