Tell Tale Signs/Disappointing Local Election Results

by Rodel Rodis on November 12, 2004

I watched the election results on election night in the pavillion adjoining the fabled rotunda staircase of the San Francisco City Hall. The local tallies were regularly flashed on the giant center screen sandwiched between 60 inch projection TVs that showed CNN and FOXnews coverage of the national elections.

The center screen posted the results of my college board race showing that with 96,685 votes, I had won re-election. But I was not in any mood to celebrate as my presidential candidate, John Kerry, had lost Florida, and was behind in Ohio, which he badly needed to win to pull out an electoral college victory.

“There’s still a chance,” a few folks assured me as we watched the vote tabulations. San Francisco may be on earth but the rest of the country must be in a different planet, a red one like Mars, filled with red specks.
While George W. Bush won 51% of the votes nationwide, John F. Kerry won 83% of the votes in San Francisco, as blue a city as there ever was. But Bush may very well owe his victory to San Francisco. Election analysts attribute his reelection to the huge turnout of Christian evangelical voters who voted for him because of his staunch opposition to gay marriage.

For a week in February, just 9 months ago, more than 4,000 gay couples lined up outside this City Hall rotunda to legally exchange their wedding vows
in San Francisco. While large numbers of married straight couples are routinely filing for divorce, here were thousands of gays joyfully rushing to officially
cement their long-term relationships with a ring and a solemn promise to remain true to each other forever.

But it was the nightly sight on the television screens of gays hugging and kissing each other that mobilized support for Bush among Christian conservatives (ironically just as it would have galvanized support for
Osama bin Laden among Islamic fundamentalists).

It did not matter that Kerry had himself come out in opposition to gay marriage or that Bush, in the last week of the campaign, voiced support for civil unions for gays as Kerry had advocated. Bush and his chief strategist, Karl Rove, had cleverly and successfully exploited the cultural wedge issues of gay marriage, abortion and stem cell research to win the support of the majority of voters.

That strategy, combined with spending more than $100-M to define Kerry as a “flip flopper” and to redefine the bemedalled Vietnam War hero as an
anti-Vietnam War traitor even before Kerry could define himself to the American people, proved the magic formula for success. Negative advertising works. Just ask the Swift Boat Veterans and the wolf packs.

Nationally, the Los Angeles Times Exit Poll found that the minority vote went to Kerry with 86% of Blacks, 64% of Asian Pacific Islanders and 54% of Latinos voting for Kerry. But while Kerry won the minority vote, Bush was reelected because he was supported by almost 58% of the white vote.

By 2050, minorities in the US will account for half of all Americans. I’ll be almost 100 by then and I hope I don’t have to wait that long for a Democrat to win the presidency.

To the Filipino Republicans who actively campaigned for President Bush, congratulations. In your hands lie the fate of our WW II veterans. John Kerry had pledged his support for the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill together
with more than 186 Democrats in the House who had signed on as co-sponsors of the equity bill. If you believe that the victory of Republicans is good for our veterans, here’s your chance to show it. Increase the number of House Republican sponsors for the equity bill from the measly 16 in the last session. I dare you – prove me wrong. Prove that President Bush cares for our veterans.

The November election results were a disaster not just for Democrats but for the Filipino community as well. While other minority groups made great strides in empowering themselves, our community faltered even more.

Filipinos can trace the history of Filipinos in California back to October 18, 1587 when the first “Luzon Indians” set foot in Morro Bay. In contrast, the Vietnamese community immigrated to Orange County after the fall of Vietnam in 1975. More than 25 years later, there is now a Vietnamese American elected to the California State Assembly, Van Tranh from OC. After more than 400 years, how many Filipinos have been elected to the California Legislature? Zero. Nada. Wala.

While other minority groups fielded candidates to various city council and school board posts, Filipinos ran for only a few positions. Less than a dozen Filipinos ran for elective posts in the whole Bay Area where it is estimated that Filipinos comprise 10% of the total population (350,000 out of 3.5-M). In San Francisco alone, there were more than 12 Chinese American candidates for different positions. There should have been at least 50 Fil-Am candidates running for various posts throughout the Bay Area.

In San Francisco, I thought my being regularly introduced as the only Filipino elected official in the City for the last 13 years would finally end with the election of two Filipinos to the Board of Supervisors, Myrna Lim in District 11 and Art Belenson (“the Mayor of West Portal”) in District 7. It would have been a sweet 7-11 victory. But it was not to be. In the 11th District, Art placed a distant 11th garnering only 382 votes.

Though Myrna lost, she placed a respectable second in District 7 with 3,448 votes compared to incumbent Gerardo Sandoval’s 6113 votes. With San Francisco’s unique Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in place, Myrna received additional votes to total 6,159 which would have been enough to unseat Sandoval if he was completely shut out as the second choice of voters.

Unfortunately, Sandoval wasn’t shut out. Alameda County was a bright spot for Filipinos as New Haven School Board member Jim Navarro beat out incumbent Ben Elias to win a seat in the City Council of Union City joining fellow Filipino Manny Fernandez in the 5
Member Council. The one remaining Filipino incumbent in the New Haven School Board, Jonas Dino, narrowly won re-election by 60 votes.

In the Santa Clara City of Milpitas, incumbent Mayor Joe Esteves easily won re-election over challenger Jim Dawson. In Solano County, Rev. Tony Ubalde won election to the College Board of the Solano Community College.

In Contra Costa County, incumbent Jess Reyes lost his seat in the Contra Costa Community College while Edgar Centeno failed in his bid for the BART Board District 5 seat.

In San Mateo County, Fel Amistad failed in his third bid for election to the County School Board Area 4, garnering 29,956 votes to place 2nd out of 4. Andrew Estigoy lost his run for a seat in the South San Francisco School Board, placing 6th out of 6.

Of 11 Filipino candidates who ran for office in the Bay Area, 6 lost. We can only view the election results optimistically as “almost half full” if we resolve to do considerably better in the next elections. It has to be
a community effort.

Filed under: Bay Area / California