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    June Election Notes – Recapping the Mayor’s Race

    By Louise “Lou” Fischer–

    On June 5, 2018, 52% of registered voters in San Francisco cast their ballots for a bunch of state and local candidates, but who are we kidding. The Mayor’s race, with all of its plot twists and turns, was the main event. Shakespeare himself could not have written a tragicomedy that matched the drama and suspense that played out in San Francisco. In April, I jokingly predicted that London Breed would win, based on the non-scientific criteria of endorsements (http://sfbaytimes.com/keeping-score-san-francisco-mayors-race/). But what really happened in this election? While the easy answer is that London Breed finally got more votes (and reached the 50% + 1 threshold first), the explanation is a lot more nuanced.  

    Mark Leno’s Campaign – From Marathon to Sprint

    Mark Leno’s campaign started in mid-2017 with the playbook of raising buckets of money and scaring off challengers in the upcoming November 2019 election. When Mayor Lee tragically passed away in December 2018, the campaign needed to switch from marathon to sprint mode, but that never materialized. 

    Senator Leno had a long and distinguished career in public service and his qualifications to serve as Mayor were never in doubt. He is known for his kindness, grace and civility and the ability to work with people across a broad political spectrum; these were the hallmarks of his success. However, his campaign platform of “shaking things up at City Hall” did not resonate with voters and he violated the cardinal rule of running for office, which is to “be yourself, because everyone else is already taken.” He re-branded himself as a “left-leaning progressive,” and then formed a 1–2 ranked choice strategy with Jane Kim. This didn’t work, and maybe even alienated huge swaths of his longtime supporters. 

    The combination of tragedy, bad timing, and most of all, the decision to go along with the bone-headed, idiotic and tone-deaf idea to replace London Breed with Mark Farrell as caretaker Mayor was too much for the campaign to overcome. Not to diminish Mayor Lee’s contributions, but if he had declared “mission accomplished” and the “desire to spend more time with family” instead of running for re-election in 2015, Mark’s message would have worked better in 2015, San Francisco would have had its first openly-gay Mayor, and while we’ll never know for sure, maybe Mayor Lee’s kind and gentle heart would still be beating today without the stress and burden of serving as Mayor for a second term.  

    Jane Kim – Potential Spoiler Turned Ally

    Jane Kim made a valiant effort, and with ranked choice voting, she had a chance to pick up London Breed’s second choice votes from the “I want to vote for a woman of color” contingent along with Mark Leno’s second choices from the progressive voting bloc. But realistically, this race was between Leno and Breed. File this under “we haven’t seen the last of Jane Kim.” Jane is smart, engaging and overall is doing a pretty good job as Supervisor for District 6. Don’t count her out yet, as I’m sure she’ll be on the ballot again soon.

    Angela Alioto – Because No Election in SF Is Ever Dull

    I love Angela Alioto’s “in your face” style and she clearly has the brains to back it up. Her father was Mayor for 2 terms and she was President of the Board of Supervisors for 2 years, so she’s not a political neophyte. She presented some good ideas about how to alleviate the homeless crisis, but went a little off the rails on the topic of sanctuary city laws. I still don’t know what she was talking about and as Ronald Reagan said, “In politics, if you’re explaining, you’re losing.” She has 6 brothers, 1 sister, 4 children and a huge extended family, so I predict we’ll have an Alioto in every future San Francisco election until we replace all of our elected officials with robots and Artificial Intelligence.  

    London Breed – From Victim to Martyr

    The decision to replace London Breed with a wealthy, white man barely a week after the Women’s March at the height of the #MeToo movement was stupid, hypocritical and backfired badly. Aaron Peskin and the other masterminds behind this insane maneuver insisted it was needed to ensure a separation of legislative and executive powers and believed that the only way to remove Ron Conway’s white, male, moneyed interests from City Hall was to put a different white, male, wealthy venture capitalist in charge; yeah, right.

    The idea that London Breed had “too much advantage” in her role as acting Mayor was downright ridiculous. An African American woman, a product of the public educational system who clawed her way from public housing and a childhood of poverty to City Hall suddenly has more “advantage” than a wealthy, white Ivy-League educated venture capitalist who graduated from elite private schools and lives in the Marina? No amount of “man-splaining” could overcome the optics of that move and to no one’s surprise, London Breed went from victim to martyr in less time than it took for Mark Farrell’s family to magically appear from the side room in which they were stashed for his “surprise” late-night swearing-in at City Hall after the contentious Board of Supervisors meeting that slammed the door shut on poor Jeff Sheehy’s campaign for District 8 Supervisor.

    Donations for Breed’s campaign poured in, both the Women’s and African American communities got energized, and voters who were conflicted or hadn’t yet made up their minds saw this as a slap in the face and put their support behind London Breed. Granted, there were 8 tense days of vote-counting after the election, and with approximately 70% of Jane Kim’s second choice votes going to Mark Leno, he had a slim chance of victory. But in the end, London Breed won in 9 out of 11 Districts and was the first choice for the majority of San Francisco voters.

    It’s a big deal that London Breed won. Her victory is a national story and is now part of the narrative of women—and especially women of color—running for office across the country. San Francisco elected a native daughter, graduate of the public school system, and in her own words, sent the message to “the next generation of young people growing up in this city is that no matter where you come from, no matter what you decide to do in life, you can do anything you want to do.”

    Louise (Lou) Fischer is the Immediate Past Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and has served as an appointed and elected Delegate for the State Democratic Party. She is a San Francisco Commissioner and has served in leadership positions in multiple non-profit and community-based organizations.