And how significant will it be to have Mendoza on a school board that now has a solid progressive majority, one she's not a part of?
Ragone shrugged again, sticking to his line.
But the Mayor's Office can't spin away the fact that, as pollster David Binder put it at a postelection event, "I don't think Newsom had a very good night."
"It showed that we had a progressive turnout and this is a progressive town," Binder said.
Boris Delepine, a campaign veteran and Sup. Ross Mirkarimi's board aide, went even further: "This election ranks up there with the 2000 supervisorial races as far as I'm concerned."
In other words, progressives battled the downtown interests and won.
The most exciting race was in District 6, where Daly's expected reelection was thrown into doubt a few weeks ago by some polls and the onslaught of downtown attacks on Daly (which Binder jokingly referred to as "a deforestation project" for all of the negative mailers).
The problem was that most of the material just attempted to savage Daly without really making the case for why Black would be better. That appears to have backfired.
In fact, the assault served to galvanize Daly supporters, who stepped up a vigorous campaign in the final push. "It was very efficient and very effective," Binder said.
Or as Daly put it to his supporters on election night, "We were under attack.... San Francisco values were under attack, and you responded like nothing before. Five hundred volunteers were in the streets today to say this district is not for sale."
The message from the Tenderloin, inner Mission, and South of Market was resoundingly clear: with district elections downtown can't simply buy a seat on the board anymore. Money is powerful — but an organized grassroots campaign can still prevail.
The impact for the mayor is more than just the loss of a potential board ally. Newsom found himself in District 6 working closely with SFSOS — a group that has become so nasty and is so reviled, even two of its key founders, Senator Dianne Feinstein and financier Warren Hellman, have walked away in disgust.
"If all things were equal, I'd just as soon that SFSOS went away," Hellman told us.
It's not going to help the mayor's reputation to be seen in that sort of company.
A HIPPER DUFTY
The District 8 race showed the power of district elections in a different way.
From the start it was going to be tough for Alix Rosenthal, a straight woman, to defeat incumbent supervisor Bevan Dufty, a gay man in what has always been a gay district. But Rosenthal says her candidacy had a clear impact on Dufty — during the late summer and fall, the onetime solid mayoral ally moved a few noticeable steps to the left, supporting Sup. Tom Ammiano's universal health care bill and voting with the progressives (and against the mayor) for police foot patrols.
"Dufty became a much hipper person after I challenged him," Rosenthal said.
Dufty told us the challenge made him work harder but had no impact on his votes. "What you saw on foot patrols was an immense amount of frustration with the police chief's failures to lead the department," he said. "That had nothing to do with this race."
Binder pointed out that District 8 has a higher percentage of registered Democrats than any district in the city, and Dufty locked down party support early on. And even though Dufty's voting record was less progressive than his district, he remains popular. "There are people who think he doesn't vote the right way on the issues, but nobody thinks he doesn't try hard," Binder said.
The District 4 race was not only a test of the power of the mayor's coattails in a district where Newsom has always been popular. It was also a test of how ranked-choice voting works in complex election demographics.
From early this year, when it became clear that incumbent Fiona Ma was going to the state assembly, Newsom and his allies tapped Chan as the candidate they would promote.