SF Election Predictions

by on November 8, 2016

From top left: Jane Kim, No on DHLM, Sandy Fewer, Yes on V

As worn out as people feel about the presidential race, the same is true in San Francisco. The city’s intensely combative State Senate race has been going on since Jane Kim announced her challenge to Scott Wiener on October 14, 2015. Supervisor races have also been going on so long that people are eager for an end.

After being alone in predicting an easy Peskin victory in the D3 Supervisor race in November 2015, I’m hoping for similar success this week. Here are my predictions for initiatives, Supervisors, Judges and the State Senate race.

Prop D: Mayoral Appointments

When Tim Redmond and I did an election forum at the Middle Polk Neighborhood Assn, we divided most over Prop D. He feels that it’s standard practice to hold special elections to fill political replacements, while I see such low-turnout contests as anti-democratic.

I see Prop D losing for three reasons.

First, there has not been much of a Yes on D campaign.Second, it costs money to hold special elections and the same electorate that sought to save money by eliminating runoffs and that backed ranked choice voting will oppose Prop D. Third, a ton of money from allies of Mayor Lee has come in against D as part of the combined No on D, H, L and M campaign.

D will lose.

Prop H: Public Advocate

Prop H has been flying under the radar, which increases its chances. Polls show voters like the idea of a “public advocate.” After all, who can be against someone advocating for the people?

David Campos is the person behind Prop H and he clearly intends to run for Public Advocate if the measure passes. That explains why Campos has recently been saying good things about Mayor Lee, penning a pro-development op-ed in the SF Business Times, and has promoted a more collaborative political identity.

Prop H’s challenge is that it creates up to 26 new city jobs at an annual cost of $3.5 million. It is also opposed by a well-funded campaign. This combination would normally doom Prop H but the long ballot leaves many voters not paying attention to Controller cost estimates.  I see Prop H losing, but a victory would not surprise me.

Props J and K: Sales Tax for Homelessness and Transit

To my deep dismay, it appears this key strategy to add $50 million annually to reduce homelessness and $100 million annually for transit, bike safety and pedestrian improvements is going down to defeat. A Prop Q backer recently blamed Aaron Peskin for opposing J and K, yet Prop Q’s “free” solution to homelessness is the chief reason voters are not willing to pay J and K’s minuscule sales tax hike ($5 for every $1000 purchased).

Prop J and K backers should hit the streets and phones and prove me wrong!

Prop L: SFMTA Appointments

I originally saw Norman Yee’s measure to give the Board of Supervisors split appointments to the SFMTA Board as likely to win, since voters have approved similar split appointments. But there has been almost no Yes on L campaign and voters do not understand what it’s about. Prop L will lose.

Prop M: Housing and Development Commission

I have written a lot about Prop M because it would so negatively impact small business assistance in the Tenderloin. While its backers claim it will bring “transparency” to the housing development process, the M campaign deceives voters by ignoring that its chief impact is not about housing but rather usurping the mayor’s power over small business and economic development.

For a long time I felt that Prop M’s deceptive campaign would succeed. Everyone favors “transparency,” and the ballot question does not include many of Prop M’s downsides. Yet the major cash infusion against all four of the anti-mayor measures coupled with public opposition to Prop M by Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein and Gavin Newsom has turned the tide.

Prop M was put on the ballot by nonprofit housing groups as a poison pill to defeat Props P and U.  The No on M field campaign is far more vigorous, and I now see Prop M losing.

Non-Citizen Voting (Prop N)

There has been little opposition to this measure allowing non-citizens to vote in local school board elections. Prop N will pass.

Prop O: Hunters Point Development Exemption

You can take a Prop O win to the bank.

Prop P:  Nonprofit Competitive Bidding

I previously anointed Prop P, this fake “competitive bidding” measure that could stop nonprofit housing construction, as the worst SF initiative this cycle. Fortunately, like other bad ideas on this ballot, Prop P will lose big.

Prop Q: Sidewalk Camping

Prop Q was my choice for second worse initiative. Unfortunately, due to heavy funding from tech moguls and the public perception that more must be done to stop encampments, this destructive measure will win. Those who backed this measure will soon regret it.

Prop R: Neighborhood Crime Units

Prop R echoes Prop M in asking voters to politicize a process—in this case crime prevention– better left to those who know what they are doing. Q and R are often joined but voters may think twice about shifting power away from district captains. This may be wishful thinking, but I see R losing.

Prop S: Hotel Tax Allocation

Even though it reallocates existing program revenue, Prop S is unopposed. Quite an impressive win.

Prop U:  Revised Inclusionary Requirements

The realtors’ companion to Prop P, Prop U eliminates existing affordable housing units pegged for those at 55% of area media and replaces it with less affordable housing. Voters will reject Prop U.

Prop V: Soda Tax

Passing a soda tax has become a test of a progressive city. San Francisco will pass this test despite Big Soda’s obscene spending to endanger children’s health. Kudos to Supervisor Malia Cohen for her strong leadership on Prop V.

It’s been disappointing to see some progressives treat Big Soda campaign donations as something other than “Dark Money.” I agree that real estate and developer contributions are much more likely to impact a politician’s future votes, but  Big Soda’s attacks on public health and particularly children’s health is as “sleazy” as money comes.

Prop W: Free City College

Jane Kim’s Prop W has opposition from business and commercial real estate groups, but the idea of free City College tuition for local residents is hugely popular. Prop W wins.

Prop X: New PDR Rules

Kim’s measure to protect production, distribution and repair facilities in the Mission and other neighborhoods has not generated the expected major opposition from housing developers. As a result, I see Prop X winning.

Supervisors: District One

I’ve been impressed with the tone of the campaign between Sandy Fewer and Marjan Philhour, and congratulate them both for staying on the high road. I see Fewer winning because of her higher name recognition, voters’  tradition of elevating School Board members to the Board, and her strongly pro-tenant views that D1 voters support.

District Three

Peskin wins.

District Five

London Breed has run the best campaign of any supervisor candidate.

One year ago she gave a fiery election eve speech urging voters to elect Julie Christensen and defeat Aaron Peskin in D3. This was among many positions that placed Breed well to the right of D5 voters. With a tough challenge from Dean Preston, Breed was vulnerable.

Today, we have a reinvented London Breed. Once often defensive, she has shown herself to be engaging and personable. Most importantly, over the past year Breed has forged a progressive voting record on the Board.

An African-American tenant raised in D5 public housing, Breed’s impressive life story now overshadows her moderate, pre-2016 supervisor votes. She went to Washington DC and joined with Mayor Lee in convincing HUD to back neighborhood preferences in affordable housing. She joined Peskin and Campos as the Board’s leading critics of Airbnb, and used her position as Board President to appoint popular progressive Myrna Melgar to the Planning Commission.

In an election cycle with a lot of talk of “dark money” independent expenditure campaigns, Breed got less than $9000 (such donations would hurt her in D5). Neither Peskin nor Kim endorsed Preston, and D5 is the only district where Peskin has not actively backed the candidate seen as most progressive (some believe Peskin made a deal with Breed not to endorse in exchange for her support on key issues).

Preston wisely invested heavily in a field campaign to directly get his message to voters, and has tried to score points against Breed by tying her to the mayor (Breed responded to this in a debate by saying that “she did not play golf with the mayor”). Preston’s team believes that he better fits a district that previously elected staunch progressives Matt Gonzalez and Ross Mirkarimi, but I see Breed winning in D5.

District Seven

Norman Yee wins

District Nine

This race between two progressives, Josh Arce and Hillary Ronen, has turned nasty. Arce backers portray Ronen as part of a failed status quo in the Mission that has increased crime and homeless encampments; this is based on Ronen’s position as an aide to David Campos and on her strong support from the two prior D9 supervisors, Campos and Ammiano.

Ronen backers, particularly Campos, who has acted as the lead attack dog against Arce, constantly challenge his progressive credentials. But the truth is that Arce began this campaign with a far more progressive history than David Campos had when he first ran for D9 supervisor.

Arce’s recent endorsement by UFW legend Dolores Huerta should also end any talk that he is not sufficiently progressive.

Ronen has gained nearly all of the endorsements from progressive-identified political clubs, and that makes a decisive difference in D9. And this is one of the races where voters unsure of any clear policy differences prefer to go with the female candidate

I see Ronen winning in D9.

District Eleven

Contrary to what others are saying, a progressive is guaranteed to win in D11. Ahsha Safai is backed by Jane Kim (who co-endorsed), top officials at the San Francisco Labor Council, and the Community Tenants Association, the city’s largest and most active tenant group. That there is a group of progressives who believe Safai’s success at winning support among non-progressives is a sign he can’t be trusted is a reflection of their own sectarianism; progressives like Peskin and Kim always have had backers beyond their traditional base.

Kimberly Alvarenga’s message to D11 voters is that she best represents their views. Safai’s message is that he represents their views and has delivered for the community. I see Safai winning in D11.

Superior Court Judge

Victor Hwang has combined a visible grassroots campaign with key endorsements. I see Hwang defeating Paul Henderson.

State Senate

When Jane Kim announced that she was challenging Scott Wiener, the overwhelming consensus was that she could not win. Wiener was described as a “machine” who could outwork anyone when it came to meeting voters. It was also expected that he would have massive amounts of money and strong establishment support.

I saw the race differently. I saw Kim as having a lot of advantages. After citing Kim’s assets I wrote in October 2015 that “Jane Kim has been underestimated throughout her political career. She is accustomed to having the San Francisco political establishment backing her opponent, and is not deterred.”

Kim’s surprising June primary victory was widely attributed to late support from Bernie Sanders backers rather than to her success connecting with voters outside the progressive base. Pundits combined the Sanders factor with the presumed transfer to Wiener of those voting for the Republican candidate in June and concluded he would win in November.

Wiener’s camp was no so confident. That’s why they embraced as early as June a relentless attack campaign against Kim in order to hurt her support among moderates.

I raised the question last month, “Will Wiener Attacks Sink Kim’? My answer is that while this race will be so close it could take a week to decide, my bet is on Kim winning.

I see Jane Kim as having built a movement of support while Scott Wiener relies on voters backing because him because he is closer to them on the issues. I have often made analogies between Kim’s campaign and Matt Gonzalez’s 2003 mayoral effort, but there is one big difference that I think decides this race: Scott Wiener is not Gavin Newsom.

What I and other Gonzalez backers did not fully appreciate in that 2003 race was that Newsom was also charismatic. He had also built a grassroots movement. That’s what enabled Newsom (along with outspending Matt 10-1) to overcome Gonzalez’s remarkable campaign.

I don’t see a passionate base for Scott Wiener. But I see hundreds of people emotionally, politically and personally driven to do everything they can to elect Jane Kim.

And while Wiener may be known as a “machine,” nobody has ever outworked Jane Kim.

So while most are still predicting a Wiener victory, in the most important San Francisco race in 2016  I’m sticking with my original choice as the winner: Jane Kim.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron


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's latest book is Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America. He is the author of four prior 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. He is also the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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