It looks like Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi will once again have to defend himself against some three-year-old allegations of domestic violence as he attempts a re-election bid next year. And challenging him in the race, as Matier & Ross are reporting, will be the woman who was instated as his temporary replacement during his 2012 suspension, Ethics Commission hearing, and subsequent near-dismissal, former sheriff's deputy Vicki Hennessy.
For everybody who didn't live here in 2012, the name Ross Mirkarimi might not mean anything (primer to follow). But suffice it to say he's one of our town's progressive golden boys, and he's the sheriff, and he lost his temper with his wife and bruised her arm in a loud argument at their home on New Year's Eve day 2011. He was subsequently temporarily relieved of his office as sheriff, to which he'd just been elected, and the incident sparked many months of turmoil as domestic violence activists came out in force, and the more moderate wing of City Hall saw an opportunity to remove one of their longtime progressive foes.
Mirkarimi served previously as District 5 Supervisor and earned a firm place among the leaders of the city's far-left movers and shakers. In 2011 he ran successfully for sheriff, and he was basically a shoe-in because, here in San Francisco, the office of sheriff has been a longtime liberal stronghold and the job was seen as a cushy reward to Mirkarimi who could likely hold the office for decades, as his predecessor Mike Hennessy (no relation to Vicki) had.
Cut to that New Year's Eve when his wife, and mother of his child, Eliana Lopez notably famous as a telenovela actress in her native Venezuela went crying to neighbor Ivory Madison, who videotaped Lopez tearily showing a large bruise on her arm and expressing fear of Mirkarimi, who had just blown up at her outside their home when she had been talking about taking their young son back to Venezuela for an extended visit.
What ensued was months of hang-wringing on both sides, with domestic violence activists saying there should be no forgiveness for such behavior, especially in a sheriff, and the progressive bloc crowing endlessly about conspiracy theories and making many problematic arguments about how this didn't count as domestic violence and Ross was really just a good guy who was being misrepresented by his enemies. Mirkarimi avoided an actual trial, accepting a plea deal and pleading guilty to a charge of false imprisonment, but was then kept out of the sheriff's office most of the year as the city held a much publicized Ethics Committee hearing about the incident, and subsequent accusations that he tried to cover it up.
Lopez, being an actress, played into the drama, standing firmly by her husband while also penning editorials and giving interviews describing the whole thing as a coup d'etat. (Remember, this is the largely ceremonial office of sheriff we're talking about.)
Anyway, though Mirkarimi's job hung in the balance for months, he was ultimately re-instated via a vote by the Board of Supervisors. Moderates still blame Jane Kim for toeing the progressive party line despite previously vowing to stand with the domestic violence foes, and being the one vote to keep there from being a 9-vote super-majority. That vote ultimately also cost interim Supervisor Christina Olague a permanent job, after campaigning like this.
Mirkarimi remains one of the city's highest paid elected officials, earning $218,526, and you can bet he will fight hard to hold onto the job. However a challenge from a female candidate like Vicki Hennessy, particularly in a city that loves to see women in positions of uniform power like this, could be daunting. Expect a lot of this old dirty laundry to get rehashed all over again and expect a lot more talk like this about the ways women are marginalized within the SF progressive community if this race heats up.