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Katy Tang Is Your New Board of Supervisors President

Scott Lucas | November 19, 2014 | Story Politics


In a surprising move, last night the Board of Supervisors elected Sunset district Supervisor Katy Tang to be Board President, filling the spot vacated by the outgoing Supervisor David Chiu, who heads to the Assembly. The vote was dramatic, as two progressive Supes stormed out of the chamber in protest of Chiu's moving the process forward in the absence of Supervisor David Campos, who was on a previously-scheduled vacation. Though Tang had been rumored to be in the hunt for the job, Supervisors London Breed and Mark Farrell were considered the early favorites. Here are seven takeaways from the news:

The Inexorable Rise of Katy Tang Continues: Tang is not so much a supervisor as the Platonic ideal of a supervisor: She grew up in the district; served as a legislative aide to her predecessor, Carmen Chu, before taking office; and cruised to victory unopposed in her most recent election. (Read our profile of Tang here.) She’s one of the board’s most moderate members—even more so than outgoing board president David Chiu. Though she’s only the interim president for now, it'll be a surprise if she doesn't become the permanent one in January, when the board votes again. (Then again, her taking office was a surprise in itself.) Remember: Ed Lee was just supposed to be an interim mayor.

David Campos Can’t Catch a Break: We hope that he’s on the vacation of his life right now, because—oh boy—that guy needs one. After falling to Chiu in a narrow loss for the Assembly seat, Campos’s poorly timed vacation, which had been on the books for a long time, came back to bite him as his progressive allies in the board, including Supes Eric Mar and John Avalos, stormed out of chambers, arguing that taking the vote without Campos' participation was a violation of the board's unspoken norms. That’s actually worse for Campos. Why? Well let’s presume they are right. What stopped Campos from interrupting his hike on the Appalachian Trail as soon as he found out when the vote was and booking the next flight back to the Harvey Milk Memorial SFO Airport? And that he didn’t means either one of two things: Campos is not as skilled a politician as he seems to be—or he figured out that his vote wouldn’t have changed the outcome even were he to be there. So on this issue, Campos was either out-smarted or irrelevant. Neither option is good for him. Have another mai tai on us, friend. You need it.

The City Is Inching (A Little Bit) to the Right: Let’s not overstate the importance of the Board president (important, but no mayor) or the difference ideologically between Chiu and Tang (Tang's a little—but not a lot—more moderate than Chiu). But still, Tang's victory notches the city every-so-slightly to the right. Good news for developers, bad news for Google bus protestors.

And Progs Got Got: Last night’s vote was another defeat in what has become a string of losses for San Francisco leftist faction. With the exception of the waterfront preservation votes, they haven’t been able to command much in the victories lately. When Mar and Avalos stormed out last night, it was an encapsulation of the progressive ethos of late: Awfully good at protesting, not so good at winning. That Mark Leno mayoral candidacy can’t come fast enough for them.

David Chiu Wins Again: Though his move to allow himself to vote on his replacement as Board President was unusual (and controversial), if nothing else, it was smart politics. Chiu is good at playing the inside game, and last night’s vote was no exception. Sure, it put a bitter taste in the mouths of many, but those weren’t his voters anyway. Like him or don't, but Chiu is just plain good at his job.

Dissent Is Brewing, Maybe: Before last night’s vote, speculation was that the Board Presidency would go to either Supervisor London Breed or Mark Farrell. Because they didn’t put their names forward in public, it’s hard to know how much support they ended up with among their colleagues—though it would have to be fewer than six votes. (Probably fewer than five, actually, because if either were sitting on five, presumably one of them could cut a deal with Campos for him to fly back to cast vote six.) If that’s true, then Tang won by jiu-jitsu: Not the strongest candidate in the first round, but the one with the widest base of support.

Demographics Matter: In a state whose top political leadership is (let’s be blunt) old and white, San Francisco’s political class continues to be more in step with the city's demographics. Tang is one of several women to have served as board president, including Dianne Feinstein and, more recently, Angela Alioto and Barbara Kauffman. She’s considerably younger than Chiu and becomes—after him—the second Asian American to hold the post.

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