All five major candidates for San Francisco mayor faced off Wednesday night in their first proper debate of this year’s mayoral race. All stuck tightly to their pretty wonky scripts, but the crowd let loose on the candidates (and the moderators) with booing and heckling.

You probably did not watch Wednesday night’s first San Francisco mayoral debate that finally happened at the Sydney Goldstein Theater. The 1,700-seat theater was sold out, according to KTVU, and as the Examiner notes, the livestream cost $10 to watch. What in the Hello Fresh kind of monetization of democracy is this to charge viewers money to watch a debate for an important elected office? We hope future debates do not pull this new charging money for the livestream idea.

Fortunately, KTVU had the full debate up on their YouTube page some 30 minutes or so after the debate was over, and you can watch the whole thing below. It’s 90 minutes, so we’ll summarize the juiciest parts of this debate between Mayor London Breed, former supervisor Mark Farrell, current supervisors Aaron Peskin, and Ahsha Safai, and Levi Strauss heir and nonprofit founder Daniel Lurie.

The juiciest parts were when boos were raining down from the audience. It happened a couple of times. The most notable of these was at the 36-minute mark, where heckling breaks out immediately prior to a question directed to Breed on the topic of public safety and property crime. The heckling is inaudible on the YouTube video, but then boos are coming from all over the crowd (maybe directed toward the heckler, the moderators, or one of the candidates). Breed butts in and says “Are you guys sure you want to do this?”, though it’s not clear if that remark is directed toward the moderators or the other candidates.

The Chronicle was in the house and has some insights. “A handful of protesters briefly disrupted the event to decry cuts included in Breed’s recent city budget proposal before they were escorted out of the theater amid boos from the audience,” that paper reports.

But it was definitely the moderators getting booed at the 45:50 mark. Farrell made a crack about the “current administration,” and Breed asked for a chance to rebut. Co-moderator Manny Yekutiel refused to give her that chance because she wasn’t specifically mentioned by name, and the audience razzed him at length.

Breed cleverly shot back amidst the razzing, “That’s part of the problem. They won’t [mention me by name].”

The other co-moderator was former Chronicle columnist and now New York Times SF Bureau Chief Heather Knight, an excellent get. But Manny Yekutiel was a curious choice, given he’s been a Breed appointee, founded a project with Lurie, and even considered running for mayor himself this year. That seems like three conflicts of interest right there.

Image: Youtube via KTVU 

But onto the cheering, and Lurie actually got the biggest applause line of the night. Everyone on stage jabbed at him for his background mostly being inheriting money and starting a nonprofit, but Lurie turned that into rhetorical jiu-jitsu.

“They’re going to talk about experience all night long, and they have over 70 years of combined experience on this stage. Look at where it’s gotten us,” Lurie blasted, to laughter and applause. “Are we happy?”

Image: Youtube via KTVU 

But Lurie’s silver-spoon background was needled by the other candidates, with Supervisor Ahsha Safai getting in the best of those jabs. Safai got to it in his opening remarks, saying, “Who has the experience and that track record to fight for all San Franciscans to live in this city? Not the billionaires — or billionaire heirs — but working and middle class families.”

You know who he was singling out there. But Safai’s lower standing in the polls was evident on one question, where Heather Knight forgot to give him a chance to responded to one of her questions, and Safai had to remind her he was on stage too.  

Image: Youtube via KTVU 

And Breed frankly telegraphed that she does not consider Safai or Peskin a threat.“These guys have one thing in common: They want us to feel bad about San Francisco,” Breed said, clearly only referring to Lurie and Farrell, because they were the ones engaged in negative rhetoric about the state of the city. Whether she’s right or wrong, Breed directed her fire mostly at Farrell and Lurie, and seems to feel they are her real opposition here.

Image: YouTube via KTVU 

Farrell went hard at Breed, but dabbled in a few inaccuracies. “We keep breaking our own record every single month” he said about fentanyl overdoses (that’s not true, overdoses have declined in a number of months, even if they go up again the following month). He also added in a a sort of Tucker Carlson-esque mischaracterization that “Literally every single day, there are city-funded workers in the Tenderloin handing out free packets of tin foil to those suffering from drug addiction.”

Farrell did explicitly call for the firing of SFPD Chief Bill Scott. He said that Breed had a tendency to “strip money away from the police department, as has been done over the last few years,” which is absolutely not true.

Breed hit back. “My police budget is $200 million more than it was from the previous mayor.”

Image: YouTube via KTVU 

Peskin read from his notes perhaps a little too much, but was at his best when the moderators singled him out for tougher questioning. KGO points out that he defended his housing record well when Knight asked, “Are you a NIMBY?”

“I actually have the best record on housing that you’ve never heard of,” he said of his affordable housing advocacy, noting that Farrell had opposed many of these projects. “San Francisco needs, and I support, housing at every income level. We can build the housing we need, but we don’t need to turn Ocean Beach into Miami Beach.”

There was a lightning round at the end, which produced many laughs.

On the topic of which candidate would be their second choice, Lurie teased Yekutiel over his own political aspirations. “Manny, when you were thinking about running, you were definitely going to be my Number Two,” Lurie joked.

And Peskin brought the house down when the candidates were asked if they’d ridden in a Waymo. “No, but I did tax them, and that is going to the MTA,” he said, and the audience went nuts.

And Peskin shined in a closing statement that shows his blueprint to win as a lesser-funded candidate. “Follow the money. Mark Farrell’s first contribution came from far-right Republican Bill Oberndorf,” and added that Breed’s recent ballot measures "were funded by crypto kings and venture capitalists."

They were also asked the challenging and infamous question of which taquerias saved their favorite burritos. Their responses:

  • Peskin: SanJalisco
  • Breed: Pancho Villa
  • Lurie: La Taqueria
  • Farrell: Gordo’s
  • Safai: La Corneta

All of these candidates did what they needed to do politically on that stage Wednesday night, but none of them did it particularly well. The debate did not seem to change the fundamentals of this race in any way.

All five candidates will debate again on Monday, June 17, and that one will be live-streamed for free on the San Francisco Democratic Party’s Facebook page and on KRON4’s website.

Related: Breed Threatens to Back Out of First Mayoral Debate, Questions Whether It Might Be Rigged by Organizer [SFist]

Images: YouTube via KTVU