Mark Farrell appointed interim Mayor of San Francisco, replacing London Breed

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San Francisco has its third mayor in just three weeks, after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 6-3 Tuesday night to appoint Supervisor Mark Farrell as acting mayor and oust Board President London Breed in a dramatic, divisive and contentious public meeting that ended with some community members shouting at the board. 

City attorney Dennis Herrera was present to administer the oath of office to Farrell, whose was joined by wife and children for the late night ceremony about 9 p.m. Tuesday. By accepting the appointment, Farrell is giving up his District 2 seat and will have a chance to appoint his successor.

"I heard the emotion in the room. I was there in the room and felt that also," said Farrell, in his first news conference as interim mayor Tuesday night. "I will be a mayor for every single San Francisco resident. My focus and my job as mayor is to represent everybody in the city of San Francisco, no matter what their race, ethnicity, religion, my job is to represent everybody and I will do exactly that over the next half year."

The vote came after more than three hours of public comment.

Backers of Breed were outraged when the final vote was announced, and shouted “shame on you” at the board as sheriff's deputies lined up at the front of the room. 

Breed become acting mayor in December when Mayor Ed Lee suddenly died of a heart attack. Under the city charter, the board may appoint a successor to serve until the June 5 election.

Critics said it was a conflict of interest and unfair for Breed to be board president, acting mayor, District 5 supervisor and a mayoral candidate running for the office. Some said it would give her an advantage going into the mayoral election and favored the appointment of someone who was not running for the mayor's office. The debate was also heavily colored by racial politics, with Breed's supporters arguing that the move to remove her from the acting mayor's position was driven in part by the fact that she is a black woman.

Farrell did not file paperwork to run in the mayoral election.

"We owe it to the charter and we owe it to the public to have this conversation," said Supervisor Aaron Peskin who sponsored the motion asking the city clerk to determine a nominating procedure.

Other people spoke in support of Breed continuing in her dual roles, pointing to her as a San Francisco native, a strong woman with a big heart, and a proud representative of the African-American community. 

In the end, Supervisor Malia Cohen nominated Breed, while Supervisor Norman Yee nominated  Farrell. Farrell and Breed recused themselves and left the room as soon as they said they would accept the nomination. 

Supervisor Jane Kim was nominated by Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, but declined. The board needed six votes to appoint an interim mayor and if Kim had recused herself, it was likely no one would get six votes, leaving Breed in place as acting mayor. 

The vote initially was 7-2, but was retaken as Supervisor Katy Tang said she had made a mistake and changed her vote. The final result was 6-3 in support of Farrell. Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer,  Jane Kim, Aaron Peskin, Hillary Ronen, and Jeff Sheehy voted for Farrell. Supervisors Malia Cohen, Tang, and Ahsha Safai did not back Farrell.

A final confirmation vote for Farrell was 10-2, with Farrell abstaining and Cohen and Breed voting in opposition. Breed's nomination was rejected on a 4-5 vote, with progressives lined up solidly against her. Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, generally considered a solid moderate vote, supported both Breed and Farrell.

Breed's top competitors in the race include Supervisor Jane Kim and former state Sen. Mark Leno, both of whom identify with the progressive camp in San Francisco politics.

City administrator Naomi Kelly was also suggested as a possible nominee but Kim said Kelly told her she would not accept a nomination and wanted to continue in her position as city administrator.

Breed, who will continue as board president, met afterwards in the hallway with her supporters and journalists. 

"I have to work in the best interests of the city which causes continuing to move forward. You don't walk around with a chip on your shoulder and you don't hold a grudge. you just keep moving and you get the work done," Breed said as she thanked her supporters and issued a rallying call for the upcoming mayoral campaign. 

Farrell also sought to reach out with a message of unity during a press conference Tuesday night.

"I personally want to thank London Breed for her grace and leadership during this difficult time," Farrell said, "I want to thank my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors for trusting me with this position." 

Farrell's appointment now leaves his District 2 seat vacant. He declined to answer questions about who might be named a replacement.