Last night at the San Francisco mayoral debate hosted by the Alliance for Sustainable Job Growth, each of the 11 participating candidates tried — somewhat futilely — to distinguish themselves. Ninety-second replies don’t lend themselves well to details, and political platitudes ruled the day. There were, however, a few moments that stood out, almost all in round where candidates directed questions to each other.

A handful of the many, many candidates running for Mayor, from Wednesday's debate (Photo: Katrina Schwartz/KQED)

Interim-mayor Ed Lee took the brunt of these salvos, with three tossed his way. Board of Supervisors President David Chiu took aim at the mayor’s decision to run after proclaiming repeatedly that he would not, implying that pressure from political powerhouses Rose Pak and Willie Brown was the primary impetus for his change of heart. That got a rise out of the audience, which laughed, booed, and clapped. The mayor, however, had an answer at the ready, pointing to a new civility at City Hall and his ability in getting things done. That answer gained Lee long and spirited applause.

Listen to the exchange here:

Ed Lee parries David Chiu’s question on changing his mind about running

Public Defender Jeff Adachi also went after the Mayor, praising Lee for refusing to accept public financing, then challenging him to agree to a spending cap. Lee quipped he didn’t have a billionaire financing his campaign (a dig at, who, Joanna Rees?) and then commenced to babble a bit. Moderator Phil Matier bluntly forced him to concede to a “no” answer.

While the debate may have been themed around sustainable job growth, that topic was only touched on, as the candidates addressed pension reform, parking permits, and public safety, among other issues.

Ranked-choice voting strategy seemed to loom large over the entire event. Candidates aligned with each other on various issues and weren’t shy about asking for second and third-place votes. Several audience members expressed distaste for the practice. “I was really kind of turned off by the obvious alliance building and softball questions that they would pitch to each other and give them an opportunity to tout their programs,” said Joel Luebkeman after the debate. “I just didn’t find that productive. “

Audio: David Chiu Asks Ed Lee About “Having Trouble Saying No to Willie Brown and Rose Pak” 25 April,2014Katrina Schwartz

  • John Smith

    Lee dig was at Adachi who’s recent campagins have been primarily funded by billionaire Michael Mortiz.


Katrina Schwartz

Katrina Schwartz is a journalist based in San Francisco. She’s worked at KPCC public radio in LA and has reported on air and online for KQED since 2010. She’s a staff writer for KQED’s education blog MindShift.

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