header image 2

Petard Time at The DCCC Corral; Peskin Hoist, Attempt at Elegant Defenestration Foiled by Chiu; Alice Demands Inquisition

By Warren Hinckle

Aaron Peskin awaits an uncertain – but  certainly uncomfortable – fate at the delayed-since-Thanksgiving meeting of the San Francisco Democratic County Central C0mmittee tonight.  He faces both unrest and displeasure of the traditional kind – the retributive  justice often dealt to the party leader who loses the ranch – and the less traditional: a formal demand from the moderate Alice B. Toklas club for an investigation into how Peskin as chair spent Democratic Party money in an attempt to defeat Democrats who ran against his losing candidates in last November’s Supervisorial elections.

Peskin with his chief enforcer and ideological pit bull Chris Daly began to take control of the county Democratic Party machinery in 2006 and steered it onto a reef of their own making – forcing termed-out former Board of Supervisors President Peskin in as party chair in 2008 over the moderate former chair Scott Weiner and tilting the historically politically centrist Central Committee towards Daly’s brand of windmill-tilting “progressive’ politics – anti-growth, anti-business, pro-tenant and anti-property owner.

The use of the word force in the election of Peskin is an understatement – Daly screamed, cajoled and threatened D-triple C members with excommunication from the Democratic body politic and electoral extinction unless they supported Peskin over Weiner.  (Daly in an e-mail to longtime moderate DCCC member Arlo Hale Smith Jr. threatened that if Smith voted for Weiner he “would never receive the endorsement of the Guardian, Tenants Union, Sierra Club and Milk Club” in the future.)

Former Supervisors’ president Peskin sought, for a time successfully, to turn the DCCC leadership post into a vehicle to pack the committee with his and Daly’s ideological supporters and thereby control the official party endorsements for district Supervisors – a double whammy thereby which meant he would continue to control the Board in absentia. The DCCC endorsement was tantamount to election in most cases, with only two candidates until  the 2010 Peskin machine collapse elected to the Board over since 2000 without the coveted party endorsement. Those two are Ross Mirkarimi and Ed Jew!

(I still have the official Supervisor Ed Jew 2007 four-color calendar, slightly bent in the right corner but otherwise in mint condition which would bring at least the price of a fusion cocktail on E-Bay.)

The term “progressives” for the Peskin-ite Supervisors is a misnomer, perpetuated by the media curiously describing anti-growth, anti-business Supervisors as “progressives.”  Hale Smith Jr, an historian of the DCCC, patiently pointed out in an essay in the November Argonaut while the Peskin machine operated in the power-first tradition of Abe Ruef, the Republican/Union Labor Party boss who owned Frisco politics in fee simple at the time of the 1906 earthquake.

(Francis Coppola now operates out of Reuf’s lovely triangle building at the corner Kearney and Pacific, but Reuf was not Italian so Mafia wisecracks are off target.)

The Ruef machine collapsed in part because his spanking new City Hall which collapsed  in the Earthquake revealed itself held up by sand instead of cement, but more directly from the reform campaigns by the first San Francisco “Progressives” including newspaperman Fremont Older and California Progressive  Governor and future U.S. Senator Hiram Johnson.  These Progressives fought the railroad and other trusts controlling the state and battled self-perputating local machine politics of the Reuf/Peskin pattern, and by any standard of comparison.

The wheels began to come off the Peskin-Daly wagon in 2010 when the Argonaut published a front page article – “Hijacking The Democratic Party – The Stealth Plan to Create a New Political Machine in San Francisco” – which traced the Daly-Peskin plotting to control both the party apparatus and the future Boards of Supervisors beginning with a little-noticed  2006 change in the DCCC bylaws making the party endorsements for Supervisor and other citywide offices and ballot measures 50 percent plus one vote – a far breezier standard for endorsement that the former 60 percent requirement ( the endorsement standard of the state Democratic Party.)  The DCCC was itself becoming an electoral stepping stone to higher office, with no fund raising limits for a campaign for election to the DCCC, vs. a strict $500 individual donor limit on campaigns for the Board of Supervisors; elected Supervisors such as stone ideologues Campos and Avalos and the dunce-cap left candidate Mar saw the advantage of also running for a DCCC post  with limitless fundraising which would loosen up money for like-minded candidates in step with the Daly-Peskin ‘progressives’.

(Daly  bragged that the Peskin machine successfully used the DCCC fund-raising loophole to “move tens of thousands of dollars to promote our entire slate.”

The Argonaut’s ‘new machine in town’ jargon flagged the public imagination and columnists for both daily newspapers and  political blogs began raising similar questions. In the 2010 June elections for DCCC, Peskin managed to maintain a majority but moderates mostly held their own and Peskin did not enjoy the climatic sweep  he anticipated.

(Peskin had by then purposefully purged moderates from  any official DCCC positions with the exception of Mary Jung, whom in his majesty he allowed to remain as Secretary and keep the minutes.)

Peskin miscalculated in the June 2010 races – while in the past he has managed to maintain relative control over who would run for the DCCC , in 2010 so many wannabe ‘progressives’ ran for the Central Committee that they succeeded more in knocking one another off – an example is former progressive Supervisor Jake McGoldrick losing his DCCC seat – rather than targeting and replacing moderate DCCC members.

That summer tactical mistake  was compounded in the fall by an increasingly confident and arrogant Boss Peskin  running roughshod over the DCCC endorsement process – his most monumental mistake was to to block Jane Kim from getting even a 2nd Choice mention in the race to replace termed-out Chris Daly  in District 6.  Many DCCC members, even among Peskin loyalists, felt Kim deserved a mention but Peskin insisted the party’s solo endorsement go to his favorite of favorites, leftie activist Deborah Walker.

Peskin’s intransigence on Walker’s behalf fed the concerns of many DCCC members over the increasingly lily-white composition of the city’s policy-making Democratic committee – by 2010 there were no black members among the 24 elected members, newly-elected Supervisor David Campos was the only Hispanic members, and Peskin had targeted longtime moderate DCCC member Tom Hsieh for defeat in June — the SEIU public employees union politically indebted to Peskin apent money to defeat Hsieh and other DCCC moderates such as Weiner, Smith, Jung and Katz, who were all nonetheless re-elected to the Committee.) The joined-at-the-hip alliance of the city employes’ SEIU local and the erratic behavior of some of its leaders alligned with the no-growth Peskin machine concerned the national SEIU leadership and in the late summer of 2010 the local SEIU effectively split politically in half – with public employees SEIU Local 1021 backing Peskin machine candidates and SEIU Local 250, representing hospital employees and other workers, putting big dollars into the election and joining with the city’s trade unions and the police and firefighters unions tooppose Peskin’s DCCC-endorsed candidates. The Argonaut published a citywide edition pleading the case to vote for anyone but a Peskin machine candidate, with Arlo Hale Smith Jr.s history of the centrist DCCC, concluding that the Daly-Peskin manipulatons had turned the local Democratic Party into some form of a political Frankenstein. Smith likened Peskin’s DCCC to “the old Politboro of the Soviet Union,” an analogy that rather annoyed Peskin.

I ran into him after the election at his favorite local – no, it is not Daly’s new bar on Market Street – Gino and Carlo in North Beach “You called me a Politboro,” Peskin said, repeating the word and going around the bar asking drinkers minding their own business if they knew what a Politboro was. Not many did. “See, you’re out of touch,”  said Peskin. Peskin’s “progressives” were obliterated in the November balloting – his candidates for Supervisor all lost, as did his DCCC-endorsed ballot recommendations – from Election Day voter registration to Non-Citizens voting in School Board Elections to a strong No recommendation on Sit-Lie Proposition L, which won.

The Frankenstein result is that the Peskin crowd has devalued the coin of the once-golden party recommendation for public office. When Peskin jammed through the party recommendation for his boy Friday Rafael Mandleman to succeed Bevan Dufty in District Eight, Scott Weiner said he wouldn’t even consider a second-choice endorsement.

Weiner said he’d win D. 8 without the DCCC’s blessing. And he did. So did Mark Farrell in District Two. and  Jane Kim in District Six.  The only reason Melia Cohen, the winner in the long-count ranked choice vote in District Ten, got any sort of a DCCC recommend was that Peskin’s progs were worrying that if they didn’t endorse some black candidates, they might end up as the County Central Committee that presided over an election were no black person was on the Board of Supervisors.

Cohen token recommendation was not a Peskin priority, and she knows it. She owes him nothing politically. Neither does Farrell, Kim and of course Weiner. Add incumbent board members Sean Elsbrend and Carmen Chu to the mix, and that makes a majority of six Board members not in Peskin’s orbit.  Add  further Supervisor David Chiu cold-shouldering his former patron Peskin, siding with Board moderates to elect Ed Lee mayor and himself re-elected president of the Board of Supervisors – Supervisor Daly’s parting blast as he exited for the safe haven of his bar was to call Chiu a “Judas” to the Left. Chiu’s key committee assignments went to Board moderates. This arithmetic adds up to the end of the Peskin-Daly  ideology- before-practicality”progressive” Board.

Whether Peskin? the moi after the deluge. He still retains a lock, for now, on sufficient votes on the DCCC to most probably defeat any measure of censure or kick him off his Chair. Peskin has a keen smeller for bloodin the water, and he smaells his. Early in January Rafael Mandelman, the Peskin loyalist, began calling DCCC members saying his was running to replace Peskin as Chair and seeking support. This was universally interpreted as being done at Peskin’s behest, seeking a way out on his own terms from recriminations stacked up like cordwood – putting his own man in charege would leave Peskin continuing to call the shots from  offstage. Mandelman’s entreaties were shot down by Supervisor Chiu, he told callers, including Hale Smith, that it would have to be somebody other than Mandelman.

Smith said he could discern basically no moderate support for Mandelman, or Peskin’s other losing Supervisor candidate Deborah Walker, who has signalled she would like the job of Chair, but doesn’t have the  votes. “Chiu’s the kingmaker now,” Smith said. ”  “He can’t get out without Chiu’s approval.”It could turn into a kind  of  water torture for Peskin, who immediately faces the task of avoiding a request by the Alice B. Toklas LBGT Club for an investigation into how party funds were spend by Peskin to defeat Democrats  Farrell and Weiner last fall. This is a big no-no for a body that exists fo elect Democrats to office.

Peskin, who has put off DCCC meetings since last November, didn’t return Secretary Mary Jung’s callsand e-mails for over a month while she tried to  put the Alice request on the agenda for tonight’s meeting.

She had listed the item as “Campaigning Against Democrats,” echoing the language of Alice’s complaint. He has recently told callers  that “it is on the calendar – see Item 8.” Item * is headed  “Report from Stearns.” That would be political consultant Jim Stearns, who has the contract for the DCCC Slate card and other political mailings. What Sterns’ report has to do with Aoice’s  highnly ccomplaint remains to be seen. Peskin is exoected to use his finely-honed parliamentary skills to send the nettlesome request to a committee.

Tags: Uncategorized

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

You must log in to post a comment.

© 2007–2011 — Sitemap