The great divide - Page 3

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


Six months ago, when John Avalos first decided to get in the race, a lot of people (including some of his supporters) figured he was running primarily to get his issues out and make sure the progressive perspective was represented. He was up against three people who had won citywide races (Herrera, Yee, and Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting) as well as the president of the Board of Supervisors. Later, of course, the incumbent entered the contest. A first-term district supervisor didn't seem that formidable.

But the Avalos campaign worked wonders, pulling together hundreds of volunteers, working precincts, getting out the progressive vote and giving tens of thousands of people a candidate to believe in. His strong second-place showing did two things: It demonstrated that the left vote in the city is still strong, and it established Avalos as a credible new leader of the progressive coalition, someone who was able to attract votes across the city and position himself for future runs for higher office.

While Avalos didn't win any districts outside of the traditional progressive strongholds on the east side of town, he did surprisingly well citywide.

Even moderates like political consultant David Latterman praised the race Avalos ran. "Next to Ed Lee, Avalos had the most solid base in the city," Latterman said at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association's regular post-election wrap-up. "With John Avalos, it's fair to say he maxed out his base. He ran a positive campaign."

Alex Clemens, the other political analyst at the SPUR event, agreed: "John Avalos cemented his base and they turned out."

Election reform activist Steven Hill went even further, noting that Avalos picked up a significant number of second- and third-place votes to hang onto his solid second place standing throughout the ranked choice voting tabulations to finish with about 40 percent of the vote.

"What this election showed is John Avalos had a strong core, and then he broadened his appeal," Hill said.

Contrary to characterizations that the outcome of this election represented a shift to the right, Latterman noted that voters sided with the endorsements of the Bay Guardian and other progressive entities on more of the ballot measures than they did with the San Francisco Chronicle and others entities to the right of the progressives. Voters aligned with Guardian endorsements on six of the eight measures (almost seven, given that Prop. H, the neighborhood schools measure, won by a fraction of a percentage point).



After Avalos spoke, Daly offered us some insights into a race whose outcome he predicted months ago, consistently telling skeptics that even though the power play that put Lee into office was all but assured of victory, he believed the progressive movement was still strong and that Avalos would place second, ahead of a large field of well-qualified candidates with high name recognition.

"We did as well as we could have," Daly said, "because the whole thing was juiced from a year ago, with their dirty backroom deal at City Hall and all their dirty money."

Daly said he saw a new political narrative beginning to take shape, one with the potential to revive the progressive movement in San Francisco. Infused with energy from the campaign volunteers and the rise of the Occupy movement, Daly said it was notable that Avalos got more election day votes than Lee.

"That momentum, we didn't have it a month ago when the absentee ballots went out," he said. So now what? "We just keep going. We now have a leader of the progressives in San Francisco and his name in John Avalos," Daly said. "John has a broad, active base of appeal."

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