Man for the moment?

John Rizzo's calm demeanor and steady progressivism may be the antidote to the sordid D5 supervisorial race

|
()
John Rizzo speaks with D5 resident Maria Burluk as campaign worker Daniel Pope looks on.
Beth Laberge

steve@sfbg.com

This year's supervisorial race in District 5 — representing the Haight, Panhandle, and Western Addition, some of the most reliably progressive precincts in the city — has been frustrating for local leftists. But as the long and turbulent campaign enters its final week, some are speculating that John Rizzo, whose politics are solid and campaign lackluster, could be well-positioned to capitalize on this strange political moment.

Appointed incumbent Sup. Christina Olague has been a disappointment to some of her longtime progressive allies, although she's now enjoying a resurgence of support on the left in the wake of her vote to reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. Now two allies of the mayor -- tech titan Ron Conway and landlord Thomas Coates -- are funding a $120,000 last-minute attack on Olague.

The campaign of one-time left favorite Julian Davis lost most of its progressive supporters following his recent mishandling of accusations of bad behavior toward women (see "Julian Davis should drop out," 10/16).

The biggest fear among progressive leaders is that London Breed, a well-funded moderate candidate being strongly supported by real estate and other powerful interests, will win the race and tip the Board of Supervisors to the right. The final leg of the campaign could be nasty battle between Breed and Olague and their supporters, who tend to see it as a two-person race at this point.

But in a divisive political climate fed by the Mirkarimi and Davis scandals and the unprecedented flood of hundreds of thousands of dollars in real estate and tech money, it's hard to say what D5 voters will do, particularly given the unpredictably of how they will use ranked-choice voting to sort through this mess.

Running just behind these three tarnished and targeted candidates in terms of money and endorsements are Rizzo and small business person Thea Selby, who described their candidacies as "the grown-ups in the room, so there's an opportunity there and I'm hopeful."

Selby hasn't held elective office and doesn't have same name-recognition and progressive history as Rizzo, although she has one of the Guardian's endorsements. It probably didn't help win progressive confidence when the downtown-backed Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth recently did an independent expenditure on behalf of both Selby and Breed.

And then there's Rizzo, who has been like the tortoise in this race, quietly spending his days on the streets meeting voters. Between fundraising and public financing, Rizzo collected about $65,000 as of Oct. 20 (compared to Breed's nearly $250,000), but he's been smart and frugal with it and has almost $20,000 in the bank for the final stretch, more than either Olague or Davis.

But perhaps more important than money or retail politics, if indeed D5 voters continue their strongly progressive voting trends, are two key facts: Rizzo is the most clear and consistent longtime progressive activist in the race -- and he's a nice, dependable guy who lacks the oversized ego of many of this city's leaders.

"I see consistency there and a lack of drama," Assembly member Tom Ammiano, an early Rizzo endorser, told us. "He's looking not like a flip-flopper, not like he owes anyone, and he doesn't have a storied past."

 

PROGRESSIVE HISTORY

Rizzo, who was born in New York City 54 years ago, is downright boring by San Francisco standards, particularly given his long history in a local progressive movement known for producing fiery warriors like Chris Daly, shrewd strategists like Aaron Peskin, colorful commenters like Ammiano, bohemian thinkers like Matt Gonzalez, and flawed idealists like Ross Mirkarimi.