Political infighting clouds election 

The latest spat in a deep-rooted political rivalry between Mayor Gavin Newsom and his political nemesis Aaron Peskin is having a ripple effect on endorsements in key races for the November election.

Peskin, who now chairs the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, last week attempted to keep Newsom off the committee, a powerful local body in deciding which candidates get support during elections.

Newsom is the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in the November election, and traditionally he would have been given a seat.

But Peskin dug up a legal loophole in the bylaws that, technically, didn’t guarantee Newsom his seat on the party committee.

This frustrated some members of the committee who felt that Peskin — a left-leaning progressive — was stacking votes in favor of his candidates for supervisor races, essentially putting personal politics above the party.

“I think Aaron Peskin only cares about manipulating seats on the Board of Supervisors,” said Arlo Hale Smith, who has sat on the committee for 28 years. “Peskin thought seating [Newsom] would hurt Rafael [Mandelman] and Debra [Walker], who are his candidates, and that’s the politics behind it.”

On Wednesday, the committee voted to amend the bylaws, effectively giving Newsom his seat on the committee at least until Nov. 2, Election Day. Newsom will only be allowed to keep his seat after that if he’s elected lieutenant governor.

Even Peskin-type progressives, including Supervisor David Campos, figured it was only right to give Newsom a seat on the committee for now, Campos said.

Newsom’s victory means one more vote on the committee, bringing the total to 33. And, it shifted the landscape when it comes to the party’s endorsements, especially for two key supervisor races: districts 6 and 8, where committee members are split on who to support in the election, according to members.

The committee will decide on endorsements for the November election Aug. 11. Each member present will cast a vote.  The candidate who gets the majority of votes will receive the party’s endorsement.

For candidates like Scott Wiener, who’s one of three front-runners in the District 8 race, Newsom’s vote on the committee could make or break whether he receives the endorsement, Wiener said.

Peskin has already endorsed Mandelman, and Newsom is endorsing Wiener.

“The supervisor endorsements are very close and many will hinge upon one or two votes,” said Tom Hsieh, who sits on the committee. “So, the mayor getting a seat as the lieutenant governor Democratic nominee will make a difference.”

But Peskin, who represents the progressive wing of the committee, said by his math Newsom’s vote on the committee won’t make or break a majority needed for a candidate to be endorsed.

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

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