By Michael Durand
Katy Tang, who represents the Sunset and Parkside districts on the SF Board of Supervisors, announced on June 12 that she would not be seeking re-election this November. Tang has promised that she will serve out her term, breaking a pattern that has seen several mayor-appointed supervisors replacing early departures from the District 4 office.
The appointments started in 2007 when District 4 Supervisor Ed Jew was suspended from office by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom when Jew was facing extortion and perjury charges. He later resigned and pled guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 64 months in a federal prison.
Carmen Chu was appointed by Newsom to replace Jew in 2007. Chu ran a year later as the incumbent and won, serving a shortened term as supervisor from 2009 to 2011. In November 2010, Chu won re-election for a four-year term from 2011 to 2015, but her term was cut short when then-SF Mayor Ed Lee appointed her in 2013 to serve as assessor-recorder after Phil Ting took on his new role in the California Assembly.
Tang was then appointed by Lee to fill Chu’s role as supervisor, which set her up to run as the incumbent nine months later. She won her seat for a partial term – finishing out Chu’s – from January 2014 to January 2015. In the next election, in November 2014, Tang ran again and won a full term, which she commits to serve until it ends in January 2019.
When Tang made her announcement in a letter to her district that she would not be running for re-election, it was right at the June 12 deadline for candidates to register for the November election. Some political pundits saw this as a ploy to weed out other office seekers who might otherwise be dissuaded from running against a well-financed incumbent and paving the way for Tang’s handpicked successor and legislative aide, Jessica Ho, who is running for the District 4 seat.
At the registration deadline, only three candidates were listed as qualified candidates on the SF Department of Elections’ website: Adam Kim and Mike Murphy, who filed on June 11, and Ho, who filed on June 12.
State law requires that the deadline to file for candidacy be extended by five days if the incumbent is not running for re-election. Listed with a filing date of June 18 are six additional qualified candidates who took advantage of the extension: Li Miao Lovett, Gordon Mar, Tom Arthur, Tuan Anh Nguyen, Lou Ann Bassan and Trevor McNeil.
Tim Murphy, a retired kindergarten teacher and president of La Playa Park Neighborhood Association, feels he was shut out of the running for supervisor by Tang’s last-minute decision.
“I knew I wouldn’t stand a chance of winning running against Katy Tang and her big budget. But, I would have definitely run if I knew she wasn’t in the race. Because she waited until the last minute, I wasn’t able to file my paperwork to run because I was out of town over the extension dates,” Murphy said.
One of the three candidates who registered early, Mike Murphy (no relation to Tim) is a long-time Sunset resident who teaches ecology to preschoolers at various schools in the SF Unified School District.
“There is no question in my mind. Katy Tang waited until the last minute to limit the field. Even though Tang said she would serve out the rest of her term, I’m concerned that when London Breed takes office, she’ll offer Katy a position in city government and she might just take it, and that Jessica Ho will be appointed supervisor. And the pattern repeats,” Murphy said.
“I’m glad she’s not running for reelection for a couple of reasons. She hasn’t represented the interests of the small business owners or her constituents in the Sunset District. She represented the big money interests that fueled her campaigns. Plus, it does open up the election to a certain extent for her competitors. We haven’t had an election that wasn’t determined by those same big money interests in decades here in the Sunset. We’ve been abandoned at City Hall. Typically, supervisors are appointed, they are funded and then they run for office under the guise of incumbency,” Murphy said.
Adam Kim is the second of the three candidates who qualified early. He said he knew that running against an incumbent would have been an uphill battle.
“When you’re trying to advocate for change, it’s always going to be an uphill battle,” Kim said.
Kim moved to Bay Area 10 years ago from the suburbs of Chicago. He has lived in San Francisco for five years and the Sunset for three years. He is a project manager and producer in software, web and gaming development. He has no previous political experience.
Kim, who is “100 percent independent,” says he aligns closely with fellow progressive Mike Murphy. “Mike’s a good guy. We have a lot of similar values regarding what to accomplish for the Sunset.” Murphy and Kim both support each other’s candidacies in the ranked choice election.
Ho is the third of the three early registrants and is the heir presumptive in the race as she was publicly endorsed by Tang, Chu, District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai and Mayor-elect London Breed at a recent press conference.
Ho’s connection to the Sunset started when her grandmother moved to the district from Taiwan in 1980.
“My grandmother became a small property owner with about five homes. She didn’t speak English and was able to overcome that,” Ho said.
Ho grew up in Los Angeles but lived in one of her grandmother’s homes on 29th Avenue and Taraval Street for a few years, after graduating UC Berkeley, while she was an intern for Supervisor Chu. It was there where she met then-legislative aide Tang, whom she called her mentor.
Ho moved from Los Angeles to the Sunset earlier this year to take a job as legislative aide to Tang. She had been working as a senior health deputy for L.A. Supervisor Janice Hahn from 2015-18.
“I met Jessica when she was working in former-Supervisor Carmen Chu’s office, so I’ve known her for a while and we always stayed in touch,” Tang said. “She spent some time gathering policy and legislative experience in Sacramento and L.A. When she returned, I happened to have an opening in my office. So, when I hired her, it had nothing to do with the supervisor’s race. I just needed a third aide. One who could speak Chinese and interact with our Asian community because that was the person who left our office.”
Tang said what she’ll miss the most when she finishes her term is “the people.”
“I’ll miss being able to have this office as a resource for so many in our neighborhood. I’ll miss interacting with neighbors, merchants, our school principals, our P.T.A. presidents, all the people who make our community great,” Tang said.
What she won’t miss: “the politics.”
Tang said she gets a lot of grief over things she can’t control.
“The number one issue is the SFMTA, Muni, red curbs, taking away parking spaces, you name it. People have the misconception that it’s me doing it, or that I’m initiating it,” Tang said. “And I’m not. A lot of these projects were initiated even before I was supervisor.”
Tang, who earned her law degree while a legislative aide and supervisor (but has not yet taken the bar exam), said she has no plans, yet, for her next chapter.
“I absolutely want to continue serving our community. I don’t know what format that will take, but that is certainly a goal of mine. I’m wide open to receiving from the universe. My future plans are unknown,” Tang said.