The 2016 Election is Already Heating Up, and a Familiar Name Has Thrown His Hat Into the Ring

Only one supervisor’s seat is up for grabs this year: that of District 3, which includes North Beach and Chinatown. Incumbent Julie Christensen is squaring off against former Supervisor Aaron Peskin for that seat, but the real drama will come next year. That’s when five districts could change hands and dramatically shift the balance of power in City Hall.

That competition has already begun.

Ahsha Safai, who came in a close second to John Avalos in the 2008 race for District 11, has thrown his hat into the ring once more, again vying to represent District 11. Last month, Safai filed paperwork to run when Avalos terms out next year.

District 11 contains the city’s southern neighborhoods — Excelsior, Ingleside, Oceanview, Outer Mission, and Crocker-Amazon — where many people are “house rich, but cash poor,” as Safai puts it. The area’s home ownership rates are high, but household incomes hover low enough that residents often struggle to make ends meet.

So far, response to Safai’s burgeoning campaign has been encouraging.  He says he's already been endorsed by the firefighters’ and teamsters’ unions, as well as SEIU Local 87, the janitors’ union, where he has been political director since 2009. He also says he has backing from political heavyweights such as state Assemblymen Phil Ting and David Chiu, Sen. Mark Leno, and San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener.

Avalos told me that Safai is “generally more liberal than not,” although he likened Safai to the stereotypical political “chameleon” who crafts his agenda to follow public opinion — a criticism Avalos has leveled at Safai before. (In an email statement, Avalos said he has not committed himself to any candidate yet.)

Safai responds to criticism by pointing to his many years working with labor interests, helping to craft the Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights, as well as the Housing Trust Fund, one of San Francisco’s main sources of money for building affordable housing. Safai recently worked with the Mission Child Care Consortium to help them try to purchase their building in the Excelsior neighborhood, as the San Francisco Examiner reported.

Though he’s still forming the policy agenda for his 2016 run, Safai said that his main concerns are expanding the city’s program to help first-time homebuyers, making Muni more reliable, and decreasing the cost of childcare.

Indeed, Safai says that after-school programs are invaluable, since they give children a safe place to go while parents wrap up their shifts. He’d like to expand those programs to enroll more kids, and he’d like to reduce costs to parents.

Expect Safai and other District 11 hopefuls to start campaigning loudly as soon as this year’s election blows over.

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