As has been widely expected for months, SF Mayor London Breed announced Wednesday that Assemblymember and former SF Supervisor David Chiu is her pick to be the next city attorney.
Breed's announcement comes immediately after Tuesday's official approval of Dennis Herrera's contract to become the new general manager of the SF Public Utilities Commission — a role vacated in December by Harlan Kelly amid the City Hall corruption probe by the U.S. Department of Justice.
David Chiu now returns to San Francisco City Hall after seven years representing the city in Sacramento. Prior to that, he had been president of the Board of Supervisors and represented District 3, and he previously clerked for Judge James R. Browning of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
In comments to the Chronicle today, Chiu says, "I’ve been inspired by the fight for justice my entire life. This opportunity is very much in line with my values and what I’ve wanted to do with my career."
Breed's decision to move Herrera — who has served as city attorney under multiple mayors over a span of 20 years — out of the City Attorney's Office raised eyebrows this past spring, given his role in investigating City Hall figures and departmental wrongdoing alongside the federal corruption probe. But opposition to the appointment quickly went quiet, and Chiu insists that all those investigations will continue. Herrera also previously said that his staff would continue the investigations in earnest.
Herrera now takes over a city department with 2,300 employees and an annual budget of $700 million. The SFPUC oversees the city's drinking water and wastewater services, manages the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, provides power to the residents and businesses of San Francisco through the CleanPowerSF program, and sells wholesale drinking water to three other Bay Area counties.
The race to replace Chiu in the Assembly will now pick up, with Supervisor Matt Haney now confirming his candidacy. Former supervisor David Campos, who now serves as chief of staff to District Attorney Chesa Boudin, had already expressed his interest in the seat shortly after the April speculation about Chiu coming back to SF.
Some drama is already afoot there, as 48 Hill reports, with Haney allegedly arranging to have his supporters try to join the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club in order to oppose an early endorsement of Campos (who is gay).
Being a queer voice, as well as a progressive Latinx immigrant, Campos will get the support of many city progressives — and former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano tells 48 Hills, "I know from my experience in Sacramento that Latinos need a progressive voice, and David is a proven leader."
If Haney, who often votes with the progressive bloc on the Board of Supervisors, wins a special election for Chiu's Assembly seat, that means that Breed gets to appoint his replacement — though progressives will still have a solid 6-7 votes on the Board without him.
That election, which may include a couple of other candidates besides Haney and Campos, will happen in February, and could be followed by another around April if no candidate takes a majority of votes.
Those political dominoes are going to begin falling as a two other special elections may also occur — not to mention Chiu will have to run for election to the City Attorney's Office in June after nine months of appointee status. The "Recall the School Board" election is likely happening in the coming months, and we're approaching a signature deadline for the effort to recall Boudin as well. (And if Boudin does face a recall election, might that be a ding against Campos at least among voters who want to oust Boudin?)
As 48 Hills suggests, "It’s possible that Mayor Breed could wind up appointing a city attorney, a district attorney, a supervisor, and three members of the School Board within less than a year." And, "Even Willie Brown, who managed at one point to appoint a majority of the Board of Supervisors... never got that much power in that short a period of time."