London Breed was just elected San Francisco’s first female African American mayor in a historic California election. Breed narrowly defeated a rival who was seeking to become the first openly gay man in the position.
According to NBC News, it took eight days of counting after Election Day for Breed to pull ahead in the polls, but she inevitably pushed ahead to snag the city’s top job. “With about 250,000 ballots tallied, she led former state Sen. Mark Leno by 2,177 votes with only about 6,700 left to count,” NBC reports.
Breed, who will take office next month, is the second woman to be elected mayor in San Francisco history. The other was U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Breed will serve until 2020, finishing the term of the late Mayor Ed Lee, who died in December at age 65, according to CNN.
Here’s what you need to know about Breed:
1. Breed Has Spent Her Adult Life Trying to Improve Public Safety, Environmental Issues & City Housing
Breed had already been serving as acting mayor after Lee passed in December, and was serving as President of the Board of Supervisors before she was elected mayor.
“London first won election to the Board of Supervisors in November 2012. In January of 2015, her colleagues elected her President of the Board. She was re-elected as District 5 Supervisor in November 2016 and unanimously re-elected as Board President two months later,” her campaign site reads.
Before she was elected as District 5 Supervisor, Breed served as the Executive Director of the African American Art & Culture Complex for over a decade. She helped transform the “struggling center” into a “vital, financially-stable community resource that provides after school arts and cultural programs for youth and seniors.”
Adding to her long history of public services, Breed also served as a San Francisco Redevelopment Agency Commissioner for five years and in 2010 was appointed by former mayor Gavin Newsom to be a San Francisco Fire Commissioner, where she served until her election to the Board of Supervisors.
“London has dedicated her entire adult life to serving our communities and improving the City’s housing, environment, public safety, transportation, and quality of life,” her campaign site reads.
2. Growing Up in Poverty, Breed Watched Her Sister Die of a Drug Overdose & Drank Water Out of Old Mayonnaise Jars
Breed is a proud, native San Franciscan who was raised by her grandmother in public housing, according to her campaign site. She graduated from Galileo High School with honors, and attended classes at the University of California, Davis. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science/Public Service with a minor in African American Studies. She continued her schooling to receive a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of San Francisco.
Breed didn’t have it easy growing up. She once told Politico: “From where I came … if you only knew what I had to go through to get here.”
Politico describes Breed as a “product of the tough Plaza East public housing project in the city’s Western Addition.” She told Politico that she once considered herself “hood,” after growing up in poverty, watching her sister die of a drug overdose and her brother get hauled off to prison.
Breed later wrote of her childhood in San Francisco: “Five of us lived on $900 per month. ‘Recycling’ meant drinking out of old mayonnaise jars. Violence was never far away. And once a week, we took Grandma’s pushcart to the community room to collect government-issued groceries.”
3. Breed is Described as “Tenacious, Determined & Extremely Focused” By Those Who Know Her
Breed attributes her iron will and determination to succeed to the adult role models that she looked up to while growing up. She told Politico that her “tough, churchgoing grandmother,” Comelia Brown, her high school guidance counselor Susan Crevillo and her a longtime mentor, former San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, were three of her biggest supporters, and she credits her success to each of them.
Her friends and loved ones describe Breed as “tenacious, determined … extremely focused’’ and possessed of “an amazing dignity.”
Breed told Politico that she never envisioned herself in politics, but “I was watching people like Kamala Harris and I thought, ‘Whoa, you can be in politics and stay true to who you are as a person.’”
She posted a picture of herself and Barack Obama on Facebook with a tribute to the former president: “Thank you President Obama for paving the way, leading by example and making us all proud!”
After watching her mentor Harris’ role in politics, as well as former president Obama’s years in office, she decided to run for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and she “never looked back.”
4. Breed Has Worked Hard to Make San Francisco a Safe, Green Place to Live & Helped Transform Public Housing into Homeless Shelters for Needy Families
Breed has a history of working to make San Francisco a better place to live. She has passed legislation to increase housing along transit routes, pushed for affordable housing in needy neighborhoods and helped transform unused public housing into homes and shelter for homeless families.
“London has fought for more navigation centers for the homeless and launched a task force to study if safe injection facilities can help IV drug users off the streets and into treatment. She is also working on improving mental health services for all San Franciscans,” her biography reads.
She has worked to improve San Francisco’s ambulance response crisis, improved safety for the community, and fought to add more police officers to the city’s force. She was the first person in the country to pass legislation that protects music and nightlife venues, and passed the strongest Styrofoam ban in the country.
Breed has worked hard to minimize San Francisco’s carbon footprint, passing legislation on “drug take-back” programs, which has helped keep over 40 tons of medical waste out of the surrounding Bay and landfills.
“She spearheaded San Francisco’s clean electrical energy program, CleanPowerSF, which is the City’s most important climate change effort, projected to cut more than 940K tons of CO2each year while reducing energy costs,” according to her biography. “She has consistently advocated for safe streets for all users, whether on the bus, a bike, car, or on foot.”
5. Breed’s Message to San Francisco’s Youth: “You Can Do Anything You Want to Do”
As San Francisco’s newly-elected mayor, Breed has a lot of plans to continue improving the city. Her campaign site emphasizes her goals to create better transportation, improve the public school system, minimize homelessness, and make the city safer and more affordable for people of all income levels.
“Breed vowed to be mayor for all of San Francisco, a message she repeated throughout her bid to lead a city that is economically thriving but mired in homelessness, congestion and unaffordable homes. She has vowed to rid the sidewalks of homeless tent camps within a year of taking office,” according to TIME.
At City Hall, she paid tribute to her late grandmother and claimed she had a hand in her win. “She took care of the community, she took care of me even on days when I didn’t deserve it, and so being here in her honor means so much,” she said.
She reflected on the milestone of being the first African-American woman to be the city’s mayor, telling CNN: “It’s really amazing, and it’s really an honor … I know it means so much to so many people.”
“I’m a native San Franciscan — I grew up in some of the most challenging of circumstances,” she said. “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.”