What Comes Next For San Francisco Mayor -- and David Chiu?

Categories: Politics
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The mayoral succesion process, illustrated...
Following several hours of grueling, arcane debate on the process the Board of Supervisors will use to choose the next mayor, a method that will ostensibly enhance the possibility of a sitting supe garnering the crucial six votes came up for a vote.

If the supes fail to name a successor for Mayor Gavin Newsom, Board President David Chiu will become acting mayor indefinitely. So if Chiu wanted to deep-six alterations to the process to his benefit, he could have voted against Supervisor Chris Daly's amendment. But that's not what happened. Chiu instead voted for the amendment, then urged his colleagues to unanimously ratify the final process as a sign of unity -- which occurred.

Thumbnail image for David Chiu portrait.jpg
David Chiu
While some have accused the board president of Rasputin-like machinations behind the scenes, Chiu told SF Weekly he has had no hand in crafting the procedure to select the next mayor -- and denied that he has, in any way, gummed up or hamstrung the process in the hopes the supes won't name a successor and the job will fall to him.

When asked, flatly, if he even desired to be the city's next mayor, he would only state "I'm completely focused on my responsibilities as president of the board and on working with my colleagues to ensure an orderly transition of leadership." This was also his reply when asked if he even wished to continue as board president or, perhaps, fill Kamala Harris' soon-to-be-vacant position as district attorney.

The method of choosing the next mayor -- which, again, passed by a 6-5 vote with Chiu as the deciding tally -- now looks like this:

The supes will have the chance to make "up or down" votes on individual submitted names. Supervisors who are eliminated from contention and withdraw can rejoin the process and cast votes -- or can participate from the get-go by turning down nominations for the post of interim mayor. The candidates will be voted on in the order of submission, and, akin to the National Football League's "Sudden Death" overtime rule, the first person to receive six votes is the next mayor.

So, here's a hypothetical. Say the supes have 10 submissions to vote on. The board will vote yes or no on the candidates one by one -- but if the fourth candidate gets six votes, there's no need to consider suitors five through 10. Similarly, if no one gathers six votes, the board can run through the candidates again and again (not unlike picking a board president).

This process will first be unveiled during the supes' Dec. 7 meeting -- though Chiu would rather the actual vote for the next mayor take place later.

"On Dec. 7, we will likely have a conversation about desired criteria and qualities of an interim mayor, and consider other motions," predicts Chiu. "I agree that ideally, an interim mayor would have a real transition period, but under the city charter, selecting an interim mayor before Mayor Newsom takes the oath to become lieutenant governor would not be binding, raising concerns that a pre-vacancy appointment would create more instability. I'm weighing these competing concerns."

So, there you have it. San Francisco may have its next mayor named by Dec. 7 unless it doesn't, and, even if it does, that person's anointment may not be legally viable.

Stay tuned. These are interesting times.

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