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Far Left Turn 

A new power broker emerges after Daly smackdown.

Wednesday, Jun 11 2008
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Every would-be Napoleon has a Waterloo, and political observers are wondering if last week wasn't Chris Daly's. We've heard that kind of talk before from moderates — but this time it's the left that's saying he's gone too far.

Proposition F, Daly's all-out push to stop the reconstruction of Bayview, failed, while pro-reconstruction Proposition G, supported by his archnemesis Gavin Newsom, passed. Daly anointed Carole Migden for the state Senate, but she came third. That was disastrous enough — but what really has progressives angry is the way Daly left claw marks on their backs during the campaign. He may have done more to alienate his progressive allies in the last few weeks than he has over the last six years, and that's saying something.

After Daly accused two prominent labor leaders of "selling out" to support Prop. G, even Randy Shaw of lefty Web site Beyond Chron wrote that Daly had gone too far.

Honestly, who attacks labor from the left?

When Daly paid for a legal but deceptive promotional piece suggesting that alt-weekly political pamphlet the Bay Guardian had endorsed Migden, editor and former ally Tim Redmond railed at Daly on the paper's Web site, saying, "Daly doesn't have all that many friends left in town; the Guardian was one of his most loyal supporters." Daly responded that the Guardian had endorsed Mark Leno, who isn't progressive enough, so the paper was wrong and had it coming. Daly may have jeopardized his built-in PR machine with this in-your-face move.

Honestly, who attacks the Guardian from the left?

City editor Steven T. Jones was angry at the betrayal. He must have assumed that the paper's cozy relationship with Daly was at least strong enough that the supervisor wouldn't lie when he found it convenient. Not so. "We've defended Chris many times when he's pushed the line, even sometimes when we've cringed at his antics, but I think we'll now be less likely to do so in the future," Jones wrote.

It also appears Daly may have lost his leadership clout among progressives. We spoke to many activists who agreed. As one put it: "Chris has always been an asshole, but he was our asshole. After this, he's not our asshole anymore." But what might be more telling than what they're saying is how they're saying it: without attribution. While many had lots to say about Daly's lost influence, none of them would say so publicly, suggesting that Daly still has plenty of juju.

Those who would speak on the record said that however mad they were, they'd work with Daly again if he'd work with them. "A lot of people are pissed off at Chris right now," said Tim Paulson of the Labor Council (who was labeled a "sellout" by Daly). "But we at the Labor Council are professionals and we move forward no matter what."

Daly said much the same thing to SF Weekly. "When labor needs aid in the budget or pro-worker legislation to pass the board of supervisors, I reckon that for the next two and a half years I'm the guy who will go to the mat for them," he said. "I think they know that — which is why they're comfortable going after me when we disagree. Come November, you'll see the Bay Guardian, labor, and me largely aligned — if not entirely aligned."

Fair enough. Even if no one is willing to challenge Daly directly, he's likely to be on his own the next time he throws a tantrum or accuses the mayor of snorting something. More importantly, one lefty candidate did challenge Daly directly and won: soon-to-be state Senator Mark Leno, who proved at the ballot box that he and his organization could pull in more lefties than Daly.

"That," one progressive smirked, "means Mark — not Chris — is the kingmaker now."

About The Author

Benjamin Wachs

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