Michela Alioto-Pier Wins Term Limits Suit, Will Run Again for District 2 Supervisor

Michela beat the city -- but can she beat her District 2 rivals?
Staffers for Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier tell SF Weekly that the District 2 supe has won her suit vs. the city and will be allowed to run again. Judge Peter Busch this morning ordered her name be placed on the ballot.

A 2008 decision by City Attorney Dennis Herrera had ruled that Alioto-Pier was termed out. Last year she intimated to SF Weekly that she would sue if barred from running -- and last month she filed suit. It is unclear if the city attorney will file an appeal of today's ruling -- or, with ballots due to be finalized and printed, he even has time.


Calls to the city attorney's office and to Alioto-Pier have not yet been returned. Here's the complex backstory presented as concisely as we can:

The crux of Herrera's opinion is that, per the city charter, public servants "appointed ... to complete in excess of two years of a four-year term" will be deemed to have served a full term. However, Alioto-Pier points out that she was in 2004 appointed by Gavin Newsom to fill his vacant seat, won a special election for a two-year term 10 months later, and then won re-election to a four-year term in 2007. By her calculation, she's in the tail end of her first four-year term. 

What's more, following the passage of Proposition C in 2001, it is now impossible to hold an appointed position for "in excess of two years." City law now mandates that appointees must run in special elections between 120 and 365 days of their appointment -- as Alioto-Pier successfully did. 

It also warrants mentioning that, when it comes to determining term limits, two-year terms and four-year terms are not synonymous. The difference between the two led to a Herrera ruling that eventually allowed Tom Ammiano to serve 14 years on the Board of Supervisors

A number of lawyers and members of the Board of Supervisors SF Weekly had spoken with were anticipating this outcome. But the outcome of the District 2 race is far from certain. The incumbent Alioto-Pier will face her first contested election; opponents Janet Reilly and Mark Farrell have each worked the endorsement route and have fund-raised $140,000 or more.

Update, 12:55 p.m.: City attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey says, unsurprisingly, that Herrera is displeased with today's ruling. "We expect him to make a decision on whether he is going to appeal in the next several days." 

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