Political Predictions

by on June 4, 2018

Who Will Win the Key CA, East Bay and SF Races?

It’s time for our election predictions. And not a second too soon.  Even the shortened San Francisco mayor’s race seems to have gone on too long. Most voters are eager for the mailings, texts and robocalls to stop.

I blame the top-two nature of so many races for this very boring June primary. Add the exclusion of major state ballot measures from low-turnout June elections and you have a statewide election that postpones big decisions until November. Even San Francisco’s mayor’s race has not generated the heat and passion of past open seat contests, with a low voter turnout predicted.

Here are my predictions on the key races.

State Races


I called the Governor’s race for Gavin Newsom months ago. The only question is whether Antonio Villaraigosa can use the over $10 million he got from charter school backers to finish second; the odds, however, favor Republican John Cox.

When Villaraigosa was elected mayor of Los Angeles I thought he was positioned to be California’s first Latino governor of the modern era. But a series of bad decisions and a mind-boggling trip to Mexico with Charlie Sheen wrecked his career. Now he has $20 million in donations and cannot get more votes than John Cox.

Delaine Easton ran as a progressive but never galvanized a grassroots movement like Cynthia Nixon is doing in New York’s governor race. If Kevin de Leon had run for governor instead of mounting a steeply uphill Senate race he would have given Newsom a tough challenge.

Attorney General

Xavier Becerra and Dave Jones will finish in the top two and square off in November. What I find curious about this race is how many white progressives are backing Jones. Latino voting has been the key to California’s blue super majority. Should this not bring efforts to elect progressive Latinos like Becerra to major statewide offices?

When the 2018 elections are over California will have no Latino U.S. Senators and a white governor. If elected in November Becerra would be the only Latino holding one the state’s most influential offices.

East Bay Assembly D-15

I’ve written a lot about this contest, which pits several existing officeholders seeking higher positions. Buffy Wicks has combined her community organizer and fundraising skills to assemble a strong field campaign; she will be the top vote-getter. The question is who she faces in the runoff.

Jovanka Beckles might have won the race had the California Nurses Association not backed a rival candidate from El Cerrito, but a split Contra Costa County vote likely prevents Beckles from making the runoff.

I see Wick’s November opponent coming down to a contest between Judy Appel and Dan Kalb. The winner depends on whether more people vote in Berkeley or in the Oakland part of the district (Appel is a Berkeley School Board member and Kalb’s entire Oakland City Council seat is in D-15).

Forced to choose, I’ll pick Appel for three reasons: people in that Assembly district prefer electing women, voters like elevating School Board members, and Berkeley homeowners are extremely high turnout voters. But the huge turnout for Kalb in Oakland could put him over the top, and his race with  Appel is really too close to call.

San Francisco

Ballot Measures

On the contested ballot measures, I see Prop C winning and Prop D losing. I’ve made no secret of my belief that Prop D, which would be the biggest injection of new funding for homeless housing in SF history, has been unfairly caught up in anti-Breed mayoral politics. Nevertheless, when no “progressive” supervisor backed Prop D, its chances of gaining the 2/3 vote necessary for victory sharply declined.

I believe that the London Breed- backed Prop D will get more votes than Prop C. But Prop C—the commercial rent tax to fund childcare—only needs a majority. Credit to Jane Kim’s team for taking advantage of the new state Supreme Court ruling allowing tax hikes with a bare majority when they are put on the ballot through signatures. Had housing advocates done the same, Prop D would have prevailed over Prop C despite the lack of progressive endorsements.

I see Prop E winning despite the over $11 million spent against it by Big Tobacco. San Francisco voters have a long history of not falling for Big Tobacco’s lies.

Prop F, the right to counsel in eviction lawsuits sponsored by Dean Preston and tenant groups, is headed for victory. The Apartment Association is waging a late campaign against Prop F but the idea is simply too popular and  necessary to be defeated.

But Prop F’s passage will not bring legal representation to tenants until the city allocates the money. Supervisor Breed sought $3.4 million to fund the right to counsel but Acting Mayor Farrell refused to include that amount, or any funding, in his 2018-19 budget. The winner of the June mayoral election needs to revise the budget to provide the money necessary to begin Prop F’s implementation.

Prop G, which provides a pay hike to grossly underpaid San Francisco public school teachers, easily wins.

I assumed that Prop H, the Police Officers Association Taser measure, would go down to a big defeat. But while I still predict it loses, the confusing ballot language could lead uniformed voters to think that a Yes vote favors progressive reform. So Prop H might be closer than I originally thought.

District 8 Supervisor

Appointed incumbent Jeff Sheehy has run a great campaign in recent weeks. Coupled with his strong performance in his one year as supervisor and his backing from Gavin Newsom and Scott Wiener, Sheehy should be well ahead in this race.

But as I have written in prior stories on this race, Rafael Mandelman has been actively campaigning for the D8 seat for several years. He got the endorsement of the two most prominent LGBTQ clubs and the San Francisco Democratic Party (That’s why Veritas, the city’s largest residential landlord, contributed $30,000 to the Democrats after Sheehy recently co-sponsored a measure limiting rent passthroughs to tenants).

If I had to identify one race on June 5 where conventional wisdom could be proved wrong, it is in D8. But I have to go with Mandelman.

The Mayor’s Race

In my first campaign story on January 11 (before Breed’s ouster as Acting Mayor), I saw Leno as “the only candidate who will draw a lot of votes everywhere.” In contrast, I saw Kim as having too narrow a voting base and felt Breed “lacks the unchallenged support of a broad constituency base. Nor is she well known outside her district.”

By the end of January, the circumstances of Breed’s removal as Acting Mayor changed the race. First, it solved her problem of a lack of name recognition. Second, it gave Breed a new edge with women voters. Third, and most importantly, it instilled a sense of grievance in Breed backers and the feeling that electing London Breed was part of a larger mission.

While Breed has greatly expanded her base, Leno’s anticipated progressive support was seized by Jane Kim. This forced Leno to spend a lot of time securing a base he expected to have from the outset. It also led to the Leno-Kim “tag team” for second choice votes, as this gets Leno the progressive voters whose first loyalty is to Kim.

The question for Tuesday is whether a Leno-Kim team primarily focused on progressives can get 51% of the vote when a progressive majority has not elected a mayor since Art Agnos’ landslide victory in 1987 (Willie Brown won progressives in 1995 but also had a much broader base).  Matt Gonzalez came closest in 2003, but he had the strong support from Irish builders and key Chinese-American leaders. Gonzalez was a very special candidate who won the largest progressive vote for a mayoral candidate the city will likely ever see again.

(I am using the terms “progressive” and “moderate” as they have been historically understood in San Francisco politics.  Since these terms identify opposition to housing and homeless services as somehow progressive (e.g. Norman Yee), they clearly need an overhaul. Barbara Lee, the most progressive member of the House of Representatives, endorsed London Breed).

Gavin Newsom won that close 2003 race without almost any progressive support.  In 2011, Ed Lee won handily without progressive votes outside Chinatown. Willie Brown won by 19% against Tom Ammiano in 1999 when progressives outside labor unions were strongly in the loser’s camp.

I raise these past elections because they show that progressive candidates cannot win without sufficient moderate support. And I don’t think the Leno-Kim team has secured it.

Leno failed to mount much of any visible campaign on the city’s voter-rich Westside. Kim got Westside plaudits for opposing Scott Wiener’s SB 827 but it would be the surprise of the election if conservative Westside voters chose Jane Kim as mayor because of her opposition to a dead state bill.

In contrast, Breed has followed the winning path of fellow African American Willie Brown in 1999 and devoted much of her time to the Westside. Breed has the biggest Westside phone operation to Chinese-American voters. She also has strong backing from an independent expenditure campaign associated with the San Francisco Firefighters Local 798, which may be the most politically influential group among Westside voters (the firefighters were all in for Breed before that North Beach fire but her support for them during the blaze while Aaron Peskin was denouncing the fire fighting effort added passion to the firefighters campaign).

As a result of cultivating voters and also securing the endorsements of Carmen Chu, Katy Tang and David Chiu, Breed will beat the Leno-Kim team on the Westside and among Chinese-American voters outside Chinatown.

Breed will also beat Leno-Kim in high turnout  District 2, whose huge margin for Newsom was key to his 2003 victory. I originally thought Leno had enough moderate chops to win District 2, but he has not campaigned much there. His alliance with the progressive Kim could cost him votes in this part of the city.

Breed will also get a lot more votes in progressive District 5 than Newsom, Lee or Brown got in their winning races. And D5 has a lot of votes.

Some have long doubted London Breed’s ability to get to 51%. I see it less likely that the Leno-Kim team reaches 51%. Leno’s best chance is with the skewed turnout to older voters expected from the projected low voter turnout. But Breed will also do well with that constituency.

For these reasons and others I have discussed in prior articles, I see London Breed winning the June 2018 mayor’s race. I’ll have a report in Wednesday’s Beyond Chron on how well my predictions matched the results.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron. His new book, Generation Priced Out, will be out in October from UC Press.

Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw is the author of four books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. His new book is The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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