Sorting out a strange election - Page 2

What the Nov. 6 results mean -- and don't mean

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London Breed beat three flawed progressive candidates to win the D5 race.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY BETH LABERGE

Lee didn't even endorse Prop. A until a few weeks before the election, and played almost no role in raising money or campaigning for its passage (see "Words and deeds," 9/11/12). Yet it got a higher percentage of the vote than any of the three measures that Lee actively campaigned for: Props. B, C, and E.

Then there's Prop. C, the Housing Trust Fund. Lee's office played a central role in drafting and promoting the measure -– but it wasn't exactly a Lee initiative. Prop. C came out of the affordable housing community, and Lee, who has strong ties to that community, went along. There were tough negotiations -– the mayor wanted more guarantees and protections for private developers -– and the final product was much more what the progressives who have spent decades on the housing front wanted than what the mayor would have done on his own.

The way the mayor envisioned business-tax reform, the city would have eliminated the payroll tax, which tech firms hate, and replaced it with a gross-receipts tax -– and the result would have been revenue-neutral. It was only after Sup. John Avalos and the progressives demanded that the tax actually bring in more money that the outlines of Prop. E were drafted and it received strong support from groups across the ideological spectrum.

"You had a lot of consensus in the city about these ballot measures," political consultant David Latterman, who usually works with downtown-backed campaigns, said at SPUR's post-election round-up.

The supervisorial races were a different story, with unprecedented spending and nasty messaging aimed at tipping the balance in favor of real estate and development interests. Mayor Lee didn't get directly involved in the District 1 race, but he was clearly not a supporter of incumbent Sup. Eric Mar.

The real-estate and tech folks who are allied with Lee spent more than $800,000 trying to oust Mar -- and they failed miserably, with Mar winning by 15 points. While Mar did have the backing of Chinatown powerbroker Rose Pak, who raised money and helped organize ground troops to help, Mar's victory was primarily the result of a massive outpouring of support from labor and progressive activists, many reacting to the over-the-top effort to oust him.

Mar, who voted to put Lee in office, won't feel a bit indebted to the mayor for his survival against a huge money onslaught. But in District 5, the story was a whole lot more complicated, and impact more difficult to discern.

THE D5 MESS

Before we get into what happened in D5, let's dispel some of the simplistic and self-serving stories that circulated in the wake of this election, the most prominent being that Olague's loss -– the first time an incumbent was defeated in a ranked-choice election –- was payback for crossing Mayor Lee and voting to reinstatement Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.

It's certainly true that Lee's allies went after Olague and supported London Breed, and that they tried to make an issue of domestic violence, but there was much, much more to this district election. Breed is an SF native with a compelling personal story who ran a strong campaign –- and that three strongest progressive candidates in the race each had major flaws that hurt their electability. By most accounts, the Olague campaign was a disaster until the very end. Equally important, the progressive community was divided over D5, leaving room for Breed to slip in.

"It's hard to unravel what happened here," Latterman said.

San Francisco Women for Responsibility and an Accountable Supervisor was an independent expenditure group fronted by domestic violence advocates and funded by more than $100,000 from the families of Conway and fellow right-wing billionaire Thomas Coates. It attacked Olague's Mirkarimi vote as being soft on domestic violence -- but it also did a last minute mailer criticizing Olague's vote for CleanPowerSF, muddling its message of moral outrage.

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