The lessons of the June 7 election

Grassroots organizing works. The mayor is done. And the progressives are well poised for November

There are three critical lessons to draw from the election results tonight, and all of them are very good news for the San Francisco left.

One: Despite all the money and slick mailers and attack ads, grassroots organizing and GOTV still matters. Sup. Jane Kim was behind by eight points in the early absentee ballots; by the time the Election Day votes were counted, she was within two points, and by the time all the final Election-Day absentees are counted, there’s a chance she could actually finish first.

Jane Kim leads a diverse slate at tonight's party
Jane Kim leads a diverse slate at tonight’s party

That’s stunning. Kim started out well after Wiener entered the race (actually, he’s been running for years), and had less than half the money. A five-point margin in this primary would have been a victory for her, since turnout (disappointingly low at less than 50 percent tonight) will be far higher in the fall.

And the endorsement of Bernie Sanders, with the energy that brought to the race in the final weeks, was (as the senator from Vermont would say), huge.

If you walked around the streets over the past few days, you saw Kim signs and Kim volunteers. You saw doorhangers for Kim and the Reform Slate for DCCC. You saw very little from the other side, which relied on mail and hit pieces.

Two: Coalitions work. The Reform Slate for DCCC appears to have won at least 14 seats – again, despite a brutal well-funded attack campaign – and is poised (if one or two of the Ex Officios go along, and they might) to retake control of the local party. At the very least, Chair Mary Jung got a vote of no-confidence.

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Why? In part because all of the Reform Slate candidates worked together, while the Real Estate Slate member promoted themselves. The Reform Slate members all shared endorsements on every piece of literature; I got mailers from the likes of Josh Arce and London Breed that never mentioned another candidate.

The Reform Slate was diverse, organized, packed with candidates who brought a larger constituency to the table – and all the talk of a “Peskin Machine” and the attacks went nowhere. In fact, the voters who went to the polls after the nasty hit pieces dropped were even more likely to support the reform slate.

Three: Mayor Ed Lee is already done. The mayor’s allies were all big losers tonight. His candidate for state Senate finished way below expectations. His candidates for DCCC are close to defeat. He didn’t even make much of a showing in the election, because the people he supported knew he was more of a negative than a positive.

I didn’t see a single piece of literature for a single candidate featuring the mayor. It’s as if he is George W. Bush in 2008; nobody wants to be seen with him.

So what does this mean for the fall?

The conservatives who tried to use unlimited DCCC money to get a jump on the Supe races were largely unsuccessful. Josh Arce spent more than $70,000 to run for DCCC, and finished well out of the money; if that was supposed to help him run for District 9 supervisor, it didn’t turn out so well.

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Marjan Philhour, who is running for supe in D1, also spent large sums of DCCC money, and didn’t get a seat. Her main opponent, Sandy Fewer, was elected handily.

All of this bodes well for the fall, when turnout will (almost certainly) be higher, and the Democratic Party will (with any luck) no longer be in the hands of the real-estate industry, and if this remarkable coalition can keep up the momentum, the progressives may keep control of the Board of Supervisors.

Oh, there will be more big money attacking the left candidates. But at this point, Kim will be able to challenge Wiener in that category, since she’s close to being a favorite in the November election. And if the coalition that did the GOTV and won this election can keep up the momentum, the progressives are in remarkably good shape.