Editor's Note: These are our full endorsements for the 2011 election on November 8. Our Clean Slate clipout guide to take to the polls is here. Listen and watch our interviews with many of the major candidates here. For information about San Francisco voter registration, early voting, and other city election provisions, click here.
The way the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting it, this city isn't paying much attention to the Nov. 8 election. An Oct. 2 story cited a rumored poll showing that a third of the voters still think Gavin Newsom is mayor. And "nobody has a really big, attention-grabbing personality."
And yet, this is a crucial election. The city's in serious trouble. The budget has a huge structural imbalance, blue-collar jobs are vanishing, affordable housing lags far behind condominiums for millionaires — and planning decisions that are made in the next administration will change the shape of the city for decades to come.
Meanwhile, a discredited political machine run by former Mayor Willie Brown is trying mightily to get its sleazy tentacles back into City Hall.
There are important races for sheriff and district attorney, too. San Francisco has a long history of progressive sheriffs, dating back to Dick Hongisto in the 1970s. Now, after 30 years, Mike Hennessey is retiring — and it's possible that the city could lose the distinction of having a national leader in alternatives to incarceration, anti-recidivism and humane treatment of prisoners.
San Francisco has another distinction, this one less laudable: This is the first city in modern history to have a police chief become district attorney. And three challengers are trying to change that.
We've spent weeks meeting with the candidates. We've held a series of forums on the key issues. Our interviews are all on the politics blog.
So don't sit this one out. Vote early, vote often, and vote as if the future of the city is at stake. Our recommendations follow.
1. John Avalos
2. Dennis Herrera
3. Leland Yee
The first mayoral election in San Francisco to feature ranked-choice voting and public financing has opened the way to a broad field of candidates. There are eight contenders who have served either as supervisors or as citywide elected officials — and if the interim mayor, Ed Lee, had kept his promise and stayed out of the race, this would be perhaps the most competitive field in modern history.
Unfortunately, Lee — who was chosen to replace Gavin Newsom only because he vowed to be a caretaker and not run for a full term — backed down from his promise, and, thanks to a boatload of special interest money, is now the clear favorite.
But Lee still lacks the support of a majority of the voters (polls show him with around 30 percent, meaning 70 percent are either undecided or voting for somebody else), which gives the rest of the field — or at least, a few of the top contenders — a fighting chance.
In some ways, Lee has been refreshing. After years of the arrogant and superficial Gavin Newsom, Lee has brought humility, a sense of humor and a degree of openness to the office that has won him fans across the political spectrum.