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UncategorizedPolitics on Tuesday: The new (sorta) Board of Supervisors...

Politics on Tuesday: The new (sorta) Board of Supervisors — and what the vote-by-mail results mean

Where Prop. G won is no surprise -- the vote-by-mail turnout is the bigger issue
Where Prop. G won is no surprise — the vote-by-mail turnout is the bigger issue

By Tim Redmond

NOVEMBER 11, 2014 – The Next Big Thing in San Francisco politics will be the reshaping of the Board of Supervisors, which could start to happen as early as Dec. 1, when Sup. David Chiu resigns to join the state Assembly.

The Examiner has the pretty predictable discussion here: Mayor Ed Lee will appoint a new District 3 supe, and the name most commonly heard is Planning Commission President Cindy Wu. Her name’s been circulating almost since Chiu entered the race; if he had lost, she might well have run for his seat in two years anyway.

Wu works for the Chinatown Community Development Center and has been a good planning commissioner, most often on the progressive side of issues. From my (limited) experience with her, I’d say she might very well turn out to be more aligned with the progressives than Chiu, certainly on land-use and housing issues – especially since she won’t start her tenure with her eyes immediately on advancement.

(If Chiu hadn’t become board president in his first term, I think he would have been a better supervisor. The power got to him, and he proved he would do what was necessary, including cutting a deal with the conservatives, to keep it. Then he ran for mayor, and then for Assembly.)

Of course, mayoral appointees tend to be loyal to the mayor, at least for a while.

There’s a certain amount of gaming that will go on – if the mayor waits until early January, and leaves Chiu’s seat open over the holidays (when nothing happens anyway), his appointee could serve the remainder of Chiu’s term and then two full terms, or ten years. Long time.

And of course, there will be a vote in December for board president, and then another one, by law, in January, when the new board is seated, which will be the same as the old board, except for a change in D3.

So who’s the interim president, and who gets the nod in January for a two-year term – and does the D3 appointee make a big difference?

The standard line is that Sup. Mark Farrell (conservative, but collegeial), Jane Kim (progressive on some issues, not on others) and London Breed (in the middle, maybe a fallback if nobody else can win) are all in the mix.

I don’t know what Breed is thinking about the future, but Farrell and Kim both have very obvious ambitions for future office, and the board presidency is a high-profile job.

(Although when you look back at modern history, board presidents don’t tend to get elected mayor. Quentin Kopp, John Molinari, Matt Gonzalez, and Chiu all tried to run from that position and lost. Dianne Feinstein became mayor after the assassination of George Moscone, but never ran successfully before that.)

So let’s have a little fun and play this out. Nobody at this point has a clear six votes, and I would be very surprised if anyone won on the first round (unless progressive Sups. David Campos, John Avalos, and Eric Mar all got behind a single candidate — say, Kim — who also had a couple of moderate backers.)

Suppose, for example, Campos – who everyone knows is honest and can be trusted to do what he says – threw his hat in the ring. (I haven’t talked to him, don’t know if he wants the job, this is all my personal speculation.) He’d get Avalos and Mar and himself – and maybe, if Farrell can’t put together six, he’d back Campos, whom he endorsed for Assembly.

That’s four. Only two votes short.

In other words: It’s wide open today.

Now, we’re talking about December here. The person who wins then doesn’t necessarily win again in January, but has a decided advantage. Probably Wu (or Lee’s other pick, whoever that might be) isn’t on the board yet.

Who’s backing Kim? Farrell? Breed?

And could someone take the job for a month and then lose it in January – when, if it’s close, Wu will be the deciding vote, and the mayor will be asking her to support his choice (who will not be Campos)?

The board president appoints committee members, which will mean nothing in December but a lot in January. He or she can also change the rules for Question Time, and allow supervisors to ask the mayor questions from the floor, that aren’t pre-scripted, and turn this into a real exercise in democracy and debate.

And the board president appoints members of some key commissions.

So it matters. When Chiu was first elected board president, it was a late compromise – he was new, he claimed to be a progressive, and nobody knew much about him. So the left wing of the board went with Chiu, who soon showed that his loyalty was elsewhere.

That’s not going to happen this time (unless the truly unlikely happens, and the new mayoral appointee gets the job). We will all know what we’re getting. For better or for worse.


There’s an interesting, if not surprising, pattern to the election results: Campos beat Chiu handily on Election Day. Prop. G won Election Day voters, 41,253 to 39,626. But Chiu and No on G won so many more of the Vote-By-Mail ballots that the Election Day totals weren’t decisive.

This is nothing new; the VBM votes have always been more conservative. A sizable number of people who are registered as permanent VBM live on the West side of town, vote in every election, and are, at best, moderates, particularly on economic issues.

But there were far more VBM votes this time around than Election Day votes, and that’s becoming standard, especially in lower-turnout elections. There were about 80,000 Election Day votes on Prop. G, and more than 100,000 VBM votes. The progressives have never seemed to figure out how to win the VBM.

Part of that is just reality: If we didn’t have VBM, those conservative voters would have gone to the polls and we would have lost them anyway. But part of it is a rapidly changing landscape: Election Day Get-Out-The-Vote efforts, where the left has always done well, can’t compete with VBM GOTV, that happens in the month before Election Day.

In the past, the Election Day VBM ballots – that is, the people who get their ballot in the mail but wait until the end to fill it out and turn it in – have tended to break about the same way as the Election Day votes. Not so this time; Campos won close to 57 percent on Election Day, but the Election Day VBMs broke more than 55 percent for Chiu.

I’m not sure why. It bears some serious thought.

Because the way things are going, pretty soon everyone’s going to vote by mail (or someday, on the web), and traditional Election Day strategies are going to be useless.

Problem is, VBM outreach is more expensive. You can’t just sent a crew out on one Tuesday. You have weeks to cover. You have to find the voters, make sure they got their ballots, and make sure they turned them in. It takes more than one day of volunteer (or paid staff) work, which is why well-financed campaigns tend to have better luck with it.

The Campos campaign had a stunning Election Day effort, with more than 500 volunteers across the district. The Chiu campaign had paid staff making sure that the absentee vote count was in.

That’s going to happen with the mayor’s race, no matter who runs. Election Day is now a month long. We’re going to have to figure out how to deal with it.


There are two political events I’m not going to miss this week: The Jobs with Justice forum called “What’s Left,” looking back at the election, featuring Neva Walker from Coleman Advocates and SF Rising, Emily Jieming Lee from Families for an Affordable San Francisco, Mike Casey from UNITE HERE Local 2, and this guy named Tim Redmond.

It’s Thursday Nov. 13, 7pm, at the Bayanihan Center, 1010 Mission.

Then there’s the memorial for Ted Gullicksen, the city’s leading tenant organizer for many years who died this fall. We’re celebrating his life Sunday, Nov. 16 at 2pm at Mission High School; the venue and parking opens at 1:30. See you there.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. Some people here were friends of his. You don’t need to rub it in, however you feel about his politics. Just like picketing a funeral, don’t do it. Thanks.

  2. Good question. And he surely is the heir apparent to replace Lee, and being Board Prez would be a useful stepping stone.

    One theory. Wiener recognizes that he may make enemies either in running for Prez or in his committee appointments. It may be a tactically shrewd move to stay above the fray and let his rivals exhaust each other, leaving Scott as the one with clean hands and no enemies. He might also trade his swing vote for something he wants more.

  3. Provisional votes are the easiest to cheat on, which might explain Greg’s allegation that they “break progressive”. They may just break fraudulently instead.

    Absentee ballots are more moderate for the simple reason that older folks are less likely to want to hike to the polling station, and older folks vote more conservatively. The average age of an actual voter is 50 – well above the average age of the voting register.

    “If you are not a liberal at 20, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative at 40, you have no brain” – Various.

  4. So a democracy is “sick and broken” if it doesn’t vote the way that you personally prefer?

    I have another theory. A majority thought the whole thing about grass versus turf was a non-issue, and just wanted a place for their kids to play.

  5. Why has no one mentioned Wiener as a possible choice for president. I think he’d be able to get the votes – am I missing something here?

  6. Thanks for that, Y. Wow. Truly sad. This was an issue that brought progressives and conservatives together, but only if they bothered to look deeper, as those who have a stake in the outcome did. But to win citywide, money rules the day. Truly a symptom a sick and broken democracy.

  7. Sorry but I wil not be attending. He was thoroughly
    Misguided about rent control and really caused a deep and unfortunately chasm between tenants and landlords in this city. The failure of Prop G is a fitting eulogy for this antiquated figure.

  8. OK, I’m paranoid (synonymous with “paying attention”), but it’s always seemed to me that the early votes would be the easiest count to cheat on. Is there verifiability in any form? I’m thinking of the Matt Gonzalez for mayor campaign, in which a majority of election-day voters picked him, but again, the early votes won out.

  9. No, I predicted that Chiu would win and that the provisional ballots would make no difference. I was vindicated and the “provisional” theory was debunked.

    I also predicted that G and H would lose and that I would win.

    I didn’t get the Oakland mayoral race correct though, so my score wasn’t 100%, just better than yours and Greg’s.

  10. Good, so you admit that you’re wrong, the votes swung towards Campos but not enough. If you are wrong on this, then what else are you wrong about?

  11. So the people who live close to there supported H?

    Perhaps they just don’t want a bunch of kids in their neighborhood? Not very progressive of them.

  12. I thought that you had opined that one’s record of hypocrisy was fair game? Or is that only when you’re pulling charges of hypocrisy against your opponent out of your ass and never applies to you’re own hypocritical ass?

  13. Greg, you are asking Tim to engage in more work so that it’s less work for you to ignore someone?

    I’m fairly sure that Tim does not want administrative chores here. His passion is clearly for investigation and writing, and not for intermediating in petty squabbles between different posters. It’s unfair and unreasonable of you to impose a systems administrator function on Tim.

    And as a practical matter, it’s impossible to “get rid of ” or “ban” any poster here, as the site does not require registration. So do you want to impose even more work on Tim?

    Why not simply ignore posts and posters that you do not like? And allow free speech?

  14. Greg, you now admit that you have no evidence for your theory and, because i very publicly expose that, you suddenly want to censor me? How convenient.

    Tim has my email address and he is welcome to write to me if he has any problem with my contributions here. The fact that he has not, and has only complained about a lack of civility here, indicates that he does not consider my posts to be a problem, but rather those who hurl personal attacks at me or others.

    But at least now you are only “thinking it’s because provisional ballots”. Before you sounded quite certain. That’s some progress anyway, and I am glad to have helped you reach greater clarity on the issue.

  15. Already done. Nancy Pelosi is well to the right of her Republican opponent on issues like civil liberties and war. Doesn’t seem to be doing them any good. The party that stands for nothing always loses.

  16. C’mon, Greg, how much mushier can you get than this: “Suppose, for example, Campos – who everyone knows is honest and can be trusted to do what he says – threw his hat in the ring.”

  17. Tim, can you please get rid of the troll. Once again, a third of the comments belong to “Sam,” and not one of them has any merit.

  18. For the last time, if you look at how the current votes are going, they are in fact breaking for Campos. Chiu’s lead is decreasing now, not increasing. I’m thinking it’s because provisional ballots are being counted. There just aren’t enough of them to make the difference.

    Also, Chiu’s lead in the early absentees was 20 points. Now it’s less than 3 points.

    This is getting tiresome. Tim, I’m joining the chorus of voices in asking you to please get rid of this troll. Otherwise your comment section will turn to mush just like it did at the SFBG. This is an individual who is here to destroy this site, not engage in serious debate.

  19. Randy Shaw’s stock in trade is vote harvesting from the captive SRO residents over whom the Berkeley Hills mansion resident holds significant power. But he’s progressive, so what the hay?

  20. No, George, “moderate” merely means anyone who is not extreme left-wing or extreme right-wing.

    About 10% of SF voters are Republicans, which is what passes as extreme right-wing in SF. It’s probably reasonable to guess that another 10% are extreme-left-wing. The other 80% is the silent majority and are moderate by definition.

    However because the moderate majority is so large, there is a large variety of political slants within them, which is why the left sometimes wins and sometimes doesn’t.

    SF doesn’t have any conservative elected representatives. Even Farrell is a Democrat and would be considered liberal in most other places. Lee, Chiu etc are all left-center, while Campos is “off-the-charts” socialist.

    The key to wielding power in SF is to capture the large, moderate swing-vote.

  21. “Moderate” is conservative Please tell it like it is!

    Calling Campos or Chiu “progressive” makes a mockery out of the term! 🙁

  22. Randy Shaw’s theory espoused in BeyondChron on November 6 is that many Asians vote absentee and vote moderate. It’s a huge voting bloc that is very responsive to diligent organization by their community leaders. It explains Chiu’s victory and of course also Ed Lee’s. Another reason to go with Wu, perhaps?

    Shaw writes:

    “I know from past campaigns that the highest voting demographic in Tenderloin SRO’s is Asian-American seniors. Chiu’s campaign followed the model of Ed Lee’s 2011 campaign, getting this constituency absentee ballots and ensuring they were returned. Chiu’s large absentee vote advantage decided the race, and votes from senior Asian-American tenants were part of this.”

  23. You keep saying that the provisional votes break progressive but you have offered no evidence for that, merely citing that it is your “experience”, whereupon you cannot explain what that experience is.

    There is no evidence that happened last week either, else Campos would have won, and he didn’t. In fact Chiu’s lead increased as more votes were counted, although that is skewed by the absentee ballots as noted.

    You claim that “If that lead is 15 points or less, then we know we probably won”. Well Chiu’s lead was never more than 15 points so Campos should have won, according to your logic. Since he did not, there is something wrong with your premise.

    Moreover, you’d have to explain WHY provisional votes would break progressive. You cannot and Tim also admits he doesn’t know. Provisional voters are usually people who recently changed their address, and that would exclude rent-controlled tenants who cling to a place for as long as they can. Since rent-controlled tenants are more progressive than average, that implies that if anything provisional ballots should break neutrally or to the right. Affluent conservative people find it easier to change their residence, buy a home, move to SF and so on.

    Unless you can explain why not, and so far you cannot.

  24. btw, Tim, I’d really like to see a map of Prop H. Prop G is no surprise, but I have a feeling that H will look very interesting.

  25. All you have demonstrated is that you cannot stay on topic for more than a couple of posts. And as soon as you are refuted, you turn personal.

  26. “In the past, the Election Day VBM ballots – that is, the people who get their ballot in the mail but wait until the end to fill it out and turn it in – have tended to break about the same way as the Election Day votes. Not so this time; Campos won close to 57 percent on Election Day, but the Election Day VBMs broke more than 55 percent for Chiu.”

    Tim, I just haven’t seen that. The pattern I’ve always seen is that early absentees are most conservative, followed by late absentees, followed by election day voters, and finally provisionals being the most progressive. That very typical pattern seems to be holding here. Every election we see the exact same thing -the right wing candidates start with a massive lead. If that lead is 15 points or less, then we know we probably won, if it’s 15-22 or so, it’s going to be very close, and if it’s over 25 then there’s no hope. Then wait for the roller coaster. Progressives gain massively as election day voters come in, then pull back a bit as the late absentees get counted, and then there’s a final burst for progressives with provisionals. If it’s still very tight (like Carter-Rizzo, or Hallinan-Fazio, provisionals will sometimes pull it back over the top for the progressive).

    That’s why I was skeptical of your initial assertion that late absentees look like election day voters.

    “I’m not sure why. It bears some serious thought.”

    Well the reason why is because late absentees are basically absentees. Sure, there are some differences. Late absentees waited till the last minute -it could be because they were undecided, perhaps they’re more likely to be disabled or poor, and there are probably more procrastinators among them. They are also, by definition, more likely to have been exposed to the barrage of last minute attack ads before casting their votes. But basically, they’re probably more like early absentees than election day voters.

    That said, seeing as late absentees went for Chiu by10 points, instead of 20 points like early absentees, probably lends credence to the theory that the attack ads backfired more than anything else.

  27. Extorting the developers for his own self interest while screwing the community is a fast track towards self-imposed political retirement. The Bernal Mafia has been deposed.

  28. “Suppose, for example, Campos – who everyone knows is honest and can be trusted to do what he says …” Really? Well, I guess if what he says is “I’ll extort the developers of 490 S. Van Ness, blatantly play pace and class politics, and pander to the most disgruntled far left fringe then, yes, I guess he can be trusted to do what he says.

  29. I don’t like her or not like her. I don’t know her or anything about her other than what Tim wrote. But if she can see the distinction that I just made, then she at least is capable of using judgement and discrimination.

  30. 490 SVN is a minnow compared with 8-Washington. 8-Wash was a one-off signature property in a unique, prime waterfront location that targeted multi-millionaires. 490 SVN is a modest project in a much lower profile area that is crying out to be up-zoned, and targets working SF professionals.

    Wu got the difference. Why don’t you? And that means that she could be a good pick. What SF really needs is more politicians who can see both sides of an issue, and who can forge a compromise, which hopefully also precludes Campos from any promotion or higher office.

    As for how to win the VBM votes, that is easy. Come up with policies that appeal to the kind of people who vote by mail, rather than make the Camposian error of only appealing to the far left and minority groups.

  31. “Wu works for the Chinatown Community Development Center and has been a good planning commissioner, most often on the progressive side of issues. From my (limited) experience with her, I’d say she might very well turn out to be more aligned with the progressives than Chiu, certainly on land-use and housing issues – especially since she won’t start her tenure with her eyes immediately on advancement.”

    Tim, what drugs are you on that you can jump to this conclusion and can you share them with the group?

    Wu was front and center on approving 490 South Van Ness, luxury housing in the Mission while opposing 8 Washington. That says that in her district, the standards are high but elsewhere is a free fire zone. She sure as hell was concerned about her advancement then.

    I can remember when Tim wrung his hands in anguish over the Eastern Neighborhoods plan at the behest of his CCHO friends. Clearly, from a progressive standpoint based on his record, Tim’s conclusions on the political semantics of housing in San Francisco are meaningless.

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