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    Election Reflection: A Whole-Lotta Emotions

    By Peter Gallotta–

    (Editor’s Note: This issue marks the debut of a new column in the San Francisco Bay Times by Peter Gallotta, a rising voice in the progressive movement. Gallotta works in the San Francisco Department of the Environment and already has an impressive political resume, including being appointed to the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee and serving as former President and Board Member of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club.)

    As I stood in the crowd at the election night party for Jane Kim for Mayor, it hit me like a ton of uncounted vote by mail ballots. Nine years ago, to the exact day, I moved to San Francisco. A semi-jaded, fast talking, cigarette smoking, 22-year-old New Yorker, I came to San Francisco with nothing more than a large suitcase and the little money that I had saved.

    San Francisco represented a city of tremendous promise. Where Wall Street didn’t run the city, and universal healthcare was guaranteed for everyone. A place that wasn’t afraid to buck the status quo, and where a queer idealist committed to social justice could feel right at home.

    As the results started coming in on election night, showing Jane in 3rd place, I couldn’t help but think, had I been wrong about San Francisco? Looking around, I could feel the collective loss being felt by the activists, organizers and idealists who had spent countless hours talking to voters about the need for a new direction for the city. Had we been wrong?

    The June 5th special Mayoral election was more than a contest of political candidates; it was a fight for the future of San Francisco. Would San Francisco continue to become a boutique playground for the rich, or would it be a city that a young queer kid could still come to with nothing but a suitcase and hope for a better future?

    My heartache and fear that night was not only that Jane Kim and her vision had lost, but that San Francisco had lost its way. With the fastest growing income inequality in the country, displacement of people of color and working families, and the daily crisis facing our unhoused neighbors, the need for fundamental change had never felt more urgent or existential. If there were ever a time for us to say enough is enough to the moderate political establishment, developers, and billionaires influencing this city’s politics and policies, it was now.

    Rebecca Solnit once said, “Voting is a chess move, not a valentine.” And the reality is, sometimes we lose even our best chess matches. As progressives recover from what was one of the most coordinated efforts to take back the Mayor’s office in a quarter century, we have to take solace in our work and take stock of the current situation.

    The 1–2 Ranked Choice Voting strategy supporting Jane Kim and Mark Leno was effective. When all is said and done, over 60% of Jane’s #2 votes transferred to Leno in the instant runoff, keeping him neck and neck with London Breed for days after the election. Their coordinated efforts may have helped to drive over 50% of registered voters to the polls—a significantly higher turnout than most June primary elections we’ve seen.

    Progressives also stayed united and worked together. From the beginning, progressive groups such as the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, the Tenants Union, the Sierra Club, and SF Rising supported Jane Kim and Mark Leno. Adding to the grassroots push, the San Francisco Democratic Party, under the leadership of David Campos, followed suit and delivered one of its strongest political programs in recent years.

    Down the ballot, progressives actually won. My good friend and mentor, Rafael Mandelman, handedly won his bid for District 8 Supervisor—tipping the scales of power at the Board of Supervisors from moderate to progressive. Jane Kim’s proposed universal childcare measure, Prop C, passed while Prop H, the disingenuous taser measure backed by the Police Officers’ Association, went down in flames. San Francisco renters will now have access to free legal representation when facing an eviction, thanks to Proposition F and the work of the SF chapter of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

    Progressives must recognize, too, that identity, personal story, and representation remain a powerful force in our electoral politics. A glass ceiling and barrier have been shattered with the election of London Breed, the city’s first African American woman mayor. That is progress, and that means something. If progressives don’t take steps to center women, transgender, and people of color in our movement, that mantle of progress should not be ours to claim.

    As we celebrate Pride and remember the resistance led by trans women of color at Stonewall, I’m reminded that progress may start with one thrown brick or even one vote, but it’s sustained by the movement we carry on post-riot, post-election, post-chess move.

    To the young campaign staffers, DSA-ers, and bleeding-heart progressives of this city, I say, don’t give up. It’s ok to love this city and believe in a San Francisco for all of us. Shed those tears, but remember, we’ve still got work to do.

    Peter Gallotta is a 30-something LGBT political activist holding on to the city that he loves thanks to rent control and two-for-one happy hour specials. He is a former President of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club and currently serves as an appointed member of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee and an elected delegate to the California Democratic Party.