Local Pols Angle for New Jobs as Harris, Newsom Vacate Seats

Categories: Election 2010
No: I get to be on the government oversight committee.
Notwithstanding 9.6 percent national unemployment, if you happen to be a politician in San Francisco, Nov. 03 is a great day to be in the market for a new job.

"It's what everybody's talking about," said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, in reference to new openings in the mayor's office, the district attorney's office, and, by some speculation, the office of local representative and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Any movements filling those spots could, in turn, open additional top-level vacancies, creating the potential for a San Francisco political free-for-all, with long-shot potential to even create a leadership crisis.

According to the city code, vacancies in various city offices, including District Attorney, are filled by the mayor.

If the mayor skips, dies, (or becomes Lieutenant Governor) he's replaced by the president of the Board of Supervisors. And that person, David Chiu, serves "until a successor is appointed by the Board of Supervisors." Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris take office Jan. 3. A new Board of Supervisors is empaneled Jan. 8.

This schedule creates an interesting tangle of possibilities for replacing Harris, some of which involve chaos. As of Nov. 3, Harris was leading Republican Steve Cooley 46 percent to 45.7, with 99.2 percent of the vote counted.

Assuming Harris wins, scenarios for how she's replaced depend upon whether or not Newsom and Harris agree among themselves on a temporary DA. Since summer, Police Commissioner David Onek, a self-described friend to Harris who worked in Newsom's Office of Criminal Justice, could
be that man. Another strong candidate: Paul Henderson, an assistant DA with strong ties to the mayor and his boss, Harris.

If Harris and Newsom agree on a DA successor, the pact would likely involve Harris resigning in advance of her and Newsom's Jan. 3 Sacramento coronation date. That way, still-standing Mayor Newsom could select an interim DA.

If Newsom and Harris don't come to terms -- or if they've both tired of having to bother with backwoods S.F. politics -- they could simply let the issue slide. Then it would be up to interim mayor David Chiu to appoint a new DA, according to City Attorney spokesman Jack Song.

"I think there are many different possible scenarios," Song noted.

No kidding. If Chiu wanted to make sure the switcheroo fun didn't stop -- in our view his best option -- he could immediately appoint himself DA, vacating the mayor's office.

Under the city's municipal code, that means the next Board of Supervisors president becomes mayor.

Ordinarily, the Board of Supervisors would hold an election for a new president Jan. 8, the same day new members are empaneled.

But with Chiu gone from the Board Jan. 2, San Francisco wouldn't have a Board of Supervisors president. And if Mayor Chiu appoints himself DA -- as we hope he does -- the city wouldn't have a mayor, either. We left a message on Chiu's cell phone, and will add his comments when we hear from him.

Update: Chiu, as mayor, could not appoint himself district attorney, according to the City Attorney's office. If he did so, he'd be giving himself a better-paying job and using his political office to do so.

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