The great divide - Page 2

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


Lee had the support of establishment politicians at every level. "He is my man. He's genuine, he's competent, he's no flash in the pan," Rep. Jackie Speier told us at district attorney candidate Sharmin Bock's campaign party at Yoshi's. "He's going to put San Francisco first and check his ego at the door."

Yet other politicians — even moderates like Sup. Scott Wiener, who supported Dennis Herrera — felt the outcome of the election was skewed by the advantage Lee enjoyed from incumbency that he attained under false pretenses and the huge spending on his behalf by outside groups.

"When you have that big a curve ball thrown three months before the elections, those are the dynamics," Wiener said.

Part of Lee's victory was due to turnout — heavy turnout in areas where he won, and low turnout in areas where he didn't. There's an important lesson for progressives here — Lee's campaign (and the independent expenditure groups that supported him) spent considerable money and time on an absentee voter program and on GOTV.

The result: Avalos actually got more votes than Lee on election day — but Lee still came in far ahead, thanks to absentees.

Some of the absentee efforts created controversy and may have been illegal — videos taken by workers with Leland Yee's campaign showed Lee backers helping voters in Chinatown fill out their ballots (using a stencil to make sure Lee's name was properly marked) and collecting those ballots in a bag. And while District Attorney George Gascon has announced an investigation, it's not likely much will come of it: The people caught on film were not senior campaign aides, and the effort was run by one of the Lee IEs.

At any rate, whatever the Lee supporters were doing, legal or not, it worked. An analysis of voting results shows that in Lee strongholds, far more than half the ballots cast were absentees. For example, in Chinatown, where Lee beat Avalos by a margin of more than 4-1, 4,200 of the 7,161 ballots cast — that's 60 percent of the total — were vote by mail (VBM). In Bayview/Hunters Point, where Lee (with the strong backing of former Mayor Willie Brown) topped Avalos by a 3-1 margin, 64 percent of the turnout was VBM.

Avalos had almost twice as many votes as Lee in the Haight Ashbury, but turnout there was lower than usual — and only 34 percent was VBM. The same pattern appeared in the Mission and Bernal Heights.

Overall, Lee's support was strong in most parts of the city — of the 26 neighborhoods identified by the Department of Elections, Lee beat Avalos in 18.

Leland Yee, who came in surprisingly low for an elected official who has held public office for more than 20 years and has been elected citywide several times, ran strongly only in the Sunset, the Richmond and the Excelsior. City Attorney Dennis Herrera demonstrated fairly broad-based (but more limited) support, running consistently in second or third place around the city and doing particularly well in the Marina and Upper Market/Castro. Board President David Chiu ran strongest in his district (Chinatown/North Beach), the Marina and the Sunset and Richmond.

And there's no question that the Asian vote was critical to this race. For perhaps the first time in history, Asian voters turned out in heavy numbers and demonstrated that they are a major factor in San Francisco politics. Some of that was the presence of four major Asian candidates on the ballot, but a lot was due to the excitement of supporting the city's first Chinese mayor.

"There are really two elections going on in San Francisco," one longtime activist told us. "There's the election in the Chinese community, and then there's everywhere else."

But Lee also won in the traditionally more conservative parts of town, beating out the other centrist candidates and even former Sup. (and conservative darling) Michela Alioto-Pier.


Also from this author

  • SF's new political era

    What Mayor Lee and a new board mean for the city

  • Cash backwards

    Ten things San Francisco should fund -- and 10 things it shouldn't -- to create a fair, equitable, and forward-thinking city budget

  • Clean Power SF still moving forward