District 3 Supervisor Retains Board Presidency, 8-3, With Zero Surprises

When he first became President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2009, David Chiu had to weather nearly a dozen rounds of voting before he eked out a victory by one vote, 6-5, thanks to support from the city’s progressive stalwarts. On Saturday, Chiu was reelected to a second term as president by an 8-3 vote in just the second round of voting, with support from the city’s moderates.

This contrast came as no surprise to his colleagues, some of whom saw it as merely the latest act in the same behind-the-scenes political drama that saw Ed Lee elevated to the interim mayor post.

“It was well-engineered,” said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who along with Supervisor David Campos and John Avalos were the three votes against Chiu (all three supported Avalos).

“This past week had left a bad taste in my mouth… the same forces [that put Lee into position to become interim mayor, while Lee was vacationing in Taiwan] were at play here.”

Chiu led the charge for Ed Lee on Tuesday, an act that earned him the label of “Judas” from former supervisor Chris Daly in texts to sitting supervisors and posts on the bar owner’s Facebook page.

Lee was the choice of Mayor Gavin Newsom as well as former mayor Willie Brown and Chinatown power broker Rose Pak, all longtime foils of the progressives. It was Pak who in a detailed New York Times article took credit for engineering Lee’s selection, and on Saturday, a satisfied Pak took some credit for Chiu’s victory as well.

“See? I told you so,” she crowed after the meeting while shaking hands with city departments head. “I knew it.”

Three supervisors received nominations for the Board presidency: Elsbernd, Chiu and Avalos. After earning support from four supervisors — himself as well as Jane Kim, Malia Cohen and Eric Mar — in the first round of voting, Chiu won eight votes in the second round when Sean Elsbernd withdrew his nomination for the presidency and all of Elsbernd’s votes — Elsbernd, Carmen Chu, Scott Wiener and Mark Farrell — went to Chiu.

The voting lasted no more than ten minutes.

“Sean did a really magnanimous thing,” an exhausted but elated-looking Chiu said later, in his office surrounded by supporters. “These things are unpredictable — I had a strong sense of who my first supporters would be, and where the blocks were… but I didn’t speak to them individually about it [flipping their support in unison].”

Did Chiu’s support of Lee play a role in his election Saturday? As one insider said off-the-record, “He had no choice but to support Lee. It was basic identity politics.”

At a Chinatown banquet held in Jane Kim’s honor Friday night, Pak, Chiu and a host of other Chinese-American politicos were in a celebratory mood over Lee’s selection. It was hard not to see that energy at play Saturday.

Lee returns to the country on Sunday, and he and Chiu plan to meet soon after his flight arrives at San Francisco International Airport, Chiu said. The newly-inaugurated Board of Supervisors must ratify Lee’s selection on Tuesday, and they are expected to do so without drama.

“After all the intrigue of the past week, I can finally focus on my district,” Avalos said. “This whole week has been politics instead of governance.”

There will be more politics to come: several politicians on hand predicted that Chiu, who Pak said will run for Mayor in November, will pull papers to officially declare his candidacy for the post in the coming weeks or months. If he does, he will do so on a roll, with a string of victories to his credit and strong forces behind him.

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