Lessons of the Avalos campaign

The mayoral candidate demonstrated what can be accomplished with a new kind of progressive leadership


By N'Tanya Lee

It's the middle of the night. His two kids and wife are home in bed. Supervisor John Avalos, candidate for mayor, heads downtown in his beat-up family car. He parks and walks over to 101 Market Street, and casually starts talking to members of OccupySF. He's a city official, but folks camped out are appreciative when they see he's there to stand with them, to try to stop the cops from harassing them, even though its 1 a.m. and he should be in bed.

John Avalos was the first elected official to personally visit Occupy SF. It wasn't a publicity stunt — his campaign staff didn't even know he was going until it was over. He arrived and left without an entourage or TV cameras. This kind of moment — defined by John's personal integrity and the strength of his personal convictions — was repeated week after week, and provides a much-needed model of progressive political leadership in the city.

John Avalos is more than "a progressive standard bearer," as the Chronicle likes to call him. He's also a Spanish-speaking progressive Latino, rooted in community and labor organizing, with a racial justice analysis and real relationships with hundreds of organizers and everyday people outside of City Hall. He's demonstrated an authentic accountability to the disenfranchised of the city, to communities of color and working people, and he knows that ultimately the future of the city is in our hands.

Some accomplishments of John's campaign for mayor are already clear: He consolidated the progressive-left with 19%, or nearly 40,000, first-place votes, despite the confusion of a crowded field; he came in a strong second to incumbent Ed Lee despite being considered a long shot even weeks before the election; after RCV tallies, he finished with an incredible 40% of the vote, demonstrating a much wider base of support across the city than he began with, and much broader than former frontrunners Leland Yee and David Chiu, who outspent him 3-1. He won the Castro, placed third in Chinatown (ahead of Yee), and actually won the election-day citywide vote. Not bad. In fact, remarkable, for a progressive Latino from a working class district in the southern part of town, running in his first citywide race.

I believe John Avalos demonstrated what can be accomplished with a new kind of progressive leadership — and suggests the elements of a new progressive coalition that can be created to win races in 2012, and again, in 2015.

It's Monday afternoon, 1:35pm, time for our weekly Campaign Board meeting. John rushes in, after a dozen appointments already that day. The rest of us file into the 'cave' — the one private room in Campaign headquarters, with no windows, a makeshift wall and furniture that looks to be third-hand. The board makes the key strategy, message, and financial decisions. There are no high paid political consultants here. Most of us are, or have been, organizers. Today, we need to approve the campaign platform. Finally. We've decided to get people excited about our ideas, an agenda for change. We leave the meeting excited and nervous, wondering if anyone will get excited about the city creating its own Municipal Bank.

We were an unlikely crew to lead a candidate campaign — even a progressive one in San Francisco. We come from membership based community and labor organizations, and share a critique of white progressive political players and electeds who spend too few resources on building power through organizing and operate without accountability to any base. We are policy and politics nerds, but we hate traditional politics. Seventy percent of us are people of color — Black, Filipina, Latino, and Chinese. We are all women except John, the candidate, and nearly half of us are balancing politics with parenting.


You want a say? Then put up the funds and it will get built.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

You want public support for a crappy public project and you want to quell opposition? Good luck, might I suggest building your subways in China where public opinion is meaningless?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 10:37 am

Over 60% just voted for a Mayor who supports it. and will get it done.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

May I please fix the typos - "I BRING it up on the BUS often!!!!"

Posted by GrannyGear on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 12:03 pm

How surprising that you could give a damn about the needs of anyone other than yourself, and denigrate folks who give up their time and energy in an attempt to deal with the many critical issues confronting us all, when they could be sitting home self indulgently like you spewing out this ignorant crap.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 1:52 pm

Because of the large time commitment requires, that effectively rules out almost everyone who is a productive member of society.

So what do you end up with? A bunch of people like you and Eric, who contribute nothing to the economy and love to kvetch about everything.

I suspect you could run a viable municipality by doing the exact opposite of everything the civil grand jury find or recommend.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 2:22 pm

who spends each day posting reactionary garbage on progressive web blogs where no one is the slightest bit interested in you red neck racist bullshit

Posted by anonymous on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

actually have a real job, a life, and contribute to society.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 3:45 pm

How exactly, shuffling papers; manipulating stocks; foreclosing on peoples homes; tele-marketing; selling insurance...........

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

These civil grand jury people would be going out of their minds trying to find things to oppose if the CGJ didnt exist. The CGJ is tailor made for them, and for people like you and Erik. I suppose that Marcos would also join if he wasnt such a contrarian.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

That's about five percent of the population of the city. Only one voter in twenty wanted Avalos as their first choice for Mayor.

How is that a success?

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 2:32 pm
Posted by anonymous on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 3:03 pm
Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

Seeing as how he got more support than Mr Ed, despite facing significant organised opposition, I guess he is the true 'winner' and top dog.
Could make it very 'interesting' 4 years from now.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

I agree. Especially now that Ross is off the BOS and Ed gets to pick his successor. Bye bye progressive quorum.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 6:56 pm

We get a mod in D5.

While Ross will find his hands tied as sherriff. He will have to doe victions if the courts tell him to. His political distaste for that won't enable him to avoid still doing them.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 6:31 am

The Knights of the White Camelia have risen again in San Francisco. Is it any wonder there is so much hatred of US, not so much the people, but our 'policies' and ignorant racist retards like these creatures who support them.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

Sorry, and the difference between you and the "knights of the white camelia" are?
Ignorant racist retards is "love" ? You are a shining example.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

Hey, I never claimed to 'love' you, I ain't that shining, pretty tarnished in fact, but I am 'opinionated' enough to believe that I'm one small example of what is required to keep struggling to preserve what remains of our rights and freedoms, and combatting those who are shredding the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
If you don't know the 'difference'...well, that doesn't come as any great surprise, whichever of these nameless trolls you are.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

any southerner or redneck I ever met.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 6:33 am

Why, because I call a spade a spade.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

There is so much good going on in this city, State and nation.

Yet you focus only on what you don't like.

It's very sad.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 4:35 pm

libertarian, red neck, racist (and tediously broken record) comments.

Oh yeah, you're a regular barrel of laughs...

Posted by anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 4:59 pm

Angry, yeah well sometimes - justifiably in my opinion; Bitter-no, but sad - yes, especially when I look at the future confronting the next generations. I see very little 'good' going on in this city, state, nation or world that will improve, enhance or secure a livable future for the vast majority of people. Yes I do focus on what I don't like because there is so much of it. Exactly what are some of these 'good things' that make you so hopeful.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 9:55 pm

So basically you just admitted that you are a bitter troll who focuses on the negative because he doesn't see positives. Now if we could just get Marc and erikkk to be so honest!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 10:23 pm

What kind of deluded and convoluted thinking could lead you to draw that conclusion!! Whatever you have been imbibing, please stop, you obviously can't afford to destroy any more of your remaining cerebral synapses.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 11:03 pm

Yes a very small example indeed. One minute youre spewing hatred at people you disagree with and the next you're speechifying to America the beautiful.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 7:01 pm

Once again 'you' demonstrate the superficiality of your comprehension. If you had any ability to be objective you would realise that the majority of 'hate speech' on this site comes from 'the other side'. I frequently acknowledge valid points made by thoughtful 'conservatives' even though I may disagree with them; challenge 'progressives' when I disagree with them; and have copped to mis-speaking.
I have NEVER made ANY comment that could lead an intelligent and discerning reader to surmise that I was glorifying "America the Beautiful".

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 8:50 pm

A huge lesson for the Avalos campaign might be that it is going to be increasingly difficult to appeal to a growing number of people, despite your best intentions, when you come as a proud representative of one of the largest organizations in bed with Wall Street, the bankers, the corporations, and the 1%. Democratic party apologists can can try to spin facts and fear monger our votes, but as Bill Moyers recently said: 'We have two parties serving corporate America and no party that serves the middle class or working people.' At this point I, and I believe many others, feel unable to give a first place vote, much less enthusiastically campaign, for any member of the Democratic (or Republican) party, no matter what their campaign promises. They are ultimately beholden to the machine, and have proven again and again that when push comes to shove they will cave in to party pressure and side against the people.

As for Avalos’ support of Occupy SF, days after the losing the election, I noticed his this seemed to change with the political wind. Following Mayor Lee’s pronouncement of the camp as ‘public health disaster’ (the official script being parroted by city mayors after conferencing with Obama’s Homeland Security before violently removing protesters) Avalos was quoted in the Chronicle referring to occupy SF; ‘The message is now completely being lost.’

Well, for many of us the message is loud and clear, and is the same as it always was: we are tired of corporate rule, and we want to see justice and equality for each one of us. But I’m sure it is easy to loose that message when you are part of the machine that keeps the corporate state in place.

Posted by 99% on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 9:21 pm

To tired to respond right now, but basically, agreed. This is something many of us 'old-timers' have been struggling with for decades. "Put not your faith in Princes"

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 9:46 pm

The state and cities democrats have often been proud of their being subservient to union leadership and whoever on the "left" for decades.

Before the election Avalos was trying to ally himself to the mish mash of the occupy message.

All the pre election and post election ravings about what Lee was going to do, pre election and post election was just that, you claim victory based on what Lee was predicted he might do, based on what he might or might not do.???... 2012 is coming up, whatever happens claim victory over the Mayans.

Your post is incoherent and certainly only representative of the conspiracy addled whatever %.

Posted by matlock on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 11:00 pm

who have not Occupied but gotten on with their lives.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

A Avalos can claim to represent the majority, while holding positions that are counter to the majority.

That Avalos can get pounded in an election while he and his boosters still claim to represent the majority.

We learned that representing the 99% means being a shill for; union leadership, non-profit hucksters, racialists, college communists, and Haight St campers.

The Avalos 99 percenters loath a cross section of the population and are not afraid to shout it out. We learn that those people who partake in such things as; driving, shopping, eating, smoking and essentially living in the city, while not being hobo's are hectored in the name of the 99%, that are claimed by the Avalos crowd.

We learned that voting for a progressive is a vote for the occupation movement, not like other cities like Oakland who voted for progressives like Jean Quan who oppose the occupation movement. keep looping this paragraph.

Why didn't Avalos win? We are too stupid too see his genius, that genius is, we all owe superior values.

Posted by matlock on Nov. 26, 2011 @ 11:21 pm

crowing about how well he did because the moderate vote was split between many candidiates. While he was the only credible candidate on the left.

But less than 5% of SF's population preferred Avalos to an other candidate, and the real lesson here is the one thats adly the elft will not learn:

Avalos's policies and biases were tooe xtreme for the vast majority of city voters. It's really that simple.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 6:36 am

makes it valid just how exactly mr mini Goebbels?

Based on what you wrote about 'illegal' 'hispanics' I think we can guess what your true motivation is of ridiculing a progressive Latino who got 40% of the final vote count.

you're just another pathetic racist reactionary

Posted by anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

It's sad that you can't learn the real lesson from that.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

you will repeat any stupid nonsense at this point just to get in the last word

by all means, repeat away last word boy

let's see how long you will keep it up

troll addiction sucks eh?

Posted by anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

Good to know.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

i'm not interested in repeating the same fucking conversation that you are determined to have over and over again until the end of eternity

try saying something original instead of you pathological school boy rant of


you are such a pathetic joke

Posted by anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

and that the left needs to find ways of making their policies more aligned with what the people of this city really want, rather than what the left thinks they should want.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

let's leave it at

last word boy is so addicted to getting in the last word that even if it means repeating the same stupid thing a hundred times, he will,

because he stupidly imagines, as a two year might, that speaking last means he has won the argument

Posted by anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

It happened either way, loser boy.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 5:49 pm

come on man, you can do far better than 'loser boy' can't you?

i can do this forever

how stupid would you like to look?

you literally cannot stop

can you?

Posted by anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

No need to say more.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 6:50 pm

at making an ass of yourself, aren't you

care to do it again

Posted by anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

I'm curious as to how many of the shills for this boondoggle have ever used public transportation to get from Downtown to Chinatown or Northbeach, regularly, occasionally or ever. Up until a few months ago when I semi-retired, I would ride the 30 & 45 on a regular basis, sometimes multiple times in the same day in order to visit my patients. I was able to put my bike on the rack, and could get off at the most convenient location. Yes it can at times be slow and frustrating, especially during 'peak times', but rarely resulted in more than a five minute 'delay', and that was a small inconvenience compared to puffing, pedaling and navigating through frustrated motorists so I could get to the top of the hill.
If the goal is to provide more reliable and regular service to Chinatown and Northbeach there have to be more cost effective solutions than this billion dollar boondoggle, check out Boston's Big Dig.
I'm no traffic engineer but there has to be some combination of dedicated bus lanes, one way streets and coordinated traffic signals that could significantly improve service at a fraction of the cost. This ridiculous solution essentially goes from nowhere to wherever; reduces stops and accessibility to a number of local destinations; has poor connectivity to the existing public transportation infrastructure; is gonna create massive traffic disruption during it's construction; suck massive amounts of money and resources from SFMTA which can't even maintain it's current operations on an acceptable level, to name just a few objections.
So just who is this gonna benefit. Let's focus on rethinking and redesigning our surface options. Improving the Geary Corridor is possibly a more cost effective use of our limited resources.
So to those of you who are so vehement in your support of the Central Subway, it would be very informative to hear the personal experiences of those who regularly, or frequently, rely on the current system.
Just another 2c.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

CalTrain, BallPark, Moscone, Market/Powell/UnionSq, ChinaTown and North Beach.

As liberals we must encourage mass transit solutions, and especially when it's on the Federal dime.

The 30 bus is a nightmare whenever I've used it - hopelessly over-crowded as it crawls thru ChinaTown - that's no form of transit for a world-class city in the 21st century.

It doesn't go nowhere. It goes everywhere where most people need to get downtown.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 4:31 pm

I ride the 30 and the 45 N-S several times a day as part of my commute. Getting through SOMA and downtown is painfully slow and crowded even with bus after bus after 30 bus. Stockton is ridiculous and essentially hazardous as people cram on the busses. Every day I thank god that there hasnt been a bus accident when you have busses so full that people are riding in the front and back stairwells.

I suppose though, because some aged hippy can bring his bike on the bus and doesnt mind waiting, that the rest of SF should just follow his luddite lead. Why have touch tone service when the rotary dial works fine? I think that if given the choice, a small subset of SF would chose to live in a virtual colonial williamsburg world. Communicate by telegram, and travel by horse and buggy. Just as long as nothing ever changes.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

any part of SF to have world-class services and facilities.

If their life sucks, it's important to them that so does everybody else's.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

I appreciate you sharing your negative experiences of current system, agree that it needs upgrading, but this is not the answer, have you read any of the criticism.
...as for your ignorant ageist comments, blow it out your arse yuppie scum.
...oh lawdy, I could have been more 'hateful'.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Nov. 27, 2011 @ 5:53 pm