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London Breed’s power play

Presented by Amazon: Inside the Golden State political arena
Oct 24, 2023 View in browser

By Dustin Gardiner and Lara Korte

Presented by

San Francisco Mayor London Breed | Eric Risberg/AP

DRIVING THE DAY: Gov. Gavin Newsom is on a tour of China, where he’s flexing California’s credentials as a global leader in climate change policy. The governor made a short visit to Hong Kong on Monday, where he visited a university and made no mention of the decline of civil liberties under the Chinese government.

Today, Newsom is scheduled to be in Beijing to meet with officials on climate-related efforts. Our intrepid colleague Blanca Begert is traveling with the governor during his tour. You can read her coverage in the California Climate newsletter.

THE BUZZ: SETTING THE AGENDA — San Francisco Mayor London Breed is leaning into the homecourt advantages of being an incumbent as she faces a tough reelection next year.

Breed has rolled out one flashy policy initiative after another in recent weeks — including ballot initiatives to require drug screening for welfare recipients and to expand the ability of police to pursue suspects.

The Democratic mayor’s proposals, while striking from the leader of liberal San Francisco, appear designed to blunt or weaken criticism from opponents who say she has presided over a city in decline.

Breed’s two major challengers in the race — Daniel Lurie, a nonprofit executive, and Supervisor Ahsha Safaí — are moderate Democrats. They’ve both criticized Breed for not doing enough to address fentanyl addiction, homelessness and property crime.

Lurie entered the race less than a month ago. In the weeks since, Breed has proposed some of the most ambitious crime and drug-related measures of her mayorship.

Those last-minute ballot maneuvers have irritated Lurie and Safaí, who have accused Breed of reacting to their campaigns. But where others see deflection, former Mayor Willie Brown, sees a savvy operator.

“She’s doing what she needs to do to get reelected,” said Brown, who has endorsed Breed. “She’s playing a good poker game.”


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Breed recently sent three March ballot measures to voters: One to require drug screening and treatment for recipients of local welfare; another to reduce restrictions on police pursuits and to allow police to use drones and other surveillance tools; and a third to create a tax incentive to convert office space into housing.

In San Francisco, the mayor has the unique authority to send measures directly to the ballot for voters without the support of the Board of Supervisors. Breed has used the power sparingly until this cycle.

Opponents have cast Breed’s sudden deployment of executive power as pure politics. “It seems pretty desperate,” Safaí told Playbook. “The mayor has been in office for six years. She’s been in charge.”

Maggie Muir, Breed’s campaign consultant, said the mayor has been trying new ways to improve public safety for years, but she’s often been limited by the Board. Muir said Breed got the idea for the police-related measure after talking to officers in the field.

“I would love to hear some details from any of these people running against her,” Muir said. “It’s easy to attack, quite a bit harder to offer any actual policies or solutions.”

Lurie, an heir to the Levi Strauss fortune, has built his campaign around crime-related concerns. He said Breed’s plans are years too late, and says she has spent more than five years “blaming everyone but herself for the city’s public-safety crisis.”

GOOD MORNING. Happy Tuesday. Thanks for waking up with Playbook.


GROWING IN THE GOLDEN STATE: POLITICO California is growing, reinforcing our role as the indispensable insider source for reporting on politics, policy and power. From the corridors of power in Sacramento and Los Angeles to the players and innovation hubs in Silicon Valley, we're your go-to for navigating the political landscape across the state. Exclusive scoops, essential daily newsletters, unmatched policy reporting and insights — POLITICO California is your key to unlocking Golden State politics. LEARN MORE.


PLAYBOOK TIP LINE — What other races are you watching in California? Give us a ring or drop us a line.

Now you can text us at ‪916-562-0685‬‪ — save it as “CA Playbook” in your contacts now. Or drop us a line at [email protected] and [email protected], or on Twitter —@DustinGardiner and @Lara_Korte 

WHERE’S GAVIN? In China. Follow along with him on the ground by signing up for our daily newsletter on how California’s response to climate change is shaping the future — across industry and government and across politics and policy.

SPOTTED: California Senate candidate Christina Pascucci visiting survivors in Israel on what she’s calling a “humanitarian mission.”


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Members of SafeStreetRebel, a group of anonymous anti-car activists, place a cone on a self-driving robotaxi to disable it in San Francisco, Calif., on July 11, 2023. | Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

SQUEAKY WHEEL GETS THE GREASE — After several setbacks in Sacramento this year, labor allies are still pressing for more regulation of self-driving cars.

Teamsters are set to gather outside Cruise headquarters in San Francisco this morning to demand the increased oversight of the company’s robotaxis, which they say are unsafe.

Despite outcry from unions, the California Public Utilities commission over the summer authorized Cruise and Waymo, another driverless car company, to expand autonomous taxi service in San Francisco. Labor allies were also outraged when Newsom recently vetoed a bill that would have imposed new regulations on heavy-duty autonomous vehicles. Newsom in a veto message said existing law is sufficient for creating the “appropriate regulatory framework.”


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PRIMARY POLITICKING — Democrats in two target congressional districts have all but sewn up their party endorsements ahead of the California Democratic Convention next month.

Both Sen. Dave Min and former Assemblymember Rudy Salas announced this week they had earned enough support from delegates to land them on the endorsement consent calendar. California Democrats will make their official picks during their endorsing convention Nov. 17-19 in downtown Sacramento.

Both candidates face primary challengers ahead of what are expected to be tough matchups with Republicans. Min is looking to replace Rep. Katie Porter in her Orange County district, but must first beat Joanna Weiss, who has earned support from some statewide and regional Democrats.

Salas is looking for a rematch with Republican Rep. David Valadao, and faces a challenge from state Sen. Melissa Hurtado.


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AI TO THE RESCUE: San Francisco has been struggling to bounce back from the pandemic, but artificial intelligence seems to be drawing workers and enthusiasts back to previously-desolate city centers. (The Washington Post).

SCARY SKIES: An Alaska Airlines pilot from the Bay Area was booked into jail in Oregon Monday morning on 83 attempted murder charges after he allegedly tried to cut off the engines of a flight headed to San Francisco. (San Francisco Chronicle)


BIRTHDAYS — Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) … former Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.) … Matt Lehrich … Deadline’s Ted Johnson … (was Monday): Alfredo Sadun ... Sam Raimi


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CALIFORNIA POLICY IS ALWAYS CHANGING: Know your next move. From Sacramento to Silicon Valley, POLITICO California Pro provides policy professionals with the in-depth reporting and tools they need to get ahead of policy trends and political developments shaping the Golden State. To learn more about the exclusive insight and analysis this subscriber-only service offers, click here.

Want to make an impact? POLITICO California has a variety of solutions available for partners looking to reach and activate the most influential people in the Golden State. Have a petition you want signed? A cause you’re promoting? Seeking to increase brand awareness amongst this key audience? Share your message with our influential readers to foster engagement and drive action. Contact Jesse Shapiro to find out how: [email protected].


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London Breed’s power play


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