Chronicle Endorses Chiu for MayorBay Citizen
October 11, 2011
By Gerry Shih
In a move that surprised most political observers, the San Francisco Chronicle endorsed Board of Supervisors President David Chiu for mayor on Tuesday, citing his “independence” and his potential capacity to “shake things up” in a government hamstrung by bureaucratic inefficiency.
The editorial, which will run in Wednesday’s edition of the Chronicle, also amounted to a gentle rebuke of interim Mayor Ed Lee — who was susceptible, the paper suggested, to “the constellation of influences” surrounding City Hall.
“In a sense, the choice between Lee and Chiu is underscored in their campaign slogans: "gets it done" versus "shaking things up." The question is: Which candidate is most likely to do both? San Francisco needs both,” the editorial read. “This is where Chiu gets the clear edge.”
For all its financial woes in recent years, the Chronicle holds the premier political endorsement in the city. But the Chronicle’s nod to Chiu came as a surprise, largely because its ownership has a decades-long record of aligning the paper with San Francisco’s business and political leadership, which has stood firmly behind Lee in this election.
Lee, who is currently the runaway front runner, also owes his current office to former Mayor Willie Brown, who is a high-profile columnist in the Sunday Chronicle and remains one of the most influential figures in San Francisco civic life. Lee has also been backed by the city’s Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and many powerful labor unions and neighborhood groups.
“There was an assumption on the part of many that Mayor Lee, the incumbent mayor, supported by much of the establishment of San Francisco, would get the Chron’s endorsement,” said Alex Clemens, a lobbyist and longtime City Hall observer, adding: “It’s a serious, heavyweight endorsement that all politicians in San Francisco — whether they admit it or not — really, really, really want to get.”
Lee’s campaign immediately downplayed the endorsement. “We congratulate David Chiu,” said Tony Winnicker, a spokesman for Lee.
In July, John Diaz, the Chronicle’s influential editorial page editor, penned an editorial warning Lee against “breaching the assurance he made from Day One that he had no intention of running for office.”
Chiu, who spent Monday evening campaigning across town as part of a 24-hour campaign stunt, said called the endorsement a “pleasant surprise.”
“This morning they called and asked for a photo shoot and I wondered,” Chiu said Tuesday afternoon. “I’ve got four campaign events in the coming hours. I’m back on the trail.”
See this article in the Bay Citizen