Will they or won’t they?
San Francisco’s Ethics Commission has found that Ross Mirkarimi committed official misconduct when he bruised his wife’s arm during a heated argument seven-and-a-half months ago. That incident resulted in the San Francisco sheriff pleading guilty to one count of misdemeanor false imprisonment, which in turn led to his suspension by Mayor Ed Lee.
The mayor wants Mirkarimi permanently removed from his job, which he was elected to just last November. But only a vote of nine of the 11 members of the Board of Supervisors — some of whom are Mirkarimi’s former colleagues and political allies — will make that a reality.
So…does Mirkarimi have the three votes necessary to keep him on the government payroll?
“I think he might,” says political analyst and University of San Francisco political science professor Corey Cook. “There are those progressives on the board who don’t want to give up the one progressive elected citywide.”
“If you’re vote counting, you start with David Campos and John Avalos. Neither is facing a tough re-election, and both were strong supporters of Sheriff Mirkarimi as he was running for office.”
David Latterman, Cook’s fellow political analyst at USF, agrees that if Mirkarimi has any votes, they’ll come from those two.
“The conventional wisdom is that Campos and Avalos are going to get a lot of pressure to support Mirkarimi,” Latterman says. “They’re the two most left-wing supervisors, they’re still fully part of the progressive movement.”
Okay that’s two. Maybe. But he needs three.
“Then you’re talking about the swing vote being Christine Olague or potentially Eric Mar, who is the other strong progressive on the board but who is facing a difficult re-election challenge in District 1,” says Corey Cook. “If you have a third vote, it would probably be cast by one of the two.”
Olague, on the surface, would seem to be between the craggiest rock and the hardest place on this. She was appointed by the mayor to fill Mirkarimi’s District 5 seat after he was elected sheriff, in what some analysts hailed as a politically shrewd move. Even though she supported Lee against progressive standard bearer John Avalos in the mayoral election, she has strong credentials in the community. But now she’s up for election, being challenged from the left in probably the city’s most left-leaning district.
“A lot of the community who didn’t know [Olague] before she was appointed is actually among Mirkarimi’s core group of supporters,” says Corey Cook. “If she votes to remove him from office, she would really be hurting herself politically. If she votes not to she would be hurting herself politically too.”
“If you’re voting not to remove, you’re taking a position opposite the domestic violence coalition, and I don’t know folks in San Francisco who want to be in opposition to them. On the other hand, a lot of people are standing behind the sheriff, who’ve said this is a politically motivated effort to remove him from office.”
David Latterman, Cook’s fellow political analyst at the University of San Francisco, doesn’t think Olague is likely to buck Ed Lee on this issue.
“People talk about Christina Olague, but I think that’s unlikely,” Latterman says. “While on most things she disagrees with the mayor, I think this is one thing when she would not want to go against the mayor who appointed her.”
I asked him if the progressive votes she needs in her district isn’t a complicating factor…
“It is, but does the left really want to stake a wedge issue on domestic violence? Remember, while the polling among progressives isn’t going to be 70-30 or 80-20 in support of the mayor on this, it’s not 50-50 either,” Latterman says, referring to a March poll that found 72 percent saying Mirkarimi should resign. “So I suspect that a lot of progressives understand this is not a good thing and aren’t really going to hold it against Olague.
“And again, for her to buck the mayor on this, frankly, for Ed Lee to lose this to the board, would be a real embarrassment for him.”
Then if not Olague, does Mirkarimi have a third vote?
“Jane Kim is a dark horse,” says Latterman. “She really goes out of her way to show street cred to the left. Ever since her Twitter vote, she gets a lot of criticism from the left. And she goes out of her way to try to throw them bones. She calls herself a strong progressive. So I think if there’s a third it could be her.”
Corey Cook thinks Kim supporting Mirkarimi is a definite maybe.
“I think she’s proven herself to be a very pragmatic progressive voice on the board, so it wouldn’t surprise me if she was the third vote. On the other hand it wouldn’t surprise me at all if she sided with the other voting bloc. She strikes me as very independent.”
Both analysts note this is not a vote the supervisors, especially the progressives, will relish by any means. Latterman thinks many will be eagerly awaiting any new polling that’s done, and that individual decisions may be made depending on how Mirkarimi will react to the ethics panel’s decision.
“The Ethics Commission found that Mirkarimi had yet to show any real contrition,” he says. “So that’s an issue — does Ross do a serious apology? Secondly, does he make this still about a conspiracy theory? An anti-Ed Lee polemic? So I think who is affectable on the board sort of depends on what happens over the next few weeks.”
In the meantime, nobody on the Board of Supervisors has tipped their hand. Beverly Upton, Executive Director of the San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium, which has called for Mirkarimi’s removal, told me individual supervisors have been directed by the city attorney’s office to not speak about the case.
Says Latterman: “Nobody is happy about this, and nobody is talking.”
The supes are not likely to vote until after Labor Day.