(Bloomberg) -- Daniel Lurie, an heir to the Levi Strauss family fortune, is running for mayor of San Francisco next year.
Lurie, a local philanthropist and founder of an anti-poverty charity, will challenge incumbent London Breed in a pivotal election for a city battling multiple challenges, from downtown business closures, to homelessness and drug use on the streets, and a surge in robberies.
“We are facing a crisis of leadership, and the direction that we are headed leaves me deeply concerned that the next generation will not love San Francisco as we do,” Lurie, a Democrat, said in a statement announcing his candidacy on Tuesday. “This moment demands a new era of leadership from the outside.”
Lurie’s bid is an unusual move in a city where many mayors have risen through the political ranks and used the office as a stepping stone to higher positions, such as Senator Dianne Feinstein and California Governor Gavin Newsom. But observers say the city’s current litany of problems could create an opening for Lurie, a candidate who has never held office but comes from a prominent San Francisco family.
“When voters feel especially lost and especially hopeless is usually the time they turn to political outsiders,” said Dan Schnur, a California political analyst. “The exodus from downtown, the housing and homelessness crisis, the challenges with crime and fentanyl have created an environment where many voters have simply lost faith in the traditional political system.”
Lurie is the son of Rabbi Brian Lurie, who ran the Jewish Community Federation, and Miriam “Mimi” Haas, who divorced when he was young. His mother remarried philanthropist and Levi Strauss heir Peter Haas, who died in 2005. The extended family has a stake in the jeans-maker valued at more than $2.7 billion, according to company filings. Mimi Haas has the largest individual stake in the business, with an 11% interest worth about $570 million. Daniel Lurie isn’t listed by name as a shareholder.
“Money can’t buy you an election like this, but it can serve as table stakes,” Schnur said. “It can get you in the game.”
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Lurie, 46, is a San Francisco native who founded Tipping Point Community, a nonprofit inspired by best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell which invests tens of millions of dollars annually to Bay Area organizations for poverty-fighting initiatives. Last year, he also started the Civic Joy Fund, focused on civic engagement and economic recovery in San Francisco.
Through his charity work, Lurie has connections to the city’s political establishment. He was appointed by former Mayor Ed Lee to head the 2016 Super Bowl committee. His wife, Becca Prowda, worked for Newsom when he was mayor and she currently serves as his director of protocol.
Breed, a moderate Democrat seeking a second term in office, faces a tough re-election campaign as polls show her popularity has fallen among city residents. A survey sponsored by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce in May found that 76% of San Francisco voters say that the city is on the wrong track.
“I’m not doing this job in fear of losing it, I’m doing the best I can because I’ve been here all my life and I know we have problems,” Breed told the Bloomberg Technology Summit in June. “I’m willing to put it all on the line and do whatever it takes and turn things around.”
San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safaí has also announced he’ll challenge Breed with a mayoral run, promising to improve public safety and restore trust in local government.
Breed has collided with progressive rivals on issues such as housing, homelessness and police reform. She’s also faced criticism for the decline of San Francisco’s downtown, where workers have been slow to return after the pandemic and many businesses have closed due to reduced foot traffic.
The city’s office vacancy rate grew to a record high of nearly 32% in the second quarter, according to figures from CBRE Group Inc., compared with less than 4% in 2019. As a result, tax revenue is under pressure and the budget gap is forecast to exceed $1 billion by 2026.
Still, San Francisco has seen some nascent signs of recovery, with tourism picking up and artificial-intelligence companies fueling demand for office space. Breed also has a loyal base of supporters, such as Chris Larsen, the billionaire founder of Ripple Labs Inc. He told Bloomberg in early September that he wished Lurie didn’t plan to run and called the campaign a “waste of resources.”
Lurie will have to prove that his nonprofit work has made a difference in the city’s problems, especially homelessness, which has been his main focus, said Jim Ross, a political consultant who worked on Newsom’s campaign for mayor. “He needs to create a contrast with the mayor on leadership, on his successes and things that he’s doing in philanthropy and the private sector,” he said.
Lurie,a newcomer to politics, in his announcement on Tuesday said that Tipping Point has held its partners accountable and cut funding to those who were not delivering results. He pledged, if elected mayor, to fully staff the police force, provide shelter and mental health care for the unhoused population and reform the criminal justice system.
“We’re seeing the opposite at City Hall, where the system serves itself instead of the public,” Lurie said. “That must change, and it will.”
--With assistance from Kara Wetzel, Devon Pendleton and Karen Breslau.
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