Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Politics & Govt
Published on November 08, 2016
After State Senate Winner Is Crowned, Who Will Fill Board Of Supervisors Vacancy?Photos: City & County of San Francisco

Despite all of the swirling uncertainties (read: motion sickness) associated with today’s election, one thing is certain: tomorrow, we’ll (hopefully) know who the victors are. By winning the District 11 State Senate seat, either District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim or District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener will leave a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors.

Traditionally, a vacancy would be filled by the city’s mayor. In fact, as the San Francisco Public Press pointed out last week, mayors have made 45 appointments to the Board of Supervisors since 1948, the earliest year for which the city possesses data. Mayor Ed Lee himself has made three appointments to the board.

But in addition to voting for either Kim or Wiener in today’s election, San Franciscans are also voting on Prop D, the San Francisco Vacancy Appointments ballot measure. Should it pass, the entire process of appointing a new Supervisor will change. 

Team Wiener does Castro #Muni Station, rain and all! #wiener2016

A photo posted by Scott Wiener (@scott_wiener) on

The vote creates two potential scenarios. Should Prop D fail to pass the 50 percent plus one threshold, things would stay as they are now, meaning Mayor Lee will appoint a “qualified person” to the vacant seat. There would be no deadline for him to make an appointment, and his appointee (in the case of Districts 6 and 8) would serve until the next citywide election in 2018, when they would then be permitted to run to retain the supervisor seat. 

Should Prop D pass, Mayor Lee will have 28 days from the date that the supervisor seat becomes vacant to name a temporary appointee. The city would then be required to hold a special election in either District 6 or District 8 to fill the board vacancy. Mayor Lee’s appointee would not be allowed to run in that election to keep the seat.

The date of the special election would most likely be within 126 to 154 days of the vacancy. However, that number could shift based on a variety of factors.

To add further complexity to the issue, the two State Senate candidates have differing opinions on Prop D. Wiener opposes the proposition, arguing that it’s not democratic.

“It will lead to a temporary, appointed supervisor who's only accountable to the Mayor—since he or she won't be able to run for reelection—followed by an intensely low-turnout special election limited to one-eleventh of the city,” he told us via email.

Wiener thinks that our current system works. “The mayor appoints, and the voters then re-elect or defeat the appointee,” he wrote, noting that voters have both supported and opposed mayoral appointees in recent years.

Last November, current District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin defeated Mayor Lee’s appointee, Julie Christensen; in 2014, District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang, another Lee appointee, was successfully elected to her seat.

“The voters are highly capable of tossing out supervisors when they prefer a different option,” he said. 

Jane Kim, however, supports Prop D. She offered us a succinct written rebuttal: "[I support Prop D because] voters should have the opportunity to choose their representative, without the sway of incumbency that’s inevitable when someone is appointed.”

Kim's opinion is shared by Art Agnos, the only former San Francisco mayor to support Prop D. “I believe it empowers the voters, and corrects a serious imbalance in our city elections, emanating from the extraordinary increase of mayoral appointments to political vacancies created by term limits,” he wrote in an editorial in the Examiner this weekend. 

Should they win today's election, we asked both Kim and Wiener whom they would like to see replace them as their district supervisor—regardless of Prop D.

Neither chose to name names, but here's what they had to say:

District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim: “I hope the next supervisor for District 6 is someone who loves the community and wants to serve by advocating for as much affordable housing as possible, and continuing to stand up to fight for the best deals for the city like I have.”

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener: “If the voters send me to Sacramento, I'll ask the Mayor to make a strong appointment to succeed me—someone who will work night and day, as I have, to support our community and advance good policy at City Hall.”

Once we learn the winner of the District 11 State Senate seat and the vote on Prop D, we’ll follow up tomorrow with more information on the changes voters can expect to see on the Board of Supervisors in the coming weeks and months.