At a press conference in San Francisco’s Mission District on Wednesday, Mayor London Breed announced the selection of Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) as the next City Attorney.
Chiu will be replacing outgoing City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who is set to become the next Public Utilities Commission (SF PUC) General Manager in the city following the vacancy of the post by former SF PUC General Manager Harlan Kelly last year amid Kelly’s role in a FBI corruptions and bribery probe.
Chiu, who received both a Master’s and his law degree from Harvard University, first began his career as an aide to former Illinois Senator Paul Simon in the mid 1990’s. This was followed up by being a clerk for 9th Circuit Appeals Judge Tom Browning, a criminal prosecutor for the San Francisco District Attorney’s office and a civil rights lawyer. However, by the late 2000’s, Chiu switched to politics, and was elected as a City Supervisor in 2008.
After five years as President of the Board of Supervisors, and failing in a bid to become Mayor in 2011, Chiu was elected in as a state Assemblyman in 2014, narrowly beating out fellow Supervisor David Campos. For the last seven years, Chiu has been behind a hodgepodge of lefter leaning laws aimed at affordable housing expansion, homeless program funding by removing some housing deductions, public banks, and greater firearms restrictions in the state.
Chiu’s selection on Wednesday removes him from politics in Sacramento back to the field of law. However, in her selection speech Wednesday, Mayor Breed specifically outlined his political history.
“While now is a time for a new professional challenge for me, I’m thrilled to be able to leave this office in the hands of someone who is committed to the mission, the values and integrity that have made the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office so remarkable for so long,” City Attorney Herrera said, and also noted that the corruption investigation in the Public Utilities Commission would continue. “Our investigations continue, and irrespective of whether I’m in that office or not, they will continue because these types of investigations are made up of not necessarily the folks at the top. We have some of the most dedicated legal professionals anywhere, veterans of U.S. Attorney’s Offices and other agencies that are committed to this work. That work has not slowed down at all, it will not slow down, and it will continue.”
Chiu accepted the position, stating on Wednesday, “I am so humbled and grateful for this appointment. As city attorney, I’m going to fight to make sure we are protecting workers, standing up for consumers, and we are going to hold corporations accountable if they cross the line. The fight for justice is why I became a public interest attorney. The fight for justice is why I moved to San Francisco. In our city, we stand up for those who are more vulnerable than we are. We right wrongs.”
With Chiu becoming City Attorney, Chiu’s Assembly District 17 seat will now be open to a special election. As Governor Gavin Newsom needs to call for an election to be held within 140 days of Chiu leaving office, which is currently set for November 1st, a special election for the seat is likely to occur sometime in early 2022. San Francisco City Supervisor Matt Haney and Campos, who now serves as Chief of Staff to District Attorney Chesa Boudin, have already both either declared their candidacy or expressed heavy interest in the position.
More political shifts likely in San Francisco in the coming months
And the shifts announced Wednesday are likely not the last ones in the city for the next year, as three members of the city’s school board are facing a recall election in the near future, and DA Boudin is likely soon to join them with a signature campaign against him currently growing.
Political experts have noted that Wednesday will likely only be the beginning.
“Herrera was not a surprise, and neither was Chiu,” San Francisco-based policy advisor Sharon Burke told the Globe on Wednesday. “These are all longtime San Francisco Democrats all cut from the same cloth. Seriously, look at how often they have intermingled in the last few decades with other politicians like Breed or Newsom or [Vice President Kamala] Harris from there. It’s gotten to the point where. Former challengers are now challenging former colleagues of the same guy who left, with now open positions being filled with other close colleagues.”
“The Mohammed Nuru and Harlan Kelly investigations have caused a lot of arrests and resignations of high-up positions in the city. Even their friends can’t protect them from wire fraud and bribery charges. And this leads to more open positions that has other high politicians being pulled in. And if those recall efforts succeed, which they honestly might because they have nothing to do with parties, then we’re looking at more selections by Breed.”
“Breed is having a field year installing all these higher positions in the city, and she could be hand selecting more than a city attorney and other city officials. We’re talking most of an entire school board and DA too. Herrera and Chiu are probably only the beginning, and that’s if others aren’t also tapped for high positions by people like Biden or Newsom soon too.”
Both Herrera and Chiu are expected to enter their new positions on November 1st.