Board of Supervisors President: David Chiu Unanimously Re-Elected

Joe Eskenazi
Supervisor David Chiu keeps discovering new ways to be elected board president. First, he was the compromise choice emerging out of a bitter political battle. Then the board's right flank pushed him to re-election. And, today, he was re-re-elected via a unanimous, 11-0 tally.

But not without some curious moves.

Supervisors Malia Cohen and Jane Kim nominated one another for board president, and David Campos seconded Cohen. In his remarks, Campos inaugurated the theme of the day -- the "symbolic" importance of empowering a "woman of color." A cavalcade of public speakers picked up on this notion, with some echoing Campos' complaint that it had been "25 years" since any woman of color served as president of the board. This, however, doesn't appear to quite be the case -- Doris Ward was president as recently as 20 years ago (and Ward's record shouldn't induce a round of nostalgia, especially for Campos and his progressive colleagues).

It turned out, however, not to be time to empower women of color. It was just time to talk about it. In the very first round of voting, Cohen and Kim withdrew from consideration, clearing the field for Chiu.

(Inarguably, it has been quite a while since a woman of color served as board president. But in the years since, both Angela Alioto and Barbara Kaufman held the office. So did Tom Ammiano [gay], Matt Gonzalez [Latino, Green], Aaron Peskin [Jewish], and Chiu [Chinese]. Symbolic or otherwise, it's hardly a country club.)

The Board of Supervisors' chamber was as packed as an airport terminal Tuesday afternoon. So, perhaps, it was fitting that the supes' amplification system -- a new addition following a multimillion-dollar revamp of the room -- rendered the supes' and board clerks' intonations as muffled and inaudible as whomever is paging standby passengers to the flight desk. It's not surprising when those folks miss their flights and, sadly, a few of the quotes in this story may not be verbatim. The supes' orations resemble Charlie Brown's teacher, even when they're standing only several yards from the public gallery.

The audio system for the public -- which, as always, contributed soliloquies on pet issues ("stop the corporate rape of our library!"), pearls of wisdom from an indignant nudist or two, and, today, a plea to "give our president power to stop that bullshit" -- sounds pristine. Go figure.

Attempting to handicap Board of Supervisors presidential elections is an endeavor that can lead to brain damage. Chiu was seen as the odds-on favorite to retain his post, but, in recent days, SF Weekly learned that Chinatown power broker Rose Pak has been aggressively lobbying against him. But, then, you can't believe everything you read. Per a local gossip column, Supervisor Scott Wiener was aggressively campaigning for the job, even while, in actuality, he was on vacation in Mexico.

Wiener indicated he wouldn't seek the office of el presidente even before the voting started, seconding Norman Yee's nomination of Chiu. Kim and Cohen waited a bit longer to bow out.

Both thanked the throngs that called for their ascension -- with both claiming this was unsolicited. But both politely dropped out of the race, with Cohen delivering an emotional, halting, and somewhat muddled speech honoring the political bravery of Abraham Lincoln and urging everyone to harness their inner leader. Two years ago, SF Weekly was told the deal that handed Chiu the board presidency a second time involved his essentially ceding committee assignments to his moderate colleagues. It shall be interesting to see what manner of arrangements were in play today.

With only Chiu's name in contention, the supes quickly awarded him his third term. When the board clerk asked Chiu whom he would be voting for, he said what his 10 colleagues must have been thinking: "David Chiu, I guess."

We will update this story as we gather more information about today's vote.

Update 2:59 p.m.: Multiple sources tell SF Weekly that Pak had heavily lobbied Yee and Mar over the past several days to abandon Chiu. London Breed had, in the past, indicated an affinity for Wiener as board president. So, when Wiener seconded Yee's nomination of Chiu, it followed that Chiu could enjoy support from Wiener, Breed, Mark Farrell, and Carmen Chu -- in addition, of course, to Yee, Mar, and himself. In other words, checkmate.

It still remains to be seen what committee assignments await the various supes. 

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What's the name of the show? A Comedy of Errors? Anyway, congrats to David Chiu. May I call you Chewy?

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