A progressive primary for District 6

Heading into the first open-seat race in District 6 in 10 years, we have to take care to not become victims of our own success

By Supervisor Chris Daly

OPINION Ten years ago, the newly drawn District 6 (which includes the Tenderloin, South of Market, and North Mission) was thought to be politically up for grabs. With an aggressive grassroots campaign and a progressive sweep across the city, we won the seat. Despite small demographic shifts to the right over the years, we've built a clear progressive identity for our district. Community stakeholders and all of progressive San Francisco should be proud of this accomplishment.

In 2006, despite downtown's major effort to unseat me, I held on with a nine point, or 1,600-vote, margin. I would guess that this is generally reflective of the current political dynamics in the district. In other words, District 6 is roughly a progressive +10 district.

But heading into the first open-seat race in the district in 10 years, we have to take care to not become victims of our own success. Already, four serious progressive candidates have declared for the seat and are now raising money, seeking endorsements, formulating campaign strategy, and assembling their teams.

Our system for electing supervisors allows voters to rank their top three choices. In other words, even if all progressive voters ranked three progressive candidates on every ballot, a certain number of those votes would not transfer to the strongest progressive candidate. In District 6, where the political contests have been pretty black and white for a decade, it's a safe bet we'll have more than our share of voters who only vote for one candidate. (In 2006, a number of voters even marked me as their first, second, and third choice.)Sensing an unexpected political opportunity, downtown is working to coalesce around a single candidate to steal away the seat and the progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors. We can't afford to let that happen. Our 10-point margin of error is too small to risk moving forward on our current path.

That's why I have asked all the major progressive candidates in the race to participate in a progressive primary early this summer. A central polling place will be open to all District 6 voters. We will have a ranked-choice ballot that will include the progressive candidates who have qualified for public financing (raised more than $5,000 in qualifying contributions.) Permanent absentee voters will be able to mail in their ballots. In most respects, the progressive primary will look like an officially sanctioned election.

The primary will give district voters an opportunity to signal their early preference in candidates and will give the progressive campaigns much-needed experience identifying and turning out their supporters. More important, it will give the rest of us a window into what otherwise could become a very confusing progressive cluster.

The winner of the primary will become the beneficiary of my endorsement and campaign support. It also will be a momentum-builder for the campaign that is already strongest within the district and will signal to all progressive voters that, even if they've committed to another candidate, they need to make sure they rank the progressive primary winner on their ballot.

As progressives continue to build our politics, we need to keep creating democratic forums and structures. I hope the Progressive Primary becomes a useful component of our political movement.

Supervisor Chris Daly represents District 6.


I'm a District 6 voter and think that this idea is an excellent way to make local ranked choice more meaningful, impactful, and successful in making sure we get true representation.

Let's do it!

Posted by Eric Brooks on Mar. 03, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

If you are searching for true representation, you won't get it from the candidates whom have a lot of campaign money. Most of the voters in District 6 do not have much money and they can't afford to contribute to a candidate's campaign. If a candidate has a lot of campain money than they are getting it from somewhere else.

Posted by Katie Mallory on May. 19, 2010 @ 10:15 pm

I ask people to carefully consider what is truly going on here.

This is really an attempt to usurp the November election.

Since when are Progressives part of a homogenized, group-think cult?

Hey, Jane Kim, please do not get suckered into this deal!

Hey, DCCC, likewise ....

Posted by Guest Independent Thinking Progressive on Mar. 05, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

Terrible idea. It will confuse voters and goes against the whole grassroots spirit of district elections. Let the candidates campaign until November without unnecessary interference from Daly. It is amazing to me that so many of the *progressives* who ran against the machine when district elections first began have adopted machine tactics.

Posted by Ryan Clary on Mar. 09, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

That's exactly what's going on.

Posted by Katie Mallory on May. 19, 2010 @ 6:45 pm

So the city is facing budget issues in every department and you want to ask for a costly special election? Daly at his finest.

I'm a district 6 voter and let me point out that only 40% of voters picked you as their number 1 choice for supervisor in 2006 - yet you've decided to act as if you were given some sweeping referendum for the past 4 years - I guess if W can do it, you can too? Thanks for the idea Chris, but is anybody really going to take someone seriously who vowed to cuss in every board meeting for the rest of his run?

Posted by tsuyoikuma on Apr. 06, 2010 @ 1:58 pm

He wants to decrease the number of candidates in order to ensure a win for a political party.

He's doing it by cutting off the candidates whom do not have $5,000 in campaign constributions.

Posted by Katie Mallory on May. 19, 2010 @ 6:38 pm

Thanks for your email and invite to the progressive primary proposal. As a district 6 candidate I have to refuse. I think it is unfair for the candidates like myself who do not seek public funds or donations from the public. These are difficult financial times for many in San Francisco and during my run for District 6 supervisor have no plans to drum up contributions and will only run a grass roots campaign. I think it is unfair to ask us to participate in such a primary election.

Posted by Dean Clark on May. 24, 2010 @ 12:19 pm

Also from this author

  • No balance in two-year budget

    A two-year budget would make the Mayor's Office even more insulated from the public and members of the board on the decisions that affect us the most.

  • We stand with Carole Migden

    Few politicians who have risen as high in the establishment food chain as Carole Migden have done so retaining a willingness to fight for the underdog.

  • Why I'm with Carole Migden

    Leno-Migden Senate challenge distracts from mayoral race