SF Races in Home Stretch

by on September 6, 2016

Labor Day starts the home stretch of San Francisco’s races for Supervisor and State Senate. Here, in numerical order, is our assessment.

District One

Sandra Fewer remains the strong favorite against Marjan Philhour for the same reasons that I have previously noted: her tenure on the School Board  gives her a huge edge and she better reflects the politics of her two D1 predecessors.  Fewer has also been endorsed by the SF Democratic Party and has a strong field campaign. This race is not really in doubt.

District Three

When I exclude D3 I get accusing of forgetting that Aaron Peskin is up for election. Yes, he is, and wins easily.

District Five

Incumbent London Breed enters the home stretch in a very strong position in her race for re-election against Dean Preston. This is attributable to many factors.

For example, Cindy Wu’s decision to leave the Planning Commission (and get back her Thursday nights) opened up a spot for Breed to demonstrate progressive credentials with her own choice. She then hit a grand slam by selecting Myrna Melgar. Melgar is a longtime tenant advocate who is also an expert on affordable and middle-income housing.  She was on the progressive SFDCCC slate for the June election, and progressives cheered Breed’s appointment of her.

Breed also got a break in the wrong way when HUD rejected the city’s neighborhood preference policy that she and Malia Cohen got passed by the Board. This gave Breed a chance to wage an all out campaign to save the preference, which included local media events and a trip to HUD in Washington where she powerfully made the city’s case. HUD now says it is revisiting their decision. If this occurs, Breed deserves major credit. If HUD doesn’t change its position, Breed still benefits for aggressively battling D5 gentrification, the precise issue Preston sees her as vulnerable on.

In 2016 Breed has voted with progressives on Airbnb reform and other measures. She is running in an election cycle where progressive Democratic clubs have backed women in every race, and where Hillary Clinton tops the ticket. Breed is also running at a time when the declining number of African-Americans in San Francisco is a major issue.

Preston always faced an uphill battle.  He seemed to have a chance for the SF Democratic Party endorsement when progressives won a DCCC majority, but Breed got the nod. Neither Aaron Peskin (despite Breed endorsing Julie Christensen over him) nor Jane Kim backed Preston at the DCCC, and neither have endorsed him.

The San Francisco Tenants Union, which backs longtime renters advocate Preston, recently posted on Facebook their dismay at this lack of progressive support.  It is likely a sign that some progressives see Breed as winning in D5, and see future benefits in aligning with her.  Some may not want to back a white male facing an uphill fight against an African-American female incumbent.

Tom Ammiano, Matt Gonzalez and Harry Britt have all endorsed Preston, who is running a strong field campaign. But his uphill challenge to Breed has gotten even harder.

District Seven

Norman Yee faces no major opposition despite voting as a progressive while representing one of the city’s two most conservative districts. Yee was eminently beatable in this race had the right candidate run; his personal popularity with voters left him without such an opponent.

District Nine

Every time I update this race between two progressive candidates (Josh Arce and Hillary Ronen) it still looks like Ronen’s backing by her predecessors—–Tom Ammiano and David Campos—gives her an edge. Her Democratic Party endorsement and an election cycle that favors women candidates also helps Ronen.

Arce is working hard to build a political base in the Mission, and has support from those believing that “it’s time for a change” from the supervisor status quo. But high voting Bernal Heights will go big for Ronen, and it would take an unexpected development in the next two months for her not to prevail.

District Eleven

This race between Ahsha Safai and Kimberly Alvarenga reminds me of the 2002 D8 runoff between the late Eileen Hansen and Bevan Dufty. In both cases the candidate backed by most progressives was opposed by someone whose connections in the district were strengthened due to city jobs working for the Mayor’s Office. Further, Hansen’s runoff campaign explicitly tied Duffy to his support from Mayor Brown,  while Alvarenga’s backers describe Safai as overly influenced by Mayor Lee.

Duffy won that runoff, which contributed to the passage of  ranked choice voting (Tom Radulovich was the third major candidate in the race and it was believed that Hansen would have won most of his second-place votes ).

When Safai narrowly failed to win the SF DCCC endorsement, Alvarenga backers cited this as a big victory. But that vote really showed that Safai has a broader political base, and is the favorite to win.

Kim v. Wiener

Jane Kim grabbed the momentum in this race once Bernie Sanders endorsed her, and she hasn’t slowed down since. Wiener is trying to peel away her moderate support by citing votes she cast that might alienate such voters, and he will also focus on his positions favored by moderates on a number of ballot measures (including the Public Advocate (Prop H), which Kim backed).

But these votes, or the bizarre allegation that Kim is “dating” a California Supreme Court judge, may not make any difference.  Voters know Jane Kim and Scott Wiener and most have made up their minds.

Kim is riding a Year of the Woman wave that we last saw in 1992 and has reemerged in San Francisco with Hillary Clinton, two women running for U.S. Senate, and major female candidates in the contested supervisor races. Kim is also one of a handful of candidates nationally that Bernie Sanders has asked his followers to support.

Wiener benefits from being the endorsed candidate on the SF Democratic Party slate card, but I have previously explained why that slate card will be less significant this November.   Wiener will need some big new revelation (one based on face, not gossip) to change public perceptions of Kim; otherwise Kim will win.

A lot can happen before November. But if past experience is a guide, those ahead now will prevail.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron. He is the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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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