Currently, Peskin's progressives hold a loose 7-4 majority on the board. If Newsom-supported candidates can capture two seats, the mayor will have a working majority for the first time in his tenure.

The seats in play are currently occupied by lefty incumbents who are termed out: Peskin, Jake McGoldrick (who represents District 1, the Richmond) and Geraldo Sandoval (who represents District 11, which includes the Excelsior, the Ingleside, and Merced Heights). Peskin's District 3 promises to be one of the most hotly contested. Ten potential candidates have already announced their intentions, and more are likely to follow. Peskin has endorsed David Chiu of the Small Business Commission for his seat, but says he may still support others as they come forward.

Newsom has yet to endorse any candidates for the three open seats, although he's expected to weigh in before the candidate filing deadline on Aug. 8.

One factor in Newsom's favor is that there seems to be nothing unifying neighborhood candidates in the same way Brown's out-of-control development policies did in 2000.

State Senator Carol Migden, a former S.F. supervisor and veteran of hardball city politics, says she is not seeing much passion or talent coming forward from the neighborhoods to fill the board's open seats. "These are supposed to be coveted seats; you'd think people would be jumping over each other," she says. "Maybe they need another Willie Brown to get them motivated."

Peskin says that after his term is up, he will return to work with his wife, Nancy Shanahan, at the water-rights nonprofit they run. He says he never had any political ambition before he was elected, and he has little more now.

But watching him standing on the corner outside Caffe Trieste, it's hard to imagine him doing anything else. Seemingly all at once he checks text messages on his Treo, answers a reporter's questions, and schedules a shoot with a photographer, all while greeting passing constituents.

"I was never class president in school, and if someone told me I'd be a San Francisco supervisor, I would have told them they were crazy," Peskin says. "When Tom Ammiano asked me to run in 2000, my wife didn't think it was a good idea. I told her not to worry because I'd never get elected."

Dusk has fallen, and Peskin has to run off to another meeting. He starts to leave, but before he disappears into the bustling throng, he wants to repeat one last point.

"Really, I am not thinking about a political future right now," he insists. "I've always been a free spirit. ... Well, all right, I'm a very intense, driven, type A personality, but I've always been fine taking what comes." He turns jauntily into Columbus Avenue with a final "Toodle-oo!"

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