"We worked the Muni a lot in the last days, particularly in areas where we thought there were a lot of young people," Stearns said.
Polls commissioned by the Yes on A–No on H campaign showed that Prop. H, which would have deregulated parking and attracted more cars downtown, was winning by 54–39 percent as of Aug. 30. By Oct. 25 that lead had narrowed to 40–41 percent, a trend that gave the campaign hope that a big final push would produce a solid margin of victory, particularly given that more detailed polling questions showed support dropped fast once voters were educated on the real potential impacts of the measure.
Prop. A was much closer throughout the race, particularly given that both daily newspapers and left-leaning Sups. Gerardo Sandoval and Jake McGoldrick opposed it and even the Green Party couldn't reach consensus on an endorsement.
"This could have meant a lot of arrows from a lot of directions," Stearns said.
Campaign leaders Peskin, Haaland, and Stearns were so worried about Prop. A being defeated — and about not having the money for a big final telephone canvas in the final days — that they decided to make last-minute appeals for money.
"I've been a nervous wreck about this," Haaland said of the campaign on election night.
On the evening of Nov. 3, he placed an anxious call to Peskin, suggesting that the latter make an appeal for money to Clint Reilly, a real estate investor who has often helped fund progressive efforts.
Peskin agreed and asked Stearns to help him make the pitch — and the two men drove to Reilly's Seacliff home at 10 p.m. on Nov. 3.
"Prop. A just struck me as a nice, decent, positive message," Reilly told the Guardian at the election night party, which he attended with his wife, Janet Reilly, a former State Assembly candidate.
Sharing Peskin and the campaign's concerns that Prop. A was in trouble, Reilly cut a check for $15,000, which was enough to keep the phone banks going and help give the measure a narrow margin of victory.
But the money alone wasn't enough for this mostly volunteer-run campaign.
"The push we made on the last five days of this campaign was just incredible," campaign manager Natasha Marsh told us. "We had close to 500 volunteers on that last four days."
A DIFFERENT CITY
The campaign also developed an extensive list of potentially supportive absentee voters — fully half of them Chinese speaking — who were then contacted with targeted messages.
Rosa Vong-Chie, who coordinated the voter outreach effort, said the messages about climate change, clean air, and Fisher's involvement worked well with English-language voters. Chinese speakers didn't care as much about Fisher, so campaign workers talked to them about improving Muni service.
The absentee-voter drive (and the push among Chinese-language voters) was unusual for a progressive campaign — and the fact that Prop. A did so well among typically conservative absentee voters was a testament to the effort's effectiveness.
Elsbernd, one of the most conservative members of the Board of Supervisors, crossed many of his political allies to support the Yes on A–No on H campaign, and his involvement helped win over west-side voters and demonstrated that environmentalism and support for transit shouldn't be just progressive positions.
"It's great for public transit riders. It reinforces that this is a transit-first city.... Public transit is not an east-side issue," Elsbernd told us, adding that the election was also a victory for political honesty. "It shows that people saw through the campaign rhetoric."
The Fisher-funded rhetoric relied on simplistic appeals to drivers' desire for more parking and used deceptive antigovernment appeals, trying to capitalize on what he clearly thought was widespread disdain for the Board of Supervisors.
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