The Rise of Candidate X

The absolutely true story of how a complete unknown rocketed from political obscurity, electrified the city, tackled real problems, and beat Ed Lee in 2015. 

All illustrations by Sean Morgan


As we move through tumultuous times in San Francisco and start a year with infinite political potential, we decided to stretch our imaginations a bit. While this is clearly a work of satire that appropriates some local media voices and perspectives, we hope that even its most fantastical moments will give this parable some resonance with our readers. Happy new year!


EDITORIAL The most exciting and promising political development we've seen in a long time in San Francisco is the sudden emergence of so-called Candidate X, who has quickly parlayed groundbreaking populist efforts to reform Muni and housing development into a full-blown campaign for mayor.

While the election is still 22 months away an eternity in electoral politics we're going to go out on a limb here and offer the Candidate X campaign our early endorsement. Political movements like this one are once in a generation opportunities, and it will only be successful with strong, early support.

There's just too much at stake for politics as usual, or to trust Mayor Ed Lee's sudden recognition that his economic development policies and deference to market-rate housing developers were hurting San Francisco's vitality and diversity and igniting a popular uprising, which Candidate X suddenly emerged to help lead.

In case you've been living in a cave for the last month, 2014 began with an explosion of progressive activism that finally began to bridge the gap between longtime San Francisco communities and a group of fairly apolitical but Internet-savvy new arrivals, many of whom work in the technology industry, which had been increasingly vilified as elitist and out-of-touch with the city's values and history.

xMuniA mysterious, masked figure calling himself or herself (nobody is quite sure) Candidate X used social media on New Year's Day to announce bold plans to "disrupt the streets of San Francisco," calling for vaguely defined meet-ups at a dozen key spots around the city on the morning of Jan. 3.

The multi-pronged response was overwhelming and surprisingly coordinated, perhaps an indicator of offline organizing that exceeded the viral online phenomenon. Google and other corporate buses were commandeered into free public service (with the collusion of many drivers and regular riders) while Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and other online funding drives raised at least $10 million for Muni to expand its service, a potent mix of fiscal and people power. And that epic day ended with an unpermitted rally of at least 10,000 people in Civic Center Plaza.

A week later, Candidate X followed up with a similar effort to jumpstart affordable housing construction in the city, using a combination of carrot and stick (humanist appeals to project backers and direct action at construction sites) to persuade a half-dozen market rate developments to substantially increase their affordable housing mix. And the candidate helped organize a mass mobilization that brought thousands of tenants to City Hall and generated 10 times as many emails and calls to force the supervisors to support a measure raising the relocation fees on Ellis Act evictions so high that the speculators were almost instantly driven out of the city.

Candidate X is now talking about raising even more money for Muni by quadrupling the mitigation fees developers pay to construct new offices.