Mayor Gavin Newsom used a South of Market mural ceremony Sunday to announce his endorsement of Rob Black in his race against Supervisor Chris Daly in San Francisco’s District Six. Newsom and Daly have fought over a wide range of issues, so that the Mayor’s support for the former Michela Alioto-Pier aide is no surprise. Yet the Mayor could have made a far more interesting political statement by endorsing Daly. This would have befuddled Newsom's progressive critics, and enabled him to back the sure winner in the race. Instead, Daly could turn his race against Black into a referendum on the mayor, a contest Newsom is sure to lose.

In 2002, the media pundits lined up to predict Supervisor Chris Daly’s defeat. But Daly won more than 50% of the vote in a 14-candidate field, one of the most impressive political feats in San Francisco’s political history.

In 2006, Daly faces a field of political unknowns with even less chance of defeating him than the 8 challengers four years ago. The candidate known as “Rob Black” is so unknown among District Six voters that most activists---including myself—had never even heard of him until he announced his candidacy.

Black appears to be running as the candidate of the “forgotten middle-class.” That worked for Bill Clinton in 1992 and will help the Democrats in 2008, but this theme does not resonate with District Six voters.

Black would have been better off following the lead of former District Six candidate James Leo Dunn, who died a few months ago. Dunn’s platform was to hire homeless persons to dig an underground tunnel from the Tenderloin to Chinatown---it may not have proved feasible, but it did get voters talking about his candidacy.

Newsom’s endorsement gives Black credibility, but it will also energize Daly (not that he needed much energizing, having already gathered sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot). Daly now has an excuse to get out and meet some of the loft owners and other more upper-income residents in the district, some of whom might not have homes in San Francisco had Daly not strongly supported construction of their projects.

Black has likely earned himself a future Commission appointment for being downtown’s sacrificial lamb in the race, but it could be lonely for him out on the campaign trail.

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