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Battle Looms Tonight Over Democratic Panel

By Our Political Correspondent

Mayor Gavin Newsom has appointed former deputy City Attorney John Shanley as his ex-offico representative on the San Francisco Democratic Party Central Committee.

According to people familiar with the situation, former Board of Supervisors president Aaron Peskin has engaged legal counsel and will challenge the mayor’s appointment to the party panel at what is now expected to be a tumultuous meeting of the Committee Wednesday night at Milton Marks Auditorium in the State Building at 455 Golden Gate Avenue in Civic Center.

In calls to members of the Democratic Party panel this week, Peskin has argued that Newsom – who was overwhelmingly nominated by Democratic Party voters as the party’s candidate for Lt. Governor – cannot name a representative to vote for him on the party’s San Francisco county committee because a Republican presently holds the Lt. Governor office.

Conversely, Peskin maintains that District Attorney Kamala Harrris, the Party’s nominee for state Attorney General, can name a representative because the current holder of that post is a Democrat.

The state Elections Code states that a party nominee becomes an ex-officio member of the county central committee upon certification of nomination. California Secretary of State Deborah Bowen this month certified both Newsom and Harris  as their party’s nominees for the respective posts.

Longtime Democratic Central Committee member Arlo Hale Smith Jr., the son of former San Francisco District Attorney Arlo Smith, said that Peskin had contacted him this week and asked him to serve as Parliamentarian and give an opinion on Newsom’s nomination.

Smith said he told Peskin that the as a matter of State Law the Elections Code is controlling and specifically states that a statewide candidate automatically becomes an ex-officio member of the local party panel and can name a representative. He noted that Peskin as chair can overrule the Parliamentarian’s opinion, if upheld by a majority of members.

Smith departed from the legalize involved to note that the whole discussion was surreal in that Peskin, the party’s chair for the last two years, has to be re-elected at tonight’s meeting and the party by-laws upon which Peskin is relying to challenge Newsom’s appointment of Shanley, are arguably vague as to the point but that until the committee enacts new by-laws at tonight’s meeting “there are no-bylaws operative.” Smith said that regardless, the state Election Code that establishes the local party committees sets the standards for ex-officio appointments by candidates in every county, and clearly states that a nominee for statewide office is ex-officio member of the county committee.

“This appears to be a frontal challenge to Newsom by Peskin,”  Smith said. “Based on Peskin’s conversations with me, I imagine he will reject my opinion and try to his supporters on the committee to back him to keep Gavin from having a vote on the committee.”

Newsom’s appointee, former deputy City Attorney Shanley, said that Peskin was being politically “divisive” within a Democratic Party facing a challenging fall statewide election.

“Peskin makes a unilateral decision and calls that democracy with a capital D – that is typical of his reign at party chair,” said Shanley. “I’d like to know who paid for his putative legal opinion and if it came from Party funds and who authorized the expenditure – is this Democratic Party money funding silly and harmful fights among Democrats?

”What this all seems to be about is Peskin wanting to get six votes from the Board of Supervisors to be named interim if Mayor Newsom is elected Lt. Governor – he wants to be the Mini-Mayor,” Shanley said.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Ken Cleaveland // Jul 28, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Clearly, the state election laws should prevail in this situation, and Peskin’s local interpretation should be thrown out for the petty political shenanigans it is, and the Democrats of San Francisco need to move forward into the November election united. Under Peskin’s divisive (though entertaining) leadership style, the San Francisco Democratic Party has drifted very far off into the choppy waters of far-left activism, which does not reflect the values of most San Francisco Democrats.

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