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Let the Game Begin

Who’s got a leg up in the battle to be president of the Board of Supes?

From left to right: David Chiu, Scott Wiener, Jane Kim, Malia Cohen

The biennial blood sport known as electing the president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors takes place on January 8—and this year’s contest is likely to be as grueling as past ones. Just ask Matt Gonzalez how crazy things can get. In 2003, he got the job only after an exhausting eight rounds of voting. Still, it’s a big prize: The president appoints supes to committees and runs meetings, which means that he or she controls which issues get play and which don’t. Sadly, the position doesn’t come with extra staff, more office space, or higher salary—but hey, isn’t power its own reward? Allowing for the anything-can-happen principle, we rank the leading contenders in order of their probability of victory (though we’re not Vegas bookies, so don’t hold us to the exact numbers).

The Candidate: David Chiu, the Ambitious Incumbent
The District: District 3 (Chinatown and North Beach)
Odds of Winning: 2 to 1
Why: If Chiu decides to run for the state assembly, which many political insiders expect him to do, he may want to spend the next 18 months focusing on that campaign. But if he goes for a third term as board president, he’s the handsdown favorite. His solid centrist bona fides (and the fact that he's a known quantity) mean that he can probably count on the support, however grudging, of most of the board.
What to expect if he wins:
A continuation of the era of civility, except for fights over real estate development and the occasional left-field issue like public nudity.

The Candidate: Scott Wiener, the Fully Clothed Moderate
The District: District 8 (Castro and Noe Valley)
Odds of Winning: 4 to 1
Why: Wiener has come off a string of legislative victories (allowing tiny apartments, banning public nudity), and many see him as a key member of the Board's moderate faction—which seems, after the loss of progressive Christina Olague, to have gained power. Some board insiders suggest that we might see a deal between him and Chiu in which Chiu bows out and throws his support to Wiener.
What to expect if he wins: More fireworks, if he continues pushing combustible quality-of-life issues, and a tilt toward the center on development, the main dividing line between moderates and progressives.

The Candidate: Jane Kim, the Progressive Standard-Bearer
The District: District 6 (Tenderloin and Downtown)
Odds of Winning: 10 to 1
Why: Kim is the most likely candidate from the new board’s four-member progressive block, but her vote to retain Ross Mirkarimi as sheriff may have damaged her ability to attract those presidency-clinching fifth and sixth votes. Neither of the two newcomers to the board, Norman Yee and London Breed, may want to align with her, and she can’t count on the support of any of the board’s entrenched mod squad.
What to expect if she wins: A shot in the arm for beleaguered board progressives John Avalos, David Campos, and Eric Mar, which could make life harder for developers.

The Candidate: Malia Cohen, the Wild Card
The District: District 10 (Bayview–Hunters Point)
Odds of Winning: 20 to 1
Why: Cohen is not a leading contender, but anyone who gets the nod in local political pundit Randy Shaw’s blog deserves at least a mention. She doesn’t deny that she would be willing to take the job, although she also has kind words for David Chiu’s tenure.
What to expect if she wins: More Chiu-like bipartisanship. “There are fewer F-bombs dropping now,” she says. “We’re boring, but the reality is that we get work done that way.”

 

Originally published in the January 2013 issue of San Francisco.

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