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News + PoliticsThe big (and sometimes pretty strange) money trying to buy Tuesday's elections

The big (and sometimes pretty strange) money trying to buy Tuesday’s elections

Plus: A guide to Election Night parties. That's The Agenda for Nov. 6-13


The big money coming into the SF elections is, as usual, a tangled web, with state and local committees funded by Big Tech and Big Real Estate moving money between each other so it’s hard to figure out exactly who is paying for what.

It’s all public record, but some documents are filed with the California Secretary of State and some are filed with the SF Ethics Commission, and there’s some overlap.

Just about everyone at City Hall, and state Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblymember Phil Ting, supports Yes on L. But the anti-tax messaging from some of the mayor’s allies could be dangerous to the measure.

So let me just summarize:

The real-estate industry has raised and is spending more than $1 million to attack Prop. M, which would tax vacant apartments—and along the way, Prop. O, which would save City College.

The entire message of the group: Don’t vote for new taxes. That’s dangerous for all of the revenue measures on the ballot, including the one that the mayor and her allies (along with most of City Hall) are backing, Prop. L, which is critical to the future of Muni.

There’s a weirdly large late campaign effort to defeat Prop. H, which would change the election date for major offices like mayor and city attorney to coincide with the presidential elections, a move that would, by all account, dramatically increase voter turnout.

But Breed opposes Prop. H, saying (seriously) that’s a commie plot.

Never mind that most studies suggest that progressives are no more likely to win citywide elections when the turnout is higher than they are when it’s lower.

Joe Eskenazi at MissionLocal suggests that the mayor is worried that a potential opponent might have more time to organize a run against her if her term is extended a year, which the measure would do. If she’s up in 2023, a serious campaign would, by all standard accounts, have to get underway this spring.

On the other hand, Matt Gonzalez entered the 2003 mayoral election in August, and almost beat Gavin Newsom. You never know.

But here’s the interesting thing: People who are typically aligned with Breed on issues, including Neighbors for a Better San Francisco and William Oberndorf, are pouring last-minute money into a No on H campaign. Oberndorf has put up more than $600,000; Jean-Pierre Conte, who runs Genstar Capital, tossed in $500,000.

All of this to prevent higher voter turnout? Very strange.

The messaging from the campaign: “Don’t let the Board of Supervisors take away your vote.” That’s an attempt to blame this on City Hall, which is not, as a general matter, popular right now.

No mention of Breed, who is less popular than most of the supervisors. (Like Congress, polls show that voters distrust the institution, but like their own representatives. The mayor, elected citywide, has no such protection.)

Now it gets even more strange. The Deputy Sheriff’s Association has put up a Facebook ad that attacks local government in general and says the measure would allow “failed politicians” another year in office.

“Look around San Francisco and don’t be fooled,” the speaker says. “Do you want another year with these failed politicians?”

Of course, Breed is the leading “failed politician” who would get an extra year.

The plan, I suspect, is just to confuse the voters, because confused voters vote no.

Gobs of money have gone into the Prop. D and E campaigns. The Carpenters Union supports D, but the rest of the money comes for the usual Yimby/Breed crew, which is Big Tech and Real Estate. Total: More than $2 million.

Almost every other labor organization supports Prop. E, and that campaign has raised about $700,000, most of it from labor.

The measure to re-open JFK Drive and the Great Highway to cars is funded to a great extent by Dede Wilsey, who is the heir to a real-estate fortune and a longtime board member of the Fine Arts Museums. She’s put up more than $200,000.

A lot of this money is only coming in at the last minute, which isn’t unusual—except that these days, voting started a month ago.

Still, the campaigns are doing last-minute pushes because, according to the Department of Elections, only about 20 percent of the ballots have been returned so far.

It’s going to rain on Tuesday as a major storm moves through. That’s not good for turnout.

I don’t have a complete list of Election Night Parties, but here’s what I know so far:

Honey Mahogany: Trademark, 1123 Folsom.

Matt Dorsey: Folsom Street Foundry, 1425 Folsom

Gordon Mar: Cecilia’s By the Beach, 4019 Judah

John Hamasaki: El Rio, 3158 Mission

Yes on H, Yes on M: Peacock Lounge, 552 Haight St.

Got another party I missed? Let me know and I will update.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
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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