Campaign Trail

D4 supervisors race is now wide open

Gordon Mar with Sups. Hillary Ronen and Sandra Lee Fewer

The race for District Four supervisor is suddenly wide open – and there’s a real chance the progressives, who have been shut out in the Sunset since the return to district elections, could be competitive in November.

Gordon Mar, longtime labor and community activist and twin brother of former Sup. Eric Mar, filed papers Monday morning.

Gordon Mar with Sups. Hillary Ronen and Sandra Lee Fewer

A few hours later, Li Miao Lovett, a city college counselor who is active with the CCSF teachers’ union, filed her paperwork to run.

That immediately puts a district long represented by moderates into play; Mar will be a strong candidate who will have significant backing from labor in a district with a sizable population of union members. Lovett also has labor connections.

Both Mar and Lovett have lived in the district for years (mar 13, Lovett 3).

The presumed front-runner is Jessica Ho, legislative aide to Sup. Katy Tang, who startled the local political world when she decided at the last minute not to run for re-election.

Ho’s grandparents live in D4, but she only recently moved into the district. According to voter registration records, the only Jessica Ho living in D4 first registered in the district March 27, 2018.

Messages left at all of the contacts listed on her campaign filings were not returned. I got one email from a campaign staffer saying that “your message has been forwarded to the committee.”

Mar was surrounded by a large group of supporters, including Sups. Hillary Ronen and Sandra Lee Fewer. “We are partners in justice,” Ronen said. “He is a strong leader who is practical but has a passion for making sure working families, people of color, and immigrants are able to stay in this city.”

Fewer gave incumbent Sup. Katy Tang credit for not resigning mid-term, which would give the mayor an appointment. “I am thrilled that there is an open election where the residents of D4 can speak to the needs of the district.” She noted that the demographics of the district are changing, young families are moving in, and “this is a race we should be able to win.”

Lovett, with a somewhat smaller group, said that “we are pushing back against all the corporate forces that are taking power away from working people.”

Li Miao Lovett filed this afternoon

Lovett was raised in Chinatown and lived in the Richmond before moving to the Sunset.

Trevor McNeil, a teacher and moderate post member of the Democratic County Central Committee, has also filed. There are a number of other candidates who probably will not play a major role in the race.

Leno has conceded. Breed is the next mayor

London Breed with Yimby Action leaders Sonja Trauss and Laura Foote Clark

Mark Leno has conceded. Mayor London Breed will take office in July.

We will be talking more in the next couple of days about why this happened, the role of RCV, and the overall progressive outcome of the election. (This was the closest any progressive candidate has come to winning the Mayor’s Office since 1987; Matt Gonzalez put up a major fight in a traditional runoff in 2003, but lost by 6 percent.)

London Breed with Yimby Action leaders Sonja Trauss and Laura Foote Clark

The immediate politics are already starting: Who will Breed appoint to replace herself in D5? How will that change the makeup of the board? And who will be elected board president when Breed steps down?

There are now six progressive votes on the board, so I’d be surprised if that group can’t find a way to make sure one of them gets the job. It will only be for the rest of the year – when a new board takes office in January, 2019, a new president will be elected.

But incumbent board presidents always have an advantage, and if the progressives manage to hold on to six seats, that person could be in the powerful position for another two years.

Jane Kim would be an obvious contender, although she’s termed out after this year. I can see Aaron Peskin trying again, but I can also see the supes looking for someone else – and Hillary Ronen would be the most likely candidate.

Meanwhile, the new D5 supe will be able to serve until November, 2019 – which, by the way, is also when Breed will be on the ballot again. That’s not much time for someone to decide to challenge her.

Breed now well ahead with only 8,000 to count

It seems likely that Mayor London Breed will continue the policies of Mayor Ed Lee

It now appears likely that London Breed will be the next mayor of San Francisco.

There are only 8,000 ballots left to count, and Breed is ahead by more than 1,800 votes. There is no pattern in any of the votes counted since Election Day that would suggest Mark Leno can catch up.

It seems likely that Mayor London Breed will continue the policies of Mayor Ed Lee

In the end, her victory margin will probably be less than one percent – which is a good bit short of a mandate. That would also have been true if Leno won.

It’s clear this town remains divided: The Board of Supes just picked up a progressive majority at the same time that Breed, who was and remains part of the more pro-growth, pro-tech camp, is winning the top job.

There will be plenty of time to analyze the campaigns and talk about ranked-choice voting. There’s also plenty of time for progressives to think about 2019 – because Breed will face the voters again in 17 months.

But for now, barring some very unusual results from the remaining ballots, it’s time to start thinking about what the administration of Mayor Breed looks like.

And based on her campaign, and the people she works with and the ones who supported her, it’s likely that we won’t see a lot of major policy changes at City Hall. Breed will, I suspect, keep most of the Ed Lee department heads and City Hall insiders, and won’t do anything significantly different from what he did in terms of taxing, regulation, and spending money.

The same people who were influential in the Lee Administration will be influential in the Breed Administration.

It’s also likely that she will use her office to promote candidates for the Board of Supes in November who are more likely to agree with her agenda and support her.

That means progressives have a big challenge in districts 6 and 10. In both districts, Breed won a plurality – but not a majority – of the votes. The outcome of those races will determine the board majority for the next two years and for the crucial part of Breed’s administration.

And then there’s the issue of D5.

Breed will appoint her replacement – who will then have to face the voters in November. (UPDATE: This is wrong;  The earliest she can take office is July 10, and the City Charter says the appointee must run in an election 120 days out. It’s 119 days from July 10 to the November 2018 election. So the incumbent would not be on the ballot until November 2019). The person she chooses, and the political alignments that creates, will set the tone for her administration and for the direction of the city.

Ed Lee made big mistakes with his appointments in D3 and D8; neither of them was able to win re-election the first time they faced the voters. Breed represents a district that has among the most left-leaning voters in the city, and both district supervisors before her were stalwarts in the progressive movement.

If she appoints a person who is aligned with her politics, there will be a major battle in November. Dean Preston came close to unseating her as an incumbent; he or another progressive candidate would have a strong campaign against a moderate, pro-tech, pro-growth newcomer.

If Breed’s replacement in D5 is someone the progressives can work with, it will be a sign of a different type of politics at City Hall.

The new mayor won’t take office until mid July; the votes won’t be certified by the DOE until July 5, and then the supes need to certify them, too.

So while this race is close to over, the politics of San Francisco, 2018, are only beginning.

Breed’s lead grows, but not by much

London Breed at the Election Day lunch: Does she get the conservative vote?

With 17,000 ballots to go, London Breed leads in the mayor’s race by 1,601 votes – only a handful more than she had yesterday.

That means the votes delivered late – the ballots that were cast at City Hall on Election Day or delivered to polling places or postmarked by June 5 – are slightly more positive for Mark Leno than the previous few days’ returns.

Breed gained only 21 votes in this round

In fact, Jane Kim again picked up more votes than Leno, but not as many as Breed. The Kim second-place votes are what’s keeping this election close.

Still, Leno and Kim would have to do exceptionally well – better than they did on Election Day – with the remaining ballots if there’s any chance of Leno closing that gap.

From DOE:

The Department continues to review more than 17,000 ballots for processing.  This total includes approximately 3,000 vote-by-mail ballots and an estimated 14,000 provisional ballots.  

The Department must still process approximately 3,000 vote-by-mail ballots with valid postmarks received from the post office before Friday, June 8.  Additionally, the Department must re-tabulate any cards that required manual review after initial processing of vote-by-mail ballots.

Breed building up big lead with 25,000 still to count

London Breed with Yimby Action leaders Sonja Trauss and Laura Foote Clark

London Breed now leads by 1,580 votes, with about 25,000 votes to count – and it’s entirely possible that we won’t know the winner until the end of next week.

The final ballots that will be counted are 14,000 provisionals, some of them from people who registered on Election Day. The conventional wisdom is that those ballots will favor Mark Leno and Jane Kim.

But the trend toward Breed has been consistent with the late vote-by-mail ballots; she’s picked up votes every day since Election Day. And if that trend continues in the next two days, it’s going to be hard for Mark Leno to overtake her.

From political consultant Jim Stearns:

Ballots Counted June 10. This is a pretty balanced citywide sample. It includes 5,000 City Hall drop-off/voting center; 4,800 polling place VBM and 6,600 mail-in VBM. 

With a net gain of 1,082 votes for London Breed, this now means that Breed has achieved a margin of 2,726 votes out of 73,810 counted since election night. this is pretty identical to the absentees counted on Election Day — where she had a margin of 2,896 votes out of 78,223 cast. The notion that late VBM voters more closely resemble Election Day voters than early VBM voters doesn’t seem to hold up. 

There appear to be approximately 25,500 ballots left to count, although the DOE has appeared to disqualify (for now at least) almost 4,000 of the 14,000 provisionals.

At this point, Breed is clearly the favorite. However, from DOE:

Voters also cast nearly 14,000 provisional ballots on Election Day.  Preparations for counting these ballots will begin on Monday, June 11, with Department personnel labeling the provisional envelopes.  The opening of the envelopes for valid provisional ballots may begin on Tuesday, June 12.  The counting of provisional ballots may begin on Wednesday, June 13 and will continue for several days. 

So if it remains close in the next day or two, we could be biting our collective nails until maybe next Friday.

Breed takes the lead — by 498 votes

Sup. London Breed now leads by fewer than 500 votes

London Breed is now in the lead in the mayor’s race, by 498 votes.

The Department of Elections counted 23,000 more votes since yesterday, the biggest daily tally since Election Day, and the pattern we’ve seen has continued:  Breed is getting more first-place votes than Leno, by a fair amount (she picked up about 8,000, Leno about 5,000; Kim, however, got 6,000 more votes, and her second-places continue to lean heavily to Leno).

Sup. London Breed now leads by fewer than 500 votes

From DOE:

The Department continues to review approximately 42,000 ballots for processing.  This total includes approximately 28,000 vote-by-mail ballots and an estimated 14,000 provisional ballots. 

The Department received 16,000 vote-by-mail ballots from the post office on Election Day and after including nearly 3,000 of these ballots in today’s report, all of these envelopes have been open and the cards have been processed.  However, any cards that require manual review from this group of cards would still require another processing stage. 

Last night before midnight the United States Postal Service allowed Department personnel access to the main postal facility on Evans Street to obtain late-arriving vote-by-mail ballots.  The Department obtained 150 vote-by-mail ballots, 40 of which were postmarked on or before Election Day and can be processed.

Voters delivered approximately 44,000 ballots to polling places on Election Day and approximately 5,700 of those ballots remain to be processed.

Voters also cast nearly 14,000 provisional ballots on Election Day and these ballots will not be processed until next week.  

Additionally, the remaining unprocessed ballots consist of approximately 3,000 vote-by-mail ballots that voters delivered to City Hall Drop-Off Stations on Election Day as well as approximately 3,000 ballots cast at the City Hall Voting Center.

Mission Local says that the provisionals “are expected to slant heavily to Leno and Kim.” I think that depends in part of how many of them are people who registered to vote on Election Day – which I think will be mostly Kim and Breed supporters.

Jim Stearns, who worked on the Leno campaign, posted a map on Facebook showing that many of the votes counted today came from the west side of town:

The red areas show where today’s ballots came from

On the other hand, the majority of the remaining VBM ballots are from areas where Breed has done well:

This is by no means over. But if the pattern that we have seen in the past couple of days continues, then Breed will be in a strong position when the provisional ballots are counted at the end.

By the way: If you are wondering why this takes so long, it’s because so many people vote by mail -– and drop those ballots off or send them in right around Election Day. Those all have to be hand-processed.

You want quicker results? Send in your ballot early, or vote at your precinct.

Mayor’s race even closer with 64,900 votes still to count

The Kim-Leno vote is keeping Leno in the race

The mayor’s race got even tighter with today’s results, and now Mark Leno is only ahead by 114 votes in the ranked-choice tally.

He remains ahead largely because of the strong Jane Kim vote; Kim picked up about 5,000 more votes in this round of counting, more than Leno, who picked up about 4,800. Breed picked up about 6,500.

The Kim-Leno vote is keeping Leno in the race

The vast majority of Kim’s second-place votes are still going to Leno.

From the Department of Elections:

Today’s report includes 19,000 votes that were tallied since yesterday’s report.  The additional votes are from approximately 6,000 ballots that the post office delivered to the Department on Election Day.  Also, votes from approximately 13,000 ballots that voters dropped off at polling places are included in today’s report.

The Department continues to review approximately 64,900 ballots for processing.  This total includes approximately 51,000 vote-by-mail ballots and an estimated 14,000 provisional ballots. 

Overall, so far, the late VBM ballots have broken somewhere between the early VBMs – which had Breed in the lead – and the Election Day vote, which left Leno ahead by more than 1,200 votes.

I got some interesting data from Corey Cook, former USF political science professor who now runs a program in Boise. He’s been following the race from there, and sent me the following (based on yesterday’s numbers, but you get the point):



Total Pct


Breed First



Leno First



Kim First



Alioto First



Has Breed



Has Leno



Has Kim



Has Alioto



Pct of Candidate’s First Place Votes

Leno votes to Kim



Leno votes to Breed




Breed votes to Leno



Breed votes to Kim




Kim votes to Leno



Kim votes to Breed




Slates with All Three 





















 While the Chron continues to attack RCV and say that Leno could be elected with only 25 percent of the vote, look at the actual ballots and you see a very different pattern.

Leno is actually on top in terms of the number of people who listed him as one of their three choices – he’s got 65 percent. Breed is on 62 percent of the ballots, and Kim on 57 percent.

Very, very few voters put all three names on their ballot.

You can also see that far more Kim voters put Leno Number Two than Leno voters did for Kim. Which means that if the numbers change and Kim winds up in second place, Breed will win easily.

Here’s a map from Jim Stearns that shows where the remaining VBM votes are. The darker areas are places where there are more VBM votes. You will note that a lot of them are in the center of the city, which tends to be more progressive.

If anyone can read these numbers and predict who the next mayor will be, you are smarter than me.

Leno’s lead drops as votes come in from conservative parts of town

Mark Leno stands with his supporters before a mayoral debate

Mark Leno’s lead dropped to 255 votes with the latest count, but a closer analysis of the numbers suggests that the ballots that were counted today were largely from the more conservative areas in town.

Overall, London Breed picked up about 3,300 votes, Mark Leno picked up about 1,900, and Jane Kim picked up about 1,700. The remainder of the 8,062 ballots counted went to other candidates.

Mark Leno stands with his supporters before a mayoral debate. With Ranked Choice Voting and a lot of candidates, the person elected mayor will almost certainly not be the first choice of a majority of the voters

But on the Ranked-Choice-Voting tally, Leno was still ahead, narrowly, as the second-place Kim votes continued to break overwhelmingly for Leno.

The Examiner reports that all of these were vote-by-mail ballots, 3,000 of them ballots that the Post Office delivered on Election Day and the rest ballots that were dropped off at polling places.

Gabriel Markoff, who is active in the local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, went a bit farther. From his Facebook post:

I compared the detailed neighborhood reports for today’s drop of about 8,000 new votes in the mayor’s race, which narrowed Leno’s lead to 255. It gives a good picture of why they skewed so conservative. 

Aside from reportedly being all vote-by-mail and thus generally more conservative, of the ~8,000 counted in the mayor’s race, about 1,000 were from West of Twin peaks, 1,000 from Sunset (excluding Inner Sunset), 1,200 from Excelsior, 600 from Ingleside, and 600 from Marina/Pac Heights. By comparison, there were only 1,630 new votes from Chinatown, the Castro, Haight-Ashbury, Inner Sunset, the Mission, Noe Valley, North Bernal, South Bernal, and the Richmond COMBINED.

This was a weird, disproportionately conservative batch, and we’re almost done with VBM. There’s only a couple thousand VBM left, and then about 47k drop-off ballots and 14k provisional ballots left. 

The early VBM was very favorable to Breed, and when those votes were counted she was well ahead. When the Election Day results came in, Kim picked up more votes than Leno, but not enough to pass him for second-place. And most of her Number Two’s went to Leno.

Ballots that are dropped off on Election Day typically break similar to the Election Day vote, but not always.

Here’s a map provided by progressive consultant Jim Stearns that shows where Leno and Kim did well:

Only 25 percent of the votes counted today came from the orange and red areas. Stearns:

The DOE data also shows that remaining ballots skew much younger in age (55% under the age of 50, vs 34% under age 50 for ballots already counted).

The provisionals are another story. A fair number of those will be people who went to City Hall and registered to vote on Election Day – the place was packed. I suspect that those are mostly Breed and Kim votes; most of Leno’s supporters were likely registered already. How many Breed and how many Kim? Nobody knows.

Nor do we know how many outstanding ballots come from which neighborhoods.

So: It’s still all up in the air. The Department of Elections says there are 84,000 more votes to count.

Meanwhile, the Chron continues its attack on RCV with an editorial that says the race “puts ranked-choice voting in harsh spotlight.”

As San Franciscans are discovering, the system sometimes called “instant runoff” is an oxymoron … The ranked-choice system means the next mayor of San Francisco could be the first choice of as few as 1 in 4 voters.

Let’s take a step back here.

The reason that we don’t have “instant” results has nothing to do with RCV. The prevalence of vote-by-mail means that most of the ballots are not cast on Election Day in a precinct with a voting machine, which can immediately tabulate the results and the DOE can post them as soon as they are downloaded from a memory card.

Most people now fill out a ballot at home, and either mail it in or deliver it to a polling place on Election Day. Every one of those has to be checked to be sure the signature on the ballot matches the one on file and then every one has to be fed into a voting machine at City Hall. That takes a lot of time.

So it’s VBM that delays the results; RCV has nothing to do with it. The DOE can run that computer program in a matter of minutes.

And the idea that a mayor could be elected with fewer than half the voters picking them as their first choice? That has nothing to do with RCV, either.

Years ago, the system would have worked like this: If no candidate on Election Day wound up with 50 percent plus one, the top two candidates would have faced each other in another election, a direct run-off, three weeks later.

That’s happened a lot in SF: Dianne Feinstein beat Quentin Kopp in a runoff in 1979. Art Agnos beat John Molinari in a runoff in 1987. Willie Brown beat Frank Jordan in a runoff in 1994. Gavin Newsom beat Matt Gonzalez in a runoff in 2003.

In every case, the person elected mayor did not get a majority of the vote on the main Election Day. The person who got elected was the first choice of fewer than half the voters; in some cases, the winner was the first choice of only about 40 percent of the voters.

In 1995, Willie Brown was the first choice of 33 percent of the voters. He was elected mayor with two-thirds of the voters initially wanting someone else. In 2003, Gavin Newsom was the first choice of 41.2 percent. 

Right now, London Breed is the first choice of 35 percent of the voters; Mark Leno is the first choice of 25 percent. That’s what happens when you have a lot of candidates in a race.

In the old days, the people who supported everyone other than Breed or Leno would have to decide: Since my first choice didn’t win, should I support one of the remaining candidates – or should I stay at home and not bother? In high-profile races – say, Newsom-Gonzalez – the turnout in the runoff was higher than in the general election. In others, it dropped off a bit.

Under the current system, you make that same decision – on Election Day. If the candidate I like the best doesn’t win, which of the others would I prefer?

That’s not, as the Chron has said in the past, “gaming the system.” That’s how the system is supposed to work.

We can argue – and we will, after this is all over – about whether runoffs for the Mayor’s Office are a better way to elect the city’s chief executive. But the idea that a candidate favored by a minority of the voters on the first round will eventually be mayor is nothing new at all. It’s very common.

It’s also true in other national and statewide races. When there are multiple candidates in, say, a Democratic or Republican primary, the first round often goes to someone who is the first choice of only 30 percent of so of the voters. Then in the general election, people decide which of the remaining candidates is better than the other.

And as long as we have nonpartisan local elections, when multiple candidates can run for office, the system the Chron decries will continue – whether it’s a runoff or RCV.

As the wait continues, we can see some trends

The Milk Club, Sierra Club, Community Tenants Association, and Tenants Union all are promoting a dual-ensorement strategy

The wait continues (with Leno still ahead), but we can start to see some trends.

London Breed announced today that

not only did I get the majority of first-place votes, I basically won in about nine of 11 districts in this city. As we watch the results pour in, I think that sends a strong message.

Well, not exactly. Not even close. Not if you consider that the votes for Jane Kim were, overwhelmingly, votes against London Breed: More than 75 percent of her second-place votes went to Leno.

So if you look at the Leno-Kim ticket as a single candidate – the Not London Breed candidate – that candidate won in five of the 11 districts. In not one district did Breed get 50 percent.

The numbers we have show that Leno’s lead has shrunk a bit – by 25 votes, in fact.

Mission Local, which has been doing an excellent job (way better than the Chron) covering this election, argues that there’s no way Breed can win, given current voting trends:

At the rate Breed picked up those 25 votes, by the way, she would need an additional 224,000 ballots to be processed by the Department of Elections — which far, far exceeds the 90,000 or so uncounted ballots the city estimates are left to count. In other words, Breed gained some votes today, but not at a tenable pace. As more and more ballots come in, however, that pace may quicken. Or it may not.

According to the Department of Election, the 4,300 votes that were counted today were the first of the 16,000 vote-by-mail ballots that were delivered by the Post Office on Election Day. They expect to count the rest by tomorrow.

But there are lots left, according to DOE:

The Department continues to review approximately 87,000 ballots for processing.  This total includes approximately 73,000 vote-by-mail ballots and an estimated 14,000 provisional ballots.

The Department received 16,000 vote-by-mail ballots from the post office on Election Day and has tabulated votes from approximately 4,300 ballots, leaving a remainder of around 11,700 of this group of ballots.

Today the Department received nearly 13,000 vote-by-mail ballots from the post office, most of which were postmarked on or before Election Day and will be processed.

Voters delivered approximately 44,000 ballots to polling places on Election Day and those ballots remain to be processed.

Voters also cast nearly 14,000 provisional ballots on Election Day and these ballots will not be processed until next week. 

The remaining unprocessed ballots consist of approximately 3,000 vote-by-mail ballots that voters delivered to City Hall Drop-Off Stations on Election Day as well as approximately 3,000 ballots cast at the City Hall Voting Center.  

Vote-by-mail ballots may continue to arrive and be reviewed for counting when they are postmarked on or before Election Day and arrive by Friday, June 8. 

The Department expects to continue reviewing and processing vote-by-mail ballots through early next week.  The initial review of provisional ballots will begin Thursday, June 7, and will continue for several more days.  The counting of provisional ballots will begin after the vote-by-mail ballots are reviewed.

The votes counted today largely to be breaking the way that Election Day votes did, with a few exceptions. Jane Kim did better on Election Day than Mark Leno; the ballots just counted show Leno slightly ahead of Kim. But they don’t reflect the very conservative trend of the early vote by mail.

That fits with the traditional pattern in San Francisco; election-day VBMs tend to break about the way election-day votes do.

This is so close that even a few points in one direction or another could change the outcome. But in the past, candidates who were ahead by more than 1,000 votes at this point in the process – and who picked up votes on Election Day – have fared pretty well.

You can’t blame the Chron, which has relatively early print deadlines, for coming out this morning with a “Breed leads” headline; we have all been there.

But I had to gasp at their editorial, which states:

“There was no doubt about which candidate had the most cause for optimism: London Breed. She took a solid lead over Mare Leno and Jane Kim in early returns … But overall, the returns defied the contention in some quarters that San Francisco was ripe for a progressive revolt.”

Excuse me: Mandelman won in D8, giving progressives control of the Board of Supes. Leno may well win after a huge progressive Kim voter turnout – in which case we would have a progressive mayor and board majority for the first time in more years than most of us can remember. Prop. F passed. Prop. H went down.

I fear the Chron editorial writers aren’t paying attention to what’s happening in their city.

Leno still ahead as pattern doesn’t change

The Department of Elections counted some more ballots today – about 5,000 – and the pattern that we saw last night didn’t change much. Mark Leno is ahead in the reanked-choice vote by 1,121 votes, nearly the same as last night.

Of the total new votes counted, about 1,600 went to Breed, 1,200 to Leno, and 1,000 to Kim. But since 75 percent of Kim’s second-place votes are still going to Leno, he retains the lead.

Mark Leno is still ahead

Kim essentially conceded today, saying that “it appears Mark Leno will be our next mayor.” Breed hasn’t conceded, nor has Leno claimed victory.

But from the small sample of votes counted today, the direction of the election seems not to be changing. 

If Leno wins, it will be in significant part because Kim voters came out in fairly large numbers – and overwhelmingly put him in second place. The preliminary figures I have seen suggest that only about half of Leno voters put Kim second.