Will Alex Randolph Replace Wiener?

by on November 17, 2016

Mayor Lee swears in Alex Randolph for College Board in 2015.

With D8 Supervisor Scott Wiener the all but official winner of the State Senate race, attention now turns to his replacement. The choice appears surprisingly obvious: recently elected Community College Board Trustee Alex Randolph.

Randolph offers several critical assets that the two Mayor Lee appointees who failed to win election, Christina Olague in D5 and Julie Christensen in D3, lacked.

Electoral Track Record

First and most importantly, Randolph has a track record of electoral success. He just won his own four year term on the College Board after Mayor Lee appointed him to the position in April 2015. Randolph’s victory shows he knows how to assemble an effective campaign operation and understands the responsibilities of a candidate.

Alex Randolph will never cast a vote or say something publicly that will embarrass the mayor. And given Lee’s past experience, this factor alone will weigh heavily on his decision.

Broad Support

Randolph won extremely broad endorsement support for his recent City College campaign. In fact, I can’t seem to find an important endorsement he did not get. While College Board campaigns involve less divisive issues than Supervisor races, Randolph’s appointment would arouse none of the passionate opposition that greeted Julie Christensen’s selection.

Scott Wiener was very popular in D8 but he is a very polarizing figure; many in the district despise him.  In contrast, if anyone has a negative word to say about Alex Randolph they are keeping a very low profile. Randolph is a throwback to Wiener’s predecessor Bevan Dufty, who also aroused little opposition (Ed Note: A reader alerted me to fact that after graduating from UC Berkeley Randolph worked for Dufty).o

Name Recognition

When you haven’t run for office before (and you aren’t Arnold Schwarzenegger or Donald Trump), name recognition is a problem. Political insiders may not realize that a sizeable number of residents cannot name their supervisor or have not heard of the person representing them. One reason for Dean Preston’s strong performance in D5 is that his field team found early on that many voters had never heard of London Breed even though she was elected in 2012 and has a high media profile.

When I was at a meeting with Mayor Lee encouraging him to appoint Cindy Wu to the D3 seat, I said there was not even another candidate. Someone then said that Julie Christensen was pushing for the appointment and I responded, “Who is Julie Christensen”? If I had not heard of her it did not bode well for her prospects against the extremely well-known Aaron Peskin.

A Community College seat does not mean widespread name identification, but it certainly helps. Randolph would start his tenure better known than any other person Mayor Lee would appoint. He would be a huge favorite to win election in November 2018.

A Two-Fer

Mayor Lee does not seek opportunities to make multiple appointments, but in this case he gets to pick the best candidate—Randolph—which then enables him to pick a successor on the College Board. I have no idea if Lee has anyone in mind for the College Board post but I have to believe that the ability to make multiple appointments enhances Randolph’s attractiveness.

No Clear Alternative

Finally, who would the mayor appoint instead of Randolph? One name floated is Conor Johnson, top aide to London Breed. I like Conor but why would the mayor appoint a top aide to another supervisor? Randolph is a more advantageous appointment in all the areas cited above, and in our city of identify politics he brings a third African-American supervisor to the Board—and to my knowledge the first in that position who is openly gay.

Voters rejected Prop D in November. If passed it would have forced Lee to make a temporary appointment with a permanent supervisor being selected in a special election next May or June.

The Randolph choice confirms the voters wisdom in rejecting Prop D. It brings the city a solid supervisor and avoids a costly, low-turnout special election.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron. Looking for successful strategies to challenge President Trump? Check out Shaw’s classic book, The Activist’s Handbook.

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Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw is the author of four books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. His new book is The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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