The great divide

The rich and powerful went for Mayor Ed Lee. Now what happens to the rest of us?

Sup. John Avalos celebrates his second-place finish with his wife, Karen Zapata, and Sup. Jane Kim

Of all the election night parties held in San Francisco Nov. 8, the two that most closely illustrated the city's political divide were the ones hosted for the winner of the mayoral contest, Mayor Ed Lee, and for the progressive candidate who came in second, Sup. John Avalos.

Lee's campaign held its own event at Tres, but the really eye-catching bash was thrown in his honor by former Mayor Willie Brown and billionaire tech investor Ron Conway in the decadent, high-ceilinged Garden Court of the prestigious Sheraton Palace Hotel. It attracted high-profile businesspeople, political operatives, tech executives, and celebrities.

Brown and influential Chinatown business consultant Rose Pak — both of whom played key roles in Lee's appointment as interim mayor and his decision to run for office — attended the Palace event. Real-estate developers, public relations representatives, and others circulated around the room, sipping $17 martinis. MC Hammer, a legend of the 1990s who recently started his own search engine, hovered over his laptop onstage while a cluster of his fans tore up the dance floor.

When Lee arrived, he appeared with Brown, Hammer, and Conway, a Republican who spearheaded an independent expenditure committee (IE) to bolster Lee's campaign. "He said San Franciscans have spoken," Lee spokesperson Christine Falvey explained, summarizing the mayor's comments, which were delivered before the Guardian arrived. "They like what they've seen in the last 10 months."

When we approached Conway, he said he supported the mayor because "Ed Lee's going to bring jobs to San Francisco." Asked to comment on the influence of the independent expenditure committee he funded to alter the outcome of the race, Conway dismissed the question and repeated, "Ed Lee's going to bring jobs to San Francisco."

The Avalos event was at the jam-packed Roccapulco Supper Club in the Mission. The party drew a host of young, progressive supporters, many of whom are deeply engaged in social justice organizing, promoting workers' rights, and protecting affordable housing. At least two bicycles were locked to every parking meter and street sign for more than a block in each direction, many sporting Avalos signs in the rims or attached to their frames.

There were live musical performances by The Bayonics and a mariachi band, plus rousing speeches cheering Avalos on as the peoples' choice for mayor. Former Sup. Chris Daly was there, as was Sup. David Campos and a host of progressive movers and shakers.

Twitter updates offered snapshots of what was happening in the different venues. "This is how I'm doing it tonight! The 'Too Legit To Quit' Party! Ed Lee, Willie Brown & MC Hammer," tweeted DJ MindMotion, who performed at Lee's event. Later, he offered a few more updates. "Rocking with SF politicians! Getting my parking tickets cleared!" And a few minutes later, "I have a lot of parking tickets."

At Roccapulco, Avalos' wife Karen Zapata introduced her husband with a rallying cry for progressives to keep up the fight. She offered a long view of this struggle, a people's movement battling for the city's soul and future. If Ed Lee hangs on to win, she said, "We could be screwed unless we work together and organize...We have to stick together and we have to push from outside the system."

It was a theme and a feeling that would permeate the event, this sense that Avalos and the progressives enjoyed a resurgence in the last month thanks to what's happening in the streets, both with this campaign and the OccupySF movement that Avalos has taken a lead role at City Hall in supporting. "We've got everyone here," Avalos said when he took the mic. "Except for the 1 percent!"

They were at the Palace, celebrating with Ed Lee.


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