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San Francisco City Hall (Photo: Evan Symon for California Globe)

San Francisco Mayoral Race Carries On With Unease Following Cancellation of First Debate

‘Alternative debate’ between Breed, Peskin also cancelled

By Evan Symon, May 21, 2024 3:35 pm

A week ago, the first debate of the San Francisco Mayoral election was still on. Set to be hosted by Together SF Action, Mayor London Breed, former Mayor Mark Farrell, Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, Levi Strauss heir and non-profit CEO David Lurie, and Supervisor Ahsha Safai were all set to battle it out for the first time. While there had been many sniping comments made between the candidates for months, there had yet to be a moderated forum to fairly question all the candidates.

And it was needed. In February, the first major Mayoral found that Farrell was only 2 points ahead of Breed. But the latest late April-early May poll by FM3 found Breed back with a slight advantage. According to that poll, done in the style of the ranked choice voting system, Breed led the first round of voting with 21%, Lurie and Farrell tied for second with 16%, and Peskin in a distant 4th with 12%. The second round found Breed with 29%, Lurie and Farrell tied again with 23% and Peskin with 16%. The third round brough things closer, with Breed at 30%, Farrell at 26%, Lurie at 24%, and Peskin at 20%. In the 4th round, Breed still led with 39%, followed by Farrell with 31% and Lurie with 30%. And in the final round, Breed narrowly won out over Farrell 51% to 49%.

Mayor London Breed speaking at the the Women’s March rally, Jan. 18, 2020, San Francisco, CA. (Photo: Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock)

The latest poll highlighted the political rivalry between Breed and Farrell staying strong. Afterall, in 2018, Breed and Farrell essentially played tug-of-war with the Mayoral position following several appointments, interim replacements, and elections. Even with long time San Francisco political force Aaron Peskin and others with notable clout on the ballot, polls have been finding that, push come to shove, it will still be a battle between the two. The first Mayoral debate, set for May 20th, was going to settle where everyone truly was.

But, in late April, the San Francisco Chronicle unleashed a report about groups influencing the 2024 Mayoral election. Specifically, it found that Together SF founder Kanishka Cheng served as a staffer for Farrell during both his time as Supervisor and Mayor. Following that, she also then worked for Breed when she was Mayor, becoming her liaison to the Board of Supervisors. In addition, many Together SF workers were also on Farrell’s campaign team. For many, this was too many ties for the debate to be considered fair.

SF Supervisor Aaron Peskin (Photo: sfbos.org)

Peskin left the debate the next day, saying that the close ties were partly why he would sit that one out. He also had a lot of problems with the debate rules, but the close ties with Farrell and Breed was the top one. For weeks, the debate was still on minus Peskin. In fact, going into last week, the debate was still happening. But then Breed dropped out, saying that the numerous connections between Farrell and Together SF was too troubling despite having many connections herself.

“Over the past few weeks, the media has reported on numerous troubling connections between the Farrell campaign and the leadership of Together SF,” said Breed. “Since the debate was announced, Together SF’s debate planning process has also been marked by chaos. The distractions have reached a fever pitch and tainted the debate beyond repair.”

The cancellation of the debate

Last Thursday, Lurie also dropped out, leaving only Farrell and Safai the only ones left. Devoid of the majority of candidates, including 3 of the top 4 in polling, Together SF cancelled the debate during the weekend. An alternative to the debate, in which Breed and Peskin would have a conversation on Monday, was also dropped.

“This event has been canceled due to political theatrics from Supervisor Aaron Peskin, Mayor London Breed, and Daniel Lurie,” messaged Together SF. “We’re sorry their discomfort with facing difficult questions caused us all to lose out on a great opportunity to discuss the future of our city.”

Former San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell (Photo: sf.gov)

While debates will happen later in the year, the personal response bellwether and candidate comparison on issues is unclear at best, as none of the candidates have answered the same uniform questions for comparison and contrast. For popularity, there are the polls, but they have said only so much. Going into this week, the five major candidates are facing the fallout of the debate. Together SF’s response above has led to some hounding of Breed, Peskin, and Lurie, with Farrell facing more questions on his ties with the group and Together SF also facing questions of the fairness of the debate.

“The whole debate situation left a mess,” explained political advisor Sharon Lee to the Globe on Tuesday. “Nobody really came out of this on top. But this really only spotlights more on how difficult the situation is. San Francisco has a ton of problems. Five years ago, Mayor Breed won with over 70% of the vote. Now look. The city is in huge trouble. San Francisco is the punchline for crime. When people think drugs in California, it’s San Francisco. The homeless problem continues. [Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA] was robbed here.

“And now she is barely ahead in the polls. This first debate was needed to get everyone on the level, but all they argued was over the debate format and the questioning, and those running the debate. They argued on everything but the issues. Now more than ever, there is a lot of uncertainty over this. A lot of San Franciscans want another option as Mayor, but it looks like that isn’t going to happen. This debate was needed to help people pick, if anything, the least worst candidate. But look what happened.”

More information on the first San Francisco Mayoral debate is to come out soon.

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5 thoughts on “San Francisco Mayoral Race Carries On With Unease Following Cancellation of First Debate

  1. Decades of dysfunctional Democrat control has resulted in San Francisco becoming completely dysfunctional?

  2. Meanwhile across the Bay in the dysfunctional city of Oakland where dysfunctional Democrats have controlled the city for decades, Oakland has removed the traffic lights from one intersection and replaced them with 4-way stop signs due to people stealing copper and then tampering with an electrical box. It’s a sight that has made drivers do a double take: a stop sign hanging overhead where a traffic light would normally be, located above the intersection of E. 12th Street and 16th Avenue in Oakland. Neighbors said city workers removed the all the traffic lights in the last week and replaced them with four-way stop signs. The installation came after months of people stealing copper wires and tampering with the city electrical boxes that supply power to the traffic lights.


    1. Absolutely ridiculous. Oakland continues to demonstrate that they have totally given up.
      Good luck, Oakland residents!

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