After I wrote about the San Francisco Bay Guardian’s promoting a demographically insular Democratic Party machine
, its Executive Editor Tim Redmond told me the paper’s endorsements “may make your point look a little silly.” Actually, the Guardian’s endorsement issue reaffirmed my points. Its newsstand cover features three of its four top endorsed white candidates, and its District 6 analysis
wrongly maintains that “a year ago, this race was artist and activist Debra Walker's to lose. Most of the progressive community was united behind her candidacy.”
Really? The Guardian never identifies those in the “progressive community” who were “united” behind Walker, but we know this description did not include Supervisor Chris Daly, District 6’s leading progressive since 2001. Nor did it include African-American James Keys, Latina Elaine Zamora, SOMA activist Jim Meko, nor Asian-American leader Jane Kim – progressives now running against Walker. The Guardian’s endorsement issue raises even more troubling questions about its role in defining a “progressive community ” that bears little resemblance to the city’s actual multi-racial, demographically diverse progressive movement.
Jane Kim’s “Divisive” Candidacy
While the Guardian had no choice but to endorse Jane Kim as their second choice for District 6, rarely if ever have I seen an endorsement so dominated by negative criticism.
According to the Guardian, Jane Kim’s decision to run against Debra Walker leaves “the left divided, splitting resources that might have gone to other critical district races.” Claiming that Kim “parachuted in to challenge an experienced progressive leader,” the Guardian argues that “now we’ve got something of a mess – a fragmented and sometimes needlessly divisive progressive base in a district that’s key to holding progressive control of the board.”
Well, democracy can get a bit messy. It sure would be easier for the Guardian if the many low-income residents of District 6 would just forget about making up their own minds, and just deferred to the paper’s wisdom about who should represent them at City Hall.
The Guardian’s attack on Kim recalls charges that Matt Gonzalez “divided progressives” when he entered the 2003 Mayor’s race the day before the filing deadline. Gonzalez ultimately built the broadest progressive campaign that San Francisco has since seen, coming close to defeating heavy favorite Gavin Newsom.
Like Kim in District 6, Gonzalez was not the first progressive to enter the 2003 mayor’s race. Yet Gonzalez calculated that neither Tom Ammiano nor Angela Alioto could beat Newsom and that he could, so he ignored claims he was being “divisive” and declared his candidacy.
Because the Guardian is out of touch with the real progressive community, it never dawns on the paper that Kim and other progressives entered the D6 race precisely because they did not see Walker as the consensus progressive choice.
And as for the Guardian’s apparent belief that the first progressive who declares their candidacy should pre-empt challengers, this is precisely the argument that many Hilary Clinton supporters made about Barack Obama’s challenge.
Disparaging James Keys
In addition to unfairly attacking Asian-American Jane Kim, the Guardian does a real number on her fellow District 6 candidate, African-American activist James Keys.
Keys is endorsed by Supervisors Daly and Avalos, and has qualified for public financing. He is running a highly visible grassroots campaign. But the Guardian did not endorse Keys as its third choice, presumably because “in his interview, he demonstrated a lack of understanding of the issues facing the district and the city.”
Well, I saw Keys at a lot of meetings in Daly’s office, and he seemed to understand District 6 issues quite well. He may not have expressed his understanding well in the Guardian interview, but that should not diminish his extensive experience working on issues of importance to D6 voters.
While denying a third-choice D6 endorsement to the African-American Keys, the Guardian instead gave its nod to Glendon “Anna Conda” Hyde, who they describe as “a dynamic young drag queen performer.” The Guardian says Hyde “isn’t going to win,” but “he’s offered some great ideas and injected some fun and energy into the race.”
Unlike Keys, Hyde has not raised enough money to qualify for public financing, and is not the first choice of any current Supervisor. Nor does he have anywhere near Key’s experience working in District 6.
Hyde is quite a Guardian favorite. On August 18, 2010, the Guardian’s Sarah Phelan wrote a positive article
on Hyde in which former Milk Club President and current DCCC member Gabriel Haaland states that “he’d be working for Hyde’s campaign, ‘if not for a 15 year friendship with Debra Walker.’” Haaland even calls Hyde “the Harvey Milk of the race.”
Haaland believes Hyde – who the Guardian claims “lacks experience” – can better represent the people of District 6 than can Jane Kim, James Keys or other candidates. And considering that Hyde was the only District 6 candidate besides Walker that the Guardian praised and did not criticize, the Guardian appears to agree.
Peskin Denies a “Machine”
Last week, DCCC Chair Aaron Peskin attended a fundraiser for Tony Kelly in D10 and stated that
“there is no political machine in San Francisco … If there was a political machine, Tony Kelly would have been endorsed by the San Francisco Democratic Party.”
Since Aaron brought it up, it’s worth noting that he has also endorsed two other candidates in District 10, DeWitt Lacy and Malia Cohen. These were the SF Democratic Party’s top two choices.
The truth is that there is no “machine” candidate in District 10. Nor are any of the D10 candidates members of the DCCC, or former leaders of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club.
The lack of a machine candidate in progressive District 10 may also speak to the DCCC machine’s disconnection from those working in the city’s most heavily African-American district, which is also among the most racially diverse.