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Third Time's A Charm

David Chiu just won an unprecidented third term as President of the Board of Supervisors—by a unanimous vote. How did he get his rivals to play so nice?   

 District 3 Supervisor David Chiu (left) won re-election as Board President, outflanking his three closest rivals Scott Wiener, Jane Kim, and Malia Cohen.

David Chiu needed just six votes at yesterday's meeting of the Board of Supervisors. He ended up with all 11—though not without difficulty. Chiu managed to out-maneuver a strong field of challengers that included Supervisors Malia Cohen and Jane Kim from the progressive "bloc" (and we use that term lightly) and Scott Wiener from the moderate side. Chiu now begins an unprecidented third term as President of the Board.

So how did the center-left Supe representing the city's northeastern corner manage to secure a unanimous vote after months of behind-the-scenes campaigning by rivals (see: Let the Game Begin)? Mainly, Chiu made his case to colleagues on his policy record of the last four years, as well as on the process by which he has led the board. "We're not yelling at each other," he told San Francisco by phone the morning after his reelection. "No one outside of San Francisco sees big differences among us. Remembering that helps move us forward." He points to the recent passage of ballot measures reforming the business tax code, floating a new parks bond, and establishing an affordable housing trust fund as the fruits of that approach. In his post-election speech, he joked that "While we were all quite entertained by F-bombs and Donkey Kongs, I'm glad that's behind us."

Supervisor Wiener agreed, noting that "[Chiu's] very even-keeled. I've never seen him pull any shenanigans."

Chiu's competition made conciliatory gestures in the hours after the election. "This is big for David," Kim said. "People on the Board have felt like he has done a good job. Though it would have been nice to have new leadership, I have no sense like this didn't turn out the way I wanted." Cohen echoed the sentiments, saying, "Though we do have philosophical differences within the Board, we've been fighting fewer ideological battles. We're all shades of the same Democratic blue."

Chinatown power broker Rose Pak (the subject of our December cover story, "Rose Pak Is Winning") was spotted outside the chamber, lobbying against Chiu, who drew her ire after his decisions to run for mayor last year and to oppose the 8 Washington condo project. Though Chiu did not comment directly on Pak, he did say that "I have always been independent and not every person in San Francisco may agree with that. Some might wish that they had more control."

With Chiu's retention, University of San Francisco Professor Corey Cook believes that the City's legislators will continue "this project of changing the tone at City Hall." Under previous Board president Aaron Peskin, he notes, "you had a slate of candidates elected to oppose the mayor, and the president was the leader of the opposition." The dynamic is different now, Cook says. "Chiu is more like Nancy Pelosi with President Obama, rather than Newt Gingrich with Bill Clinton."

Since the return of district elections, no Supervisor has served as Board President for more than two terms, although there is no prohibition from doing so. Many observers expect Chiu to begin weighing a run for the State Assembly in 2014, leaving the likely candidates to replace him in the next cycle to be drawn from the other contenders this time around.

Cook warns against presuming that this era of good feelings can last permanently. "As the range of political ideas changes, you should expect the process to change as well."

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