By Warren Hinckle
San Francisco Democratic Party boss Aaron Peskin is the master of the strategic stall. Last week he managed to put off, for the second month in a row, votes on two significant reform measures before the county central committee — including an effort by Senator Dianne Feinstein to send him to the party woodshed for a good spanking.
Feinstein’s proposal would bar Peskin from spending Democratic Party money against fellow Democrats, as he did last fall in supervisorial races involving Scott Weiner and Mark Farrell who were running against Peskin’s machine-picked candidates in Districts 5 (Rafael Mandelman) and 2 (Janet Reilly). Despite, or in spite of, Peskin’s brazen use of Democrat money against Democrats, both lost.
The other Peskin-stalled motion would amend the San Francisco county committee’s bylaws to change the requirement for endorsing candidates from the current 50% plus one and return to the California Democratic Party statewide standard of a 60% vote to endorse.
The fifty-fity+one deal was engineered into the bylaws by Chris Daly as recently as 2006, when then-Supervisor (now-termed-out-bar-owner )Daly played the role of D’Artagan to Peskin’s Cardinal Richelieu in the take-over of the Democratic Party machinery. The lower endorsement threshold made it easier for Peskin to gain power by electing Supervisors the left-leaning likes of John Avalos, David Campos and Eric Mar — the electoral weapon was control over the endorsements on the all-powerful Official Democratic Party Slate Card received by all San Francisco registered Democrats before each election. (The slate card is almost invincible — in the last two decades, only three candidates in this exhaustively Democratic city have made it to the Board of Supervisors without the DCCC slate card endorsement.)
David Broder, the son of recently-deceased dean of the Washington press core David Broder, introduced in January the bar on Peskin freely spending party money against other Democrats who are not graced with his blessing. The by law change was proposed last month by this correspondent, doing his civic duty representing Newsom while the Lt. Governor’s regular DCCC proxy former Deputy City Attorney John Shanley was in Ireland taking the Irish bar exam.
The bylaw change motion and my comments — something to the effect that Peskin had used the narrow- track endorsement process for divisive purposes, and its use in the ranked-choice voting for Mayor this fall would turn the DCCC into the bloodiest political battleground since Shiloh (before the voters get to have their say) — were dutifully recorded in the minutes. They were subsequently elided from the minutes, along with removing the original motion, by Peskin. This ecclesiastical cleansing of the party minutes before they are distributed to the faithful is apparently routine for Cardinal Peskin.
Peskin seemed to be in a hurry to adjourn last week’s meeting. Newsom proxy Shanley rose in a wait-a-minute moment and asked why the by-law change Newsom’s appointed representative proposed last month wasn’t on the night’s agenda. Peskin said he didn’t think it had been a “serious” motion — as if asking his San Francisco Democratic central committee to conform to the statewide rules of the California Democratic Party which had given the DCCC its charter was a notion beyond all credulity.
Shanley said that Newsom wished a timely vote on the possibility of a return to Demcoratic Party rules and procedures, and distributed copies of the proposed bylaw change. Peskin said that if that was indeed the Lt. Governor’s wish, he would schedule a vote for the end-April meeting. Shanley assured him that it was thus so.
Feinstein representative Broder said he welcomed waiting until the April 27 meeting to vote because that would give him and the other proxies of elected Democratic Party officials time to consult with their bosses, since they had not received prior notification of the bylaws change due to the DCCC’s busybody prelate’s editing wizardry . The proxies of elected officials usually keep their counsel and vote to abstain during most DCCC meetings, but the reps of Feinstein, Jackie Spier, Harris, Mark Leno and group were outspoken in an unprecedented manner in January expressing outrage at Democrats throwing party money against other Democrats. If the proxies of the “electeds” as they are called in dccc-speak vote more or less en bloc for the reform measures on April 27, Peskin’s machine-ensembled majority vote on the panel could be up for reformist grabs.
Members seemed to have some questions about what in hell had been going on, but Peskin quickly adjourned the meeting in memory of Broder’s pundit father and flew out the door as fast a a red-crested bird in flight.