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Pete Buttigieg makes a splash in SF — but what does he really stand for?

Lots of splash and attention; still working on the substance.

For the second time in as many months, presidential hopeful and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg made an appearance in San Francisco.

But unlike his last stop through the city, when he spoke at Manny’s cafe in the Mission, this trip came after a breakout CNN appearance that significantly boosted his profile and campaign donations.

Lots of splash and attention; still working on the substance.

“I’m a little surprised by the pace of it, if only because it happened so suddenly after the CNN Town Hall event,” he told reporters before taking the stage at a Commonwealth Club event Thursday evening. “What I had to say that night what was no different than what I say everywhere I go. It just goes to show that it makes a difference when you get in front of a lot more people.”

Despite the uptick in momentum, Buttigieg admitted his campaign website was still just a “splash page” with no policy statements. Visitors can read a brief bio, see a list of upcoming events, buy t-shirts, and – of course – donate. But that’s it. He said a new site is under construction.

“Although it shouldn’t be hard to figure out where I stand on most policy issues simply by searching the commentary that I’ve done in public,” he said.

The event sold out weeks ago, with would-be attendees posting to the Facebook page hoping for space tickets. “Pretty please?” one wrote. Someone else offered $100.

In contrast to last month’s appearance at Manny’s, Thursday’s audience was dressed as you might expect for a Commonwealth Club event: Lots of suits, blazers, crisp dress shirts, sweaters. Premium ticket buyers were treated to wine and hors d’oeuvres.

One attendee, Aashrey Kapoor, said he was initially drawn by the curiosity of a mayor running for president, but came to view him as the most insightful candidate in the race. He didn’t expect to hear anything new but wanted to see how well Buttigieg interacted with a large crowd.

“I think I’ve heard all of his general talking points, I know what he’s going to say,” Kapoor said before the event. “I don’t necessarily agree on all of his positions. I just like the guy.”

At 37-years-old, Buttigieg would be the youngest person to hold the office. Kennedy was 43 when elected, and Theodore Roosevelt was six weeks shy of his 43rd birthday when he assumed office after William McKinley’s assassination. More recently, Al Gore was 39 when he ran for president the first time in 1988.

Buttigieg would also be the first openly gay president. He came out, even to his family, just four years ago as he was running for re-election as mayor. He won with 80 percent of the vote.

“I’m proud of my husband and our marriage. It might just be the most normal thing in my life,” he told reporters. “He’ll be on the road with us quite a bit – both because I love to be around him, and because he’s a real asset in introducing ourselves around the country.”

Buttigieg declined to speculate on how well he might fare in the California primary against Bay Area local Kamala Harris. “I don’t think I’m running against any individual person, especially when there’s something like 20 of us,” he said. “I think somebody like me is really competing against the house.”

“I admire a lot of the other people in this process,” he added.“Each of us has a different message, and you simply have to take it out there and see what the response is.”

Buttigieg said he didn’t pretend to have invented any of his policy ideas, but viewed his role more as helping them gain purchase.

As president, Buttigieg said his top priority would be democratic reform to address dark money, voting rights, redistricting, and even the electoral college, which he said “needs to go.”

“Every policy issue – of which I believe the most urgent is climate – every one of those will not get solved properly as long as our democracy is this twisted,” he said.

In response to audience questions about the homeless crisis in San Francisco, Buttigieg said he supported adding $11 billion to existing programs he said are known to work, such as permanent supportive housing.

“It’s a big number, but it’s also not, in the grand scheme of things,” he said.

Perhaps the most radical proposal he discussed were changes to the Supreme Court to make the body less political by increasing the number of justices from nine to 15. Ten of those would be selected through the current political process. Those ten would then need to reach unanimous consensus on who to put in the remaining five seats.

“It will get you more of your Kennedys, your Souters, your justices who think for themselves,” he said.

But he isn’t locked into the idea as the only way forward.

“There may be another approach I haven’t thought of,” he said. “But the point is we have to open this discussion.”

Large, enthusiastic crowd welcomes Bernie Sanders to San Francisco

Adults, teens, children and their pets gathered in Green Meadow Park near Fort Mason on a sunny Sunday afternoon March 24. Sen. Bernie Sanders greeted thousands of supporters as they stood in rows between the barricades and squished together behind railing in the park.

Excitement spread across the crowd as musicians and politicians took to the stage.

Sarah Lee Guthrie sings songs from her grandfather, Woody Guthrie.

Singer Sarah Lee Guthrie was there with her guitar to sing songs from her grandfather, Woody Guthrie: “I’ve Got to Know” and “This Land is Your Land.”

“I’m here because I support Bernie Sanders for president,” she said. “Bernie Sanders is one of my heroes for fighting all that time and being so consistent… I love the fact that Bernie fights so hard for workers’ rights.”

The Grammy-award winning group Tony Tony Tony also took the stage, followed by Democratic Party Chair David Campos, who said he would be voting for Sanders. Campos talked about his family’s risk to get to the US and their search for the American Dream.

Democratic Party Chair David Campos talks about the American Dream.

“We came here because we believe this is still a country of immigrants… I am here today in behalf of all undocumented kid who like me risk their lives to say, ‘This is our country as much as anyone’s.’ I am here because I still believe in the American Dream.. But that’s a dream that’s in peril. It’s no longer a reality for so many kids of country,” Campos said.

Emily Montiel, 19, said the Sanders’ rally was her first candidate event that she’s attended.

“[I attended today] because I plan to vote for Bernie Sanders,” she said. “I wasn’t able to vote in the last election, and I also wanted to show my dad. [It’s important for young people to attend events like this] so they can get informed and get educated. A lot of my friends who are now able to vote don’t know or care, even though they have the privilege to vote.”

Emily Montiel with her father and a friend.

During his own speech, Sanders addressed concerns regarding immigration policies, and workers’ rights, standing up to Wall Street, providing free college, securing universal healthcare, and strengthening gun control.

San Mateo Board of Supervisors Member David Canepa also spoke in support of Sanders.

“We need to make sure healthcare access is available to all. It’s about justice, it’s about doing the right thing,” Canepa said.  [In california, we know the effects of global warming]. If we don’t think global warming is the cause, we’re lying to ourselves. This is our time, our time to stand up. Make no mistake. It’s not one individual but all of us working collectively together. That’s what we need to elect Bernie Sanders.”

Claire Lau, a founder of SF Berniecrats, explained how she marched for democracy throughout her childhood and early adulthood, but it wasn’t until Sanders announced his candidacy in 2015 that she became an organizer. Between the last election and now, there were so many volunteers with so much energy that they couldn’t let the organizing stop, she said. Lau explained all the important topics they fight for, such as immigration and rights for Latinos and the African-American community.

Claire Lau, a co-founder of SF Bernicrats, talks about her political inspiration.

“Why? All inspired by Bernie Sanders over 40 year-commitment to these issues before they were popular. We’re here not just for Bernie as one person, we fight for justice for all of us here,” Lau said.

Tom Ammiano, former member of the SF Board of Supervisors and state Assembly, said he supports Sanders because he discusses important issues, such as addressing the disabled community, who deserve a “seat at the table.”

“I wanna welcome Bernie to the Emerald City. We are gonna follow that fucking yellow brick road right to the White House.”

California Representative Ro Khanna took to the stage soon after to advocate for the important of universal healthcare.

“The current system is not affordable… It’s about freedom, it’s about the freedom on an entrepreneur to start her own business without worrying about not having healthcare. It’s about the freedom of a mother to look after a sick child without fear that the hospital bills will keep piling up. For those that believe in the constitution, medicare for all gives the pursuit of happiness meaning,” Khanna said.

One of the topics that Sanders has heavily advocated for is a $15 minimum wage. When Sanders is president, Khanna said, he’ll fight for a $15 minimum wage at Walmart, Burger King and every Fortune 500 company in the country. Khanna also addressed Sanders’ concerns over military interventionism and the four-year anniversary of the end of the war in Yemen.

Before Sanders took the stage, former Senator Nina Turner, co-chair of 2020 Bernie campaign rallied the audience.

“What the people want is simple. We want an America where everyone has the opportunity to seize opportunity. People don’t wanna bring up history because they know they can’t hold up to the receipts we’ve got,” she said.

Chris Cortes, 28, said the rally absolutely met his expectations, and he even got to shake Sanders thumb. He looks forward to Sanders taking on Wall Street and re-shaping the middle class.

“I feel like Bernie Sanders is our best chance to beat Donald Trump and get the most progressive candidate, arguably since FDR. He’s a once in a lifetime candidate,” Cortes said.

Sanders: “I think we are going to win California.’

Sanders was met with loud cheers as he greeted the crowd, the Golden Gate Bridge towering behind him and US and California flags blowing in the wind. An abundance of blue and white “Sanders 2020 signs” were sprinkled across the audience.

“San Francisco, thank you… I’m delighted to be here in California and I want to say, based off the incredible crowds I’ve seen, I think we’re going to win California,” Sanders said.

Sanders addressed many of the policies that were pegged as “radical” during his 2016 campaign. These include raising minimum wage, making college free, legalizing cannabis, and guaranteeing healthcare. He also discussesd fighting against climate change, reforming immigration, and changing the criminal justice system.

“As your president I will not have kind things to say about authoritarian leaders around the world who espouse hated and bigotry,” Sanders told the crowd. “Together, we will make the US the leader in the world in the fight for democracy and human rights, in the struggle to bring this world together around our common humanity.”

And, he added, there is something to be learned by New Zealand and what they did after the mosque shooting. They banned assault weapons within three days of the tragedy.

Sanders asked the crowd to stand with him, as he fights to protect family-based agriculture from Vermont, his home state, to California.

“We have to stand up. We’ve got to stand up to the prison industrial complex, we’ve got to stand up to the fossil fuel industry. In other words, it’s easy enough for someone to give a speech on all the things he wants to do, but those changes will not take place unless people stand up and fight back and that’s what this campaign is about,” Sanders said.

Maggi Munat attended the event to help start rallying troops to start working for the Bernie Sanders campaign. Everyone needs to come together to work to get Sanders elected president, she said. This campaign is different than the last one, she explained, as they are starting strong with millions of volunteers and a lot of donations coming in.

“I am going to work my hardest. We’ve got really strong support in Northern California. With his recognition and the support, we’ve been here all along, we’ve got a whole base. We can do it,” Munat said.

Munat said that of the donations coming in for the Sanders campaign, 40 percent are from new people, not from the last campaign’s e-mail list.

Sanders also took a moment to address the young people of today’s generation.

“We are living in a moment of exploding technology, where worker productivity is increasing, and despite that, our younger generation, unless we change it will have a lower standard of living then their parents. Our job is to see the younger generation do better than their parents,” Sanders said.

The strength of joining together and not letting President Trump divide people by their skin color, country of origin, sexual orientation and religion, Sanders said, is what motivated him.

“I may not be a great mathematician, but this I do know: They are one percent, we are 99 percent. If we stand together, we can create a country that will be the envy of the world, a country that our kids and grandkids will say ‘thank you mom and dad, thanks grandparents for standing up for justice.”

Preston launches campaign with energetic event

Preston offered an ambitious policy platform.

Dean Preston officially launched his campaign for District Five supervisor Friday night with a party that brought together a broad spectrum of the progressive movement.

Harry Britt, who took over Harvey Milk’s seat and was the voice of the progressive movement for more than a decade, endorsed Dean Preston.

The star of the show was former Sup. Harry Britt – the heir to Harvey Milk’s seat, the conscience of the board for many years, and one of the most respected elder statespeople in the LGBT and progressive community.

Britt talked about how difficult it is to live in the world of electoral politics, where money and compromise dominate the field. But he said that Preston was someone who could run for and hold office with integrity.

Deepa Varma, director of the Tenants Union, talked about how Preston understood the depths of policy issues and was the go-to person for tenant activists looking to craft legislation.

Preston offered an ambitious policy platform.

Preston told the crowd that he wanted a Green New Deal in San Francisco, that the city could have a public bank that could provide low-cost loans for affordable housing – and small businesses and student debt.

He got a huge cheer from the crowd when he talked about reversing gentrification and displacement – including the protection of Midtown apartments.

Preston is running without any hesitation as a democratic socialist, and the local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America was well represented at the event.
So were former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, Democratic Party Chair David Campos, and Sup. Hillary Ronen.  Preston also has endorsements from Sups. Aaron Peskin, Rafael Mandelman, and Matt Haney and from former state Senator Mark Leno, and former Mayor Art Agnos, among others.

He leads the field in fundraising.

The energy in the room was impressive, and political observers I talked to agreed: Vallie Brown is the incumbent, but Preston is the front-runner in this race.

Preston leads in D5 fundraising

Dean Preston leads in fundraising for D5

The first fundraising reports are in for the District 5 race for supervisor, and challenger Dean Preston has collected more money than incumbent Vallie Brown.

That’s unusual: Incumbents typically raise the most money, since they have the contacts and the power that comes with holding office. Brown also has the advantage that she’s supported by the mayor, London Breed, who appointed her, and that usually translates into money.

Dean Preston leads in fundraising for D5

But in this case, the reports show, Preston has raised $102,738 for the November election, and Brown has raised $93,228.

“It’s not that common for the progressive candidate to outraise the moderate one, but I believe this shows the depth and strength of our campaign,” said Preston campaign manager Jen Snyder.

Both candidates have already been spending money: Brown has $77,000 cash in the bank and has outstanding expenses of $22,000. Preston has $75,000 in the bank after all expenses.

Community College Board Member Shanell Williams, who entered the race in October, well after both Preston and Brown, has so far raised $4,594.

Preston narrowly lost a race against incumbent (and now Mayor London Breed) in 2016, and clearly has the name recognition and base of support that he needs to mount an aggressive campaign. Brown, a former aide to both Ross Mirkarimi, who represented the district for eight years, and Breed, has extensive contacts in the district but still lags slightly behind in fundraising.

Over the next few months, Preston and Brown will likely both be able to raise enough to be competitive, and Williams, who entered the race much later, will need to show she can catch up.

D5 is one of the most progressive districts in the city.

The individual fundraising – where contributions are limited to $500 – is one sign of grassroots support. As Election Day gets closer, it’s likely that the money Preston raises will be eclipsed by independent-expenditure campaigns run by groups loyal to the mayor. That money, which has no limits, can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But for now, for the moment, with the election nine months away, the advantage is Preston’s.

Some reality facing the candidates for president

The 2020 presidential race is well under way, and now that Sen. Kamala Harris surprised nobody by announcing she’s running, more people will enter.

Harris got a lot of attention. Two weeks ago, the DailyKos straw poll, which reflects how the liberal activists of the Democratic Party tend to be thinking, had Elizabeth Warren well ahead among the existing candidates. Two days after she announced, Harris is now the DailyKos frontrunner.


None of the candidates are perfect, or ever will be. Warren is a former Republican who thinks Wall Street needs to be more tightly regulated, but she’s not what anyone could call a Democratic Socialist. Sanders is an old white guy whose last campaign had issues and hasn’t yet said he’s running – but his ideas, which seemed so radical four years ago, are now moving closer to the mainstream of the Democratic Party (Markos Moulitsas, the founder of DailyKos, says that Medicare for All is now the “price of admission” to the Democratic primaries.)

The early press on Harris shows her as a hard-working, smart, candidate who should never be underestimated (Obama didn’t have much of a record in the Senate when he ran, either).

She does have a problem: She describes herself as a “career prosecutor,” and that means she has spent much of her life putting people in jail (and, as attorney general, keeping them there.) Some are asking if that kind of record – which worked well in the 1990s (see: Bill Clinton) will work today.

She was not much of a reformer as attorney general, and those parts of her record will eventually get scrutiny.

So far, unlike Joe Biden (who was terrible as the head of Senate Judiciary in the 1990s) she hasn’t admitted that she did anything wrong.

But the 2020 convention is along way away. In the end, most Democrats will vote for and work hard for anyone who can beat Trump. We will see the usual debate over whether a more “mainstream” candidate is better than a Sanders-style progressive. That’s what primaries are for.

It’s also possible that, if the Trump chaos continues and gets worse, a Republican will challenge the incumbent in the GOP primary. We haven’t had serious primary challenges to incumbent presidents in a while, but it’s happened before.

So I want to get away from the personalities and the hype and get down to the issues that ought to define this race. I am looking for a candidate who is willing to say this:

Economic inequality and climate change, which are linked, are the two greatest threats to humanity since the end of World War II and the birth of the Atomic Age. If we don’t address both of them, with dramatic measures, there is no chance for a peaceful, sustainable future on Earth – and quite possibly no hope for the future of the human race.


There are two things that we have to understand about those crises. The first is that the only solutions will come from collaborative public efforts – that is, from government. The private sector under modern Capitalism can make things worse, but can’t make things better. Government – in its essence, not in its current manifestation — is not the problem; it’s the only possible solution.

Second, any effective solution will have to be redistributive. That is: The rich – and by this I mean rich individuals, rich companies, and rich countries – are going to have to give up a little of their wealth to make the rest of the world sustainable.

Every candidate will offer ideas about economic equality – education, economic development, universal health care, better regulation of big business – and all of those could represent some motion in the right direction.

But Thomas Picketty, who is the most important economist since Marx, proves that none of those alone will solve the problem. There is no way to save our current economic system without substantial taxes on income and wealth; without taking from the top and giving it to the bottom.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stunned the lovely liberals at Davos with her idea of a 70 percent tax rate on income of more than $10 million.

It’s scary,” Scott Minerd, global chief investment officer for $265 billion Guggenheim Partners, said in an interview.

“By the time we get to the presidential election, this is going to gain more momentum,” said Minerd, who added that he would probably be personally impacted by it. “And I think the likelihood that a 70 percent tax rate, or something like that, becomes policy is actually very real.”

And it’s actually a pretty popular idea, and something that even Republicans accepted for most of the post-War era.

Climate change also requires not only redistribution (wealthy countries are going to have to pay for sustainable economic development in poorer places) but a recalibration of how we live.

To build a sustainable future, those of us in the rich countries have to produce and buy less stuff. Juliet Schor, one of the top economists in the nation, makes that very clear. We could make a huge impact on climate change (and inequality) but reducing by even ten percent what we spend on stuff we don’t really need. A Green New Deal isn’t just a good idea; it’s pretty much mandatory.

World War II forced the citizens of the US to accept tremendous sacrifices. (The residents of Great Britain suffered much more.) Solving climate change and economic inequality won’t mean gas or food rationing, and won’t mean the deaths of millions of young men. Quite the opposite.

But it will mean that a generation of tech billionaires who have never had to give up anything in their lives, and who in many cases don’t believe in government as a solution, will have to be forced to live with a little bit less.

I say forced because it won’t happen through philanthropy. It will happen through government action – to take money from those who have too much and give it to those who have too little, to possibly even slow economic growth (so we can live within the planet’s means), and to elect people who believe in transparent, accountable government.

Ocasio-Cortez isn’t running for president. But the candidate who wants my vote needs to start talking about reality.

A progressive candidate files for DA, opening up the 2019 race

Chesa Boudin has added a new voice to the DA's race

Since the day George Gascon announced he’s not running for re-election as district attorney, progressives involved in the criminal justice system have been wondering where to go. Suzy Loftus, a former Police Commission member, is running on a platform of cracking down on bar break-ins and other “quality of life” crimes. Joe Alioto Veronese is running to the right, talking about more prosecutions and convictions.

Chesa Boudin has added a new voice to the DA’s race

Gascon had no choice but to retire: He alienated the left by declining to prosecute a single police officer after cops shot and killed five people of color under what can only be called dubious circumstances during his tenure. His support for Prop. 47 and his work on bail reform made him vulnerable to a challenge from the right. He had nowhere to go.

But in a city that has had a tradition of progressive candidates for DA  — from Terence Hallinan (who won) to Matt Gonzalez (who lost but jump-started his political career) a lot of folks on the left were looking around and saying: Now what?

That question has been answered.

Deputy Public Defender Chesa Boudin filed papers to run for district attorney today, and he already has the support of Sups. Hillary Ronen and Aaron Peskin. More endorsements will start coming soon.

Boudin has a remarkable life story and a history forged in both activism and the criminal-justice system. His grandfather, Leonard Boudin,was a legendary civil-rights lawyer who represented, among others, Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers. His mom, Kathy Boudin, and his father, David Gilbert, were part of the Weather Underground in the 1960s, and were jailed on felony murder charges after a robbery of a Brink’s truck in Nanuet, New York, went bad and a security guard and two cops were shot and killed. Boudin and Gilbert never fired a round, but under New York law since they were driving the shooters, they could be charged with murder.

He was raised by Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, both former Weather Underground members. “I grew up visiting jails and prisons,” Boudin told me. “Some of my earliest memories are going through steel doors and metal detectors to give my parents a hug.”

His entire life, he told me, has been shaped by the criminal justice system.

Like a lot of kids of incarcerated parents, Boudin had problems growing up. “Eventually, I overcame my shame and anger,” he said. He wound up graduating from Yale University, earning two master’s degrees as a Rhodes Scholar, and getting a law degree from Yale.

“My first year at Yale,” he told me, “a friend I had met when I was visiting my mother and he was visiting his parents wrote me from jail and said he was in the same cellblock as my father. I started looking at racial disparities in the justice system.”

That led to a 50-state survey of jail-visitation policies and after law school, two prestigious clerkships with federal judges. He started with the Public Defender’s Office in 2015, and was involved in the landmark lawsuit that helped undo the use of cash bail in California.

His goal as district attorney? “I say this as a public defender, and the big picture is the same: I want to organize myself out of a job.”

That means making San Francisco safer “without demonizing poor and vulnerable communities.”

A lot of his campaign is going to be about recidivism. “We don’t want to see people coming back,” he told me. “Our criminal justice system equates public safety with longer prison terms, and that hasn’t worked.”

Boudin, who sees the system from the inside every day as a lawyer in the Hall of Justice, told me that “much of what drives crime is drug and mental-health problems.” A report to the Board of Supes in December showed that 85 percent of the people in county jail had extreme mental illness or substance-abuse issues – or both. “If we don’t understand that reality we will never bring down recidivism.”

Boudin has a different take on “quality of life” crimes than Loftus. “Putting first-time offenders in jail causes more crime,” he said. “We need to start focusing on serious crime.”

He wants to stop the practice of simply arresting people, holding them for several days (which may be enough to cause a job loss) and then releasing them, “often in the middle of the night, from jail with no support system.”

Eliminating money bail, using existing technology to keep track of people, quickly rebooking suspects (who are often charged by the cops with all sorts of crimes that the DA never prosecutes) and dramatically expand collaborative courts – those programs would lower the jail population, and prevent the city from facing the need for a new jail facility, he said.

I asked Boudin about how the city addresses survivors of sexual violence, which is a serious problem:

In 2016, the vast majority of adult sexual assaults in San Francisco went uninvestigated or prosecuted. According to a list I generated through SF Open Data, there were 757 reports of adult sexual assault that year. When I asked the Police Department directly, the number they gave me was 694.

But even using SFPD’s number, out of the 694 reports of adult sexual assault, 297 — or 43 percent — were investigated, 91 — or 13 percent — were referred to the D.A.’s office, 11 adult and child sexual assault cases, or 1.6 percent, went to trial, and nine, or 1.3 percent, resulted in a guilty verdict. These numbers are staggering but sadly typical in terms of historical patterns and trends that persist across the country.

Boudin told me that victimless crimes and charges that shouldn’t be brought to court are wasting a huge volume of the time that prosecutors and judges spend in court. “We need to prioritize crimes like sexual assaults,” he said.

The juvenile justice system in SF is also a mess. Boudin told me that “we need to recognize that young people are still developing their brains well into the early 20s. The law says 18, but we need to understand that. We want young people to succeed, not to fail.” That, he said, means “never charging a juvenile as an adult, and never seeking life-without-parole for a juvenile.”

So now there’s a very different perspective in the race to be the city’s top prosecutor.

Mar declares victory in D4 as Jessica Ho concedes

Mar celebrates with his supporters

Jessica Ho conceded today and Gordon Mar declared victory in the only sup race that was still up in the air, making clear that Mayor London Breed will face a strong progressive majority on the board next year.

“We did what many said couldn’t be done. Against a million dollars, and the against the odds, we won for working people, and for an independent voice in District 4,” Mar said as the latest results showed him continuing to gain ground on Ho.

Mar celebrates with his supporters. Photo by Richard Wada

The results of the Nov. 6 election mean that seven of the 11 board members will be part of the progressive camp – and two of the new members defeated candidates strongly backed by the mayor.

That puts Shamann Walton is the position of potentially being the eighth vote to override a mayoral veto if Mayor Breed tries to block legislation that the progressives approve.

Joe Fitz at the Examiner says Breed “lost the election big time.”

It’s a fascinating development for our mayor, whose own election was won in a squeak against Supervisor Jane Kim and former State Senator Mark Leno. When you win that narrowly, you don’t carry the public mandate to pursue your political priorities carte blanche — you’ve gotta sweat for every ounce of goodwill from The City.

And you’ve got to be careful.

Breed could have stayed neutral in key races. Hell, she could have stayed neutral on the homeless tax, but that’s not how she decided to play it. Breed is an all-in kind of person, for better or for worse. This time she went all in, and lost.

Come January, the now progressive-led Board of Supervisors will be stacked with politicians who not only oppose her ideologically but whom she opposed in real-world terms.


Political consultant Jim Ross, who ran Gavin Newsom’s first mayoral run, explained the disconnect as a narrative problem. Breed won her election largely on her inspirational story, but without a clear message for The City’s future, he said. I saw this a lot myself when talking to San Franciscans who love London — they often told me they loved that she pulled herself out of poverty and blossomed into a strong woman leader, but could hardly name a single policy London ever wrote, or passed, that they liked.

“That’s the problem with getting elected on your story,” Ross said, “there’s no rationale behind your governance.”

The Prop. C total is now heading above 60 percent – but it’s not likely to reach 67, which would make it immune to legal challenge. (The courts have ruled that tax measures put on the ballot by signatures don’t need two-thirds majority, but that’s being challenged – and the challenge could take a year or two.)


“Historically, the only (ballot) measures to make it over the two-thirds threshold are the ones with all of the powerful people in San Francisco behind them,” Friedenbach said.

She added, “If London had backed it, we could have won” that threshold.

But she didn’t.

London, I want you to hear this: Every soul sleeping on the concrete between now and the end of Prop. C’s legal challenge?

Their lives are on you.

State Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblymember David Chiu also opposed Prop. C. Wiener issued a statement today:

San Francisco voters have spoken by passing Prop C. While I did not support Prop C, Prop C is now the law, and I respect that result. I want Prop C to succeed, and I will work to ensure it can be implemented effectively in order to accomplish our shared goal of reducing and ultimately ending homelessness in San Francisco. I know that Mayor Breed will work with stakeholders to ensure city funds are well-spent. While San Franciscans were divided on Prop C, we all want to make life better for our homeless neighbors and to improve the unacceptable conditions on our streets. 

Which is remarkable: Wiener, Chiu, and Breed were among those who made the argument that Prop. C had “no accountability” and that the funds would not be “well spent.”

I have not heard from Chiu.

But the overall results suggest that, despite massive big-money campaigns by the power structure, San Francisco voters are far more progressive than the person in Room 200 and two of the three people who represent us in Sacramento.

Election winners and losers in SF

Democratic Party Chair David Campos celebrates on Election Night

First, we don’t really know anything for sure yet. There are, according to the Department of Elections, an astonishing 139,000 ballots still to be counted – which means there could be more than 12,000 votes (or more) remaining in each of the contested districts.

Democratic Party Chair David Campos celebrates on Election Night. Photo by Ebbe Roe Yovino-Smith

But based on the preliminary numbers, the results of the Nov. 6 local election were dramatic: Despite more than $1.3 million of Big Tech and Real Estate money, the progressives will maintain a majority on the Board of Supes. It might be a significant majority, if Gordon Mar, who is ahead in the votes, winds up winning – and if Shamann Walton, who won with the support of some of the progressives supes, winds up voting with them instead of the mayor on key issues.

The biggest loser of the night was Big Money. Nick Josefowitz poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into his own campaign in D2, and lost. Ron Conway’s friends tried desperately to beat Matt Haney in D6, and got trounced. Whatever happens in D4, the fact that Mar was able to withstand a withering assault of more than $640,000 and come out ahead in the plurality vote suggests that the principle of district elections, where volunteers and retail politics can be Big Dark Money, is still alive in San Francisco.

Mayor Breed did not fare well. She opposed Prop. C, which passed with a strong mandate. She supported two candidates in D6 who lost badly. Not only will she have a board that is a check on her policies, the next board president could be a strong critic of the mayor.

If I had to count today, I would say that Hillary Ronen is in a strong position to be the next board president. She backed Haney, Mar, and Walton.

The Coalition on Homelessness was a huge winner: This small operation, which constantly struggles for funds, crafted Prop. C, got it on the ballot, and passed it over big-money opposition. The support of Mark Benioff was a huge help — but the Coalition and its allies and their ground campaign made the difference, from the first day. This campaign changed the way people think about homelessness.

Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, congratulates the campaign team

The other big winner, locally, is Democratic Party Chair David Campos. Campos worked closely with incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to set up the Red to Blue headquarters that helped turn out local folks to campaign for Dems nationally. He supported Haney, Mar, and Walton. He led the party’s endorsements — and it appears every supe candidate he backed is winning.

On Election Day, I almost felt as if we were watching the Mayor’s Race again – Mark Leno and former Mayor Art Agnos were riding around on a cable car promoting Haney. Except this time, the mayor didn’t win.

After elections, everyone tends to make nice, and Haney will be friendly with Breed. But he will remember, and so will Mar, that her allies spent vast sums of money on nasty, inaccurate hit pieces attacking them.

So that will help define the next two years.

The turnout, according to figures from DOE, appears to be extraordinarily high, over 70 percent. That’s a record for a mid-term election. It reflects, in part, the overall desire in San Francisco to make a statement about Trump, even though it was clear that our Congressional districts and our Senate seat will remain Democratic.

It’s also a factor of high awareness – even people who are not regular voters were getting texts from celebrities, there were political ads everywhere, and it was hard to miss the fact that a critical election was happening.

I think the grassroots efforts of the key campaigns also played a huge role. Prop. C and Prop. 10 had volunteers contacting voters; the field operations of Haney and Mar were key to getting voters to the polls.

Everyone in San Francisco cares about housing. Everyone knew that there were two major housing measures on the ballot. Even in districts where there was no race for supervisor, Props. C and 10 were a draw.

In D4, Prop. C may have been a defining issue. We won’t know until we see the detailed precinct maps, but the campaigns were finding a lot of support for C even in the most conservative areas – and Mar supported C while Ho opposed it.

Mar is a progressive, but he also made the race about who would best represent the district – a longtime resident or someone who just moved there in March. Sing Tao Daily, which is not typically a progressive news outlet, endorsed Mar.

The Yimby agenda was also a big loser. Sonja Trauss, the Yimby candidate in D6, came in a weak third. She ran an RCV strategy with Christine Johnson, and it worked fairly well – 70 percent of the Trauss vote went to Johnson. But Haney had so many first-place votes that he will likely finish with more than 50 percent, so RCV isn’t going to relevant in that race.

It was a good night for labor: Mar is a labor candidate, and labor worked for him.

We will see when the next round of votes comes out.

UPDATE: Only a few new votes counted in D4, but the trend is distinctly for Mar, who won an additional 273 votes to Ho’s 181. That has him 60-40 over Ho. Trevor McNeil picked up only 84 more votes — and in the RCV results show Mar picking up more second-place votes from McNeil than Ho.

The 48hills election-night coverage was prepared by the University of San Francisco Journalism 1 research team: Tim Redmond, Ilyria Bitton, Jamie Brown, Megan-Marie Caruana, Claudia Cortez, Ezra Del Rosario, Michaela Duncanson, Abigail Glass, Alizee Jean Jacques, Haley Keizur, Lexie McNinch, Katherine Na, Ciarra Nean-Marzella, Georgia Rodger, Josine Torres, Isabelle Hallock, and Olivia Scott.

Haney far ahead, Mar still leading and Prop C has won big!

The election-day results show the progressive candidates in D4 and D6 are extending their leads.

In D6, Haney is now at 56 percent. If we take the election-day vote for Haney, Johnson, and Trauss, Haney is picking up 54 percent of that vote. There may not even be an RCV contest in D6.

In D4, Mar is getting 62 percent of the votes cast for him and Jessica Ho. Prop. C is getting 64 percent of the Election Day votes.

Mar said “I expect to be in the lead when all the first-place votes are counted” but he’s concerned about the ranked-choice voting results. The first RCV pass showed Ho narrowly leading, but that didn’t include the latest results.

Mar said he was surprised at the early results, since “the people who tend to vote early tend to be more conservative and aren’t necessarily my strongest supporters.

Ho told her supporters she is “very confident and excited to work with San Francisco” but didn’t actually address the results so far.

If both Mar and Haney win, the progressives will have a clear majority on the board — and the candidates backed by Mayor Breed (and great gobs of campaign cash) will have been defeated.

Shamann Walton continues to pick up votes over Tony Kelly and Theo Ellington. At Walton’s headquarters, the candidate told us his first goal would be to “get put on budget is land use and community safety, public safety committees and then also regional transportation committees because I want to fight for affordability, fight homelessness and make sure that we have adequate transportation in our district.”

Walton said every candidate in the race “definitely worked hard,” no other candidate “has experience [with] actually getting things done and accomplishing goals.” He said, “I’m the one who’s built affordable housing and improved school outcomes here in the southeast. So I just know that we have the experience to continue to get things done.”

Kelly told us that “The fundamental problem in District 10 is that for decades there has been no problem identified out here that cannot be solved by a friendly cooperation making a profit and we see every day how much harm that causes the people in District 10. And we’re not sure yet but I believe that the turnout in Bayview was lower than expected. We’ll see if that’s true. But especially if that’s true it means that so many people in Bayview and Vis Valley who have just given up on politics. What this campaign tried to do and did really because we knocked on 50,000 doors, we talked to 10,000 people at their door. So we were determined to have a campaign that listened to the people of the district. however they voted is their choice to how they vote but there’s a lot of people who aren’t being heard. A lot of people who we talk to the doors have not talked to a candidate in their lives and the right wing in this city has become very very good at doing what it takes to get a vote on Election Day and then not really connect with people for the remaining four years. And then show up again for one election day.And Shamman and the people behind Shamman succeeded at that so far. You know depending on results but they succeeded at that. And it’s a real uphill battle because the people still want to be heard. And is anyone going to heed that. Is anyone going to listen to their call at some point. I know Shamman is clearly closer to the corporations. Closer to the power structure. I can’t say that that’s a mistake because if it works it works and it’s worked historically for supervisors here for a while but it’s very problematic when it comes to what’s happened to the people.”

Meanwhile, the leading candidates for School Board Alison Collins, Gabriela Lopez, and Faauuga Moliga. Josephine Zhao is far behind.

Early results show strong progressive vote

Natalie Gee, Walton's campaign manager, celebrates the early results

The early results, which typically skew more conservative, have the progressive candidates in the lead in District 4 and 6 and Shamann Walton, who has strong progressive support, leading in D10.

Natalie Gee, Walton’s campaign manager, celebrates the early results

Prop, C is well ahead with 55 percent of the vote.

In D4, Gordon Mar is at 30 percent and Jessica Ho at 29 percent. At Ho headquarters, about 30 people were gathered, mostly middle-aged white and Asian. Ho told us that “the night is going great” and then quickly left.

Ho’s campaign manager said he’s feeling positive.

Ho said she was feeling optimistic despite early results showing her behind.

At Mar’s party, people are singing and chanting and in very good spirits. 

Celebrations at Gordon Mar’s party

In D6, Haney is far ahead with 56 percent of the vote, Christine Johnson has 26 percent and Sonja Trauss is far behind at 16 percent. Even if Johnson and Trauss get most of each others’s second-place votes, at this point Haney looks strong.

In D10, Walton is at 42 percent and Tony Kelly is at 23 percent, with Theo Ellington at 19 percent.

A diverse and upbeat crowd of more than 100 gathered at the Laughing Monk where Walton is leading by 19 points over Tony Kelly.

Walton’s campaign manager Natalie Gee reported this election turnout as being “historically high.”  

Gee said:, “One thing about Shamman is that he’s really good at bringing people together and building coalitions… People [who] don’t usually agree with each other are supporting Shammon because they know he can actually get things done, and he has a long history of working in the community, solving homelessness, solving affordability.”

Prop. C is leading with 55 percent of the vote.