Californians just endured what might be the single most boring gubernatorial election in memory, with incumbent Jerry Brown winning in a walk. The big news — the GOP expanding its power in the U.S. Congress — largely didn’t involve super-Democratic California. The action this time just wasn’t here. That is about to change, and here are the political developments we will be keeping an eye on in 2015.
HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE MIRKARIMI?
The headliner will be San Francisco’s sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi, who will oblige by making many headlines as he seeks reelection. His incredibly public domestic violence problem that ushered in his term in office served to divide San Francisco liberals just as they were starting to play nice again after the Newsom-Peskin-Daly years.
Domestic violence advocates, left-wing Democrats, the mayor, moderates who never liked Mirkarimi anyway because of his politics, and others made for a very contentious period in recent city history as Mayor Ed Lee sought to have him removed from office but was thwarted by the Board of Supervisors.
Expect all of those old wounds to be reopened this year.
NO ONE CAN THREATEN THE MAYOR
There are already a number of small candidates who have announced campaigns, but nobody has yet entered the race who could present a threat to Mayor Lee.
A year ago, a poll released by the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club showed the left’s hero Tom Ammiano to be the most popular of the possible opponents to Mayor Lee. But even that hypothetical matchup had him trailing Lee by nine points.
In November, some news sites were suggesting that a run by State Senator Mark Leno for the mayor’s office was a certainty, but by early December, Leno let it be known that he would be doing no such thing. (Look for speculation surrounding Leno to focus on what he will instead try to do after he leaves the state senate; will he stick around and try to succeed Nancy Pelosi — who seems in no hurry to start collecting her pension?)
Last month, District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell told the Marina Times that he supported Lee’s record and would not be entering the race against him.
Taken together, all of this nonaction suggests that the smart money is on Lee’s reelection. Such a development might be unpalatable for the city’s left, which has chafed under mayors Brown, Newsom, and Lee and now believes it has urgent issues that only a more progressive mayor could fix to their liking. These opponents of Lee have no shortage of complaints, blaming him for high housing costs, changing demographics in the neighborhoods, seeking a second full term, and other things. But if the concern over such issues were really as broad as their proponents think, certainly there would be a major candidate willing to carry their flag in this election.
Instead, Lee has become the Clinton-like inevitable candidate, with a projected $3 million war chest and broad backing enough to clear the field of major challengers. Facing a range of smaller challengers will do nothing to harm his chances of reelection. Unless there’s some huge surprise entry into the race (and it would have to be on the Bruce Bochy level), Mayor Lee’s reelection will be about as surprising as Governor Brown’s.
WHERE IS MARK FARRELL HEADED?
Easily reelected to his District 2 seat on the Board of Supervisors, Mark Farrell has established himself as a leader of the so-called moderates. But what will he do next? He has expressed interest in succeeding David Chiu as the next permanent president of the Board, but he was not elected as the interim president, which serves as an initial tea leaves-reading of his colleagues’ desires. Whoever does get the presidency will select the committee chairman, and Farrell would like to return as chair of the Board’s budget committee.
We’ll also be keeping tabs on how Farrell deals with a campaign finance violation ruling. He was found not to have been involved in breaking the rules, so it shouldn’t cause him serious harm. But how he handles it will serve as a good look into his ability to handle future crises — of which he will encounter the usual amount, if he chooses to remain in politics after he’s termed out of the board.
The Occupy movement was a major story a few years ago, but that has largely fizzled. Now a new protest movement sprung up following heavily disputed grand jury rulings in two cases of white police officers killing African Americans elsewhere in the country. Some of those protests have turned violent locally, and some of them made a concerted effort to disrupt holiday commerce.
This movement might not last longer than Occupy did, but there are two things to remember. First, this movement includes veterans of Occupy, both for the better and worse. Second, even if it doesn’t last longer than Occupy, that still leaves it plenty of time from now to try to change minds and public policy. We’ll be hearing more from these folks.