Who Becomes Mayor If London Breed Joins The Biden Administration?
Just after Joe Biden was elected president, rumors began swirling that SF mayor London Breed might be offered a position in the Biden administration. Breed did not rule it out in an interview with KQED, choosing her words very carefully. On top of that, it’s widely reported that Breed is on Gavin Newsom’s short list to replace Kamala Harris as California senator.
So who becomes mayor of San Francisco if London Breed takes a promotion that sends her to Washington, DC? We’ve actually been through this before, most recently when then-mayor Gavin Newsom was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2010, which is how we got Ed Lee as mayor.
Under the San Francisco city charter, the president of the Board of Supervisors becomes mayor. In the Gavin Newsom situation, then-supervisor David Chiu was mayor for one day because he was president of the board. These days, District 7 supervisor Norman Yee is board president, so he would become mayor — but probably not for long.
When the board president becomes mayor, the full Board of Supervisors then elects the person who will be the replacement. The key here is when that happens. After all, we will have a different Board of Supervisors on January 8, 2021 when Connie Chan (District 1) and Myrna Melgar (District 7) are sworn in. If Breed resigns her position before then, the old board votes on it. If she resigns after then, the new board votes.
(This is exactly what happened in 2011, when Gavin didn’t resign until the new board was sworn in, prompting Chris Daly’s infamous “It’s on like Donkey Kong” rant above.)
Let’s start the speculation! Breed would probably want to resign after the new board takes hold, because she’s pretty close with new supe Myrna Melgar, and Melgar would likely vote for Breed’s preferred candidate.
Still, the progressive wing of the board has a slight advantage in the vote count. Supervisors cannot vote for themselves. Sup. Aaron Peskin ran to be a replacement of Gavin Newsom in 2011, so he would be a logical pick. Sup. Matt Haney sure seems to have his eyes on that job someday, so he would not be a surprise either. The progressive wing is also very friendly to former supes Jane Kim and Mark Leno, who both ran for mayor in 2018, so they could be candidates too.
On the moderate side, lame duck supervisor Norman Yee may have the appeal to grab a few progressive votes while uniting the moderate wing. He could also claim, Ed Lee-style, that he is just a “caretaker” and he would only keep the job until the next election. But we know how that turned out with Ed Lee. They can also choose someone who is not a supervisor, but is well-liked at City Hall.
Whatever happens, there would then be a special election where SF voters choose a mayor, likely on November 2, 2021.