London Breed, a San Francisco native who was raised by her grandmother in the Filmore District, made history last week when she became the first African-American woman and the second woman ever to be elected mayor of the city.
“I’m a native San Franciscan,” Breed told voters in her remarks on election night. “I grew up in some of the most challenging of circumstances. I think the message that this sends to the next generation of young people growing up in this city, that no matter where you come from—you can do anything you want to do.”
As a candidate, Breed embraced the idea that the position should be held by someone who knows first-hand about the challenges that San Francisco faces. Although the tech industry has provided San Francisco with a tremendous economic boost, it has also come with serious consequences for the welfare of city residents—many of whom, and disproportionately those in communities of color, are facing down increasing costs of living, gentrification and even forced displacement.
Breed centered her campaign on her own negative personal experiences within the city, demonstrating in the process how important it was for someone with first-hand experience with its challenges to be solving its problems. Breed ran as a candidate who not only knew the town, but also identified with and had shared in the experiences of communities that rely on public housing and public schools and live each day in the tangles of incarceration and addiction.
“We understand the need to have a daughter of this district represent this district,” now-Senator Kamala Harris said of Breed in 2012, when she was running to be district supervisor.
Breed will succeed Mayor Ed Lee, who died of a heart attack in December 2017. She previously served as interim of mayor of San Francisco immediately following his death—but in a dramatic turn of events, the Board of Supervisors voted to strip her of the title and replace her with a white man serving on the supervisor board alongside her. The abrupt transition was met with outrage from community members and Breed’s supporters, who called out the racism and sexism of the decision that ended any chance of Breed running as an incumbent this year—which could have served to boost her bid.
Nevertheless, she persisted—and won a historic victory.