If you thought last week’s Kevin McCarthy drama was nuts, wait 'til you hear about Supervisor Aaron Peskin winning the SF Board of Supervisors presidency after 17 votes, in what was either a masterful move of three-dimensional chess, or a sign of just utter dysfunction.
The outcomes of this past November’s SF elections were hailed as an across-the-board victory for Mayor London Breed, with the Chronicle declaring “Breed and moderates came out ahead in city elections.” So with this weekend’s inauguration of moderate District 4 Supervisor Joel Engardio, surely the moderate wing of the board would be emboldened with five strong Breed supporters on the 11-member body.
Video and transcript of my inauguration speech. We will create our best San Francisco through the miracle of a parent-powered movement.https://t.co/QqBQrVFYHB— Joel Engardio (@JoelEngardio) January 9, 2023
Not so fast. As the Chronicle reports, the board was scheduled to elect a new president Monday, a crucially important position that is first in the line-of-succession to be mayor, and makes all the supervisors committee appointments. It appeared current president and progressive Shamann Walton could likely be ousted but the new centrists.
He was. But shockingly, after 17 rounds of votes, the centrists united to elect (of all people!) far-left progressive District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who as seen from the Mission Local coverage below from when the voting kicked off at 10 a.m, was not even running for the position of Board of Supervisors president.
Today's Board meeting is under way. And, soon, we'll have a president. https://t.co/d7C9BdO0bu— Mission Local (@MLNow) January 9, 2023
“Well, I am remarkably unprepared for this moment,” Peskin said in his first words after being elected Board of Supervisors president. But was he unprepared? Was he?
You can fairly speculate whether this was a Machiavellian-maneuvering victory by Peskin. Again, he was not in the running when the voting started at 10 a.m. District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton was running for board president again (expected). District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman was the centrist challenger (expected). First-term District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan also declared a challenge to her fellow progressive Walton (not expected!).
And ... Round 13 continues the 5-4-2 deadlock. Peskin receives zero votes.— Joe Eskenazi (@EskSF) January 9, 2023
On to No. 14.
That split the progressive vote. But the moderates were not able to take advantage of this split, and at that point we’d gone on to 13 rounds of votes. This is when Peskin nominated himself for president (which you can do), yet Peskin received no votes whatsoever on the 13th round.
And on that vote, Supervisor Chan (who happens to be Peskin’s former legislative aide) switched her vote to Peskin, effectively dropping herself out of the race. All of the Chan votes swung to Peskin, though we remained in a three-way deadlock.
Mandelman for Peskin.— Joe Eskenazi (@EskSF) January 9, 2023
And then something happened. After a ten-minute recess, Mandelman was somehow talked out of the running, voluntarily withdrew his name, and every one of his supporters switched their vote to their traditional ideological opponent Peskin. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at City Hall during those ten minutes.
District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey explained his stunning turnaround as such: “Almost 16 years to the day, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom stood in this chamber and complimented board president Aaron Peskin on his reelection as president, and he said that President Peskin had a remarkable ability to bring this board together. And I believe that Aaron Peskin has that remarkable ability, and I am proud to be supporting him.”
At which moment, stunned political nerds citywide screamed “Holy fucking shit!,” and Peskin was back in the board presidency he’d previously held from 2004-08.
There are only two certainties in California politics: Kidney dialysis and Aaron Peskin— Scott Lucas (@scottlucas) January 9, 2023
Was this Peskin’s endgame the whole time? Or did he simply see no other option, and stepped in when the process appeared to be breaking down? That’s a parlor game we can debate throughout his term as board president. Peskin does excel at making nice with his political opponents when the moment requires, and this certainly served him well Monday.
But it’s an extraordinary reversal from when Peskin’s personal issues were in the headlines just 18 months ago, to now when he engineered his own political opponents to hand him as much power as he’s ever had in his career. And he engineered it as such that they handed him that power to him with forced grins on their faces, showing how well Peskin understands how to manage that chamber over which he now presides.