Political endorsements seem to be a hot topic right now, both on the national, state and local level. Perhaps the larger the area, the more important they are. With the division of districts into smaller and smaller parts, regional and national endorsements might count less.
Endorsements are hot political news in San Mateo County because the local Democratic Central Committee, in a close vote, has doused early endorsements with cold water, asking candidates to take a pledge that they will not endorse candidates more than a year before an election. My guess — the timing of this initiative was prompted by the late entry of Steven Booker into the race for retiring Don Horsley’s seat on the Board of Supervisors. He entered the race after two other candidates had already collected a significant number of endorsements. And since Booker is Black and the only candidate of color in this particular race, and because the other two candidates are white, several progressive groups felt the time was ripe for affirmative action. Hence the pledge, which has been evolving since Booker announced his candidacy.
Booker has never held political office but he has been elected to the Democratic Central Committee and has a leadership role in the IBEW union. He also has worked countywide helping at-risk youth by encouraging them to train for jobs in the labor force. He is a veteran, which used to count for a lot, and he lives in Half Moon Bay. There has not been a Black person on the Board of Supervisors since Mike Nevin led his colleagues to appoint Rose Jacobs Gibson. Gibson was subsequently elected in her own right. The first Latino to serve on the board was Ruben Barrales who had no trouble picking up countywide endorsements and easily won a seat and re-election. He happened to be a Republican but prominent Democrats supported his campaign.
The candidate in the race with an overwhelming list of endorsements is Ray Mueller, former mayor of Menlo Park and current councilmember. He aggressively sought endorsements when he first decided to run for supervisor. Even though he is well known in Menlo Park, it is questionable how well he is known in other parts of the district, Redwood City, San Carlos, Atherton, part of Belmont, Pacifica, Portola Valley, Half Moon Bay and a large section of unincorporated areas. Menlo Park is often considered more of a cousin to Palo Alto than connected to San Mateo County. We don’t know as much about Menlo Park as we do about other cities because the Daily Journal doesn’t focus there. Meanwhile, Menlo residents get their news from the Country Almanac. So even though he was running in a smaller district than countywide, Mueller needed those endorsements.
The other candidate who entered the race a year after Mueller was a relative newcomer to elective politics. Laura Parmer-Lohan now serves as mayor of San Carlos and she is well known there. Not so in other parts of the district. But what she has going for in terms of progressive politics is that she is a woman and she is a lesbian. But she is white. And Mueller, unfortunately for most progressives, is a white male. Whether the pledge, which is not retroactive, will hurt him, we don’t know. Booker’s two major endorsements come from Rick Bonilla, San Mateo City Council deputy mayor, and longtime labor leader; and David Canepa, president of the Board of Supervisors.
Canepa sees the writing on the wall as he has political ambitions. He was elected in the first test of district elections for supervisor. He represents District 1 primarily made of the county’s largest city, Daly City, and the most ethnically diverse. You would think a Filipino or Latino would have won this race. But they didn’t. Dave Canepa, a white male, did.
I don’t endorse candidates. But I did interview each to find out more about them. You can read about them online. Just type in their name, followed by Sue Lempert column and it should pop up. Each candidate would bring important experience and perspective to the board. I was impressed with each of them for different reasons. But I don’t get to vote in this election because we now have district elections. So it will be up to voters in Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Carlos, Half Moon Bay and some other areas of the county to make the choice. Will endorsements make a big difference or not? We will have to wait and see until the June 2022 primary.
Sue Lempert is the former mayor of San Mateo. Her column runs every Monday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.