Robert Haaland, a staffer with the Service Employees International Union and one of the architects of the campaign, put it more colorfully: "We ran the fucking table," he told us election night. "It's amazing — we were up against the biggest downtown blitz since district elections."
The evidence suggests that this election was no anomaly: the progressive movement has taken firm hold in San Francisco, despite the tendency of the old power-brokers — from Newsom to downtown to both of the city's corporate-owned daily newspapers — to try to marginalize it.
Political analyst David Latterman of Fall Line Analytics began the Nov. 5 presentation at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association election wrap-up by displaying an ideologically-coded map of San Francisco, drawing off of data from the Progressive Voter Index that he developed with San Francisco State University political science professor Rich de Leon. The PVI is based on how San Francisco residents in different parts of the city vote on bellwether candidates and ballot measures.
"Several of the districts in San Francisco discernibly moved to the left over the last four to eight years," Latterman told the large crowd, which was made up of many of San Francisco's top political professionals.
The two supervisorial districts that have moved most strongly toward the progressive column in recent years were Districts 1 (the Richmond) and 11 (the Excelsior), which just happened to be two of the three swing districts (the other being District 3–North Beach and Chinatown) that were to decide the balance of power on the Board of Supervisors this election.
Latterman said Districts "1, 3, and 11 went straight progressive, and that's just the way it is."
In fact, in many ways, he said this was a status-quo election, with San Francisco validating the progressive-leaning board. "A lot of people in the city didn't see it as a chance for a drastic change citywide."
In other words, keeping progressives in City Hall has become a mainstream choice. Whatever downtown's propaganda tried to say, most San Franciscans are happy with a district-elected board that has brought the city a living-wage law and moved it a step toward universal health insurance.
The fate of the local ballot measures was another indication that Newsom, popular as he might be, has little ability to convince the voters to accept his policy agenda.
Voters rejected efforts by Newsom to consolidate his power, rejecting his supervisorial candidates, his Community Justice Center (as presented in Measure L), and his proposed takeover of the Transportation Authority (soundly defeating Proposition P) while approving measures he opposed, including Propositions M (protecting tenants from harassment) and T (Daly's guarantee of substance abuse treatment on demand).
Asked about it at a post-election press conference, Newsom tried to put a positive spin on the night. "Prop. A won, and I spent three years of my life on it," he said. "Prop B. was defeated. Prop. O, I put on the ballot. I think it's pretty small when you look at the totality of the ballot." He pointed out that his two appointees — Carmen Chu in District 4 and Sean Elsbernd in District 7 — won handily but made no mention of his support for losing candidates Lee, Alicia Wang, Alioto, Claudine Cheng, and Safai.
"You've chosen two as opposed to the totality," Newsom said of Props. L and P. "Prop. K needed to be defeated. Prop. B needed to be defeated."
Yet Newsom personally did as little to defeat those measures as he did to support the measures he tried to claim credit for: Measures A (the General Hospital rebuild bond, which everyone supported) and revenue-producing Measures N, O, and Q. In fact, many labor and progressives leaders privately grumbled about Newsom's absence during the campaign.