Democratic madness

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By Tim Redmond

The Democratic County Central Committee can sometimes be a zoo, but it's no joke: The endorsement of the panel gives tremendous credibility to local candidates and issues, since it represents the official position of the San Francisco Democratic Party. The Aug. 21st meeting was particularly crazy; Zak Szymanski has a good report in the BAR on the committee's almost non-endorsement of Community College Board member Lawrence Wong, who got blasted for appearing at a hotel that was under union boycott. That's a problem for any politician -- and although Wong apologized over and over again, the labor follks on the committee were having none of it.

In the end, Wong squeaked to an endorsement, which is wrong: There's a long list of reasons not to support Wong (starting with his support for the smelly deal that shifted bond money from a performing arts center to a new gym that will be used in part by a private school nearby).

And it was wrong -- and a kind of sorry statement about the local party -- that the DCCC refused to oppose Prop. 83, a tough-on-crime initiative that's aimed at sexual predators -- but has all kinds of problems, the way these things often do. San Francisco Sheriff Mike Hennesey is against it, saying it will cost a fortune for new jails; so is Assembly Member Mark Leno, who says it will drive ex-cons into rural areas, away from services -- making them more likely to get into further trouble.

The problem is that the state Democratic Party has endorsed it, fearing that the measure will be a wedge issue in swing districts, where moderate Democrats are facing Republicans -- and where Phil Angellides needs to be able to beat Arnold. Some local DCCC members were wary of bucking the state party.

That's embarassing: San Francisco isn't Stockton, and our local Democrats should be able to stand up to these dumb crime bills. The DCCC ducked, but thanks to Robert Haaland, the committee will vote again in September.

And check this out: The DCCC refused to back longtime incumbent School Board member Dan Kelly. Labor opposed him, and he lost. The unions are pissed about contract problems with the teachers and staff; I'm pissed at Kelly for his unwavering support of former Supt. Arlene Ackerman. Either way, it's pretty dramatic for the DCCC to snub an incumbent Democrat like that.