By Steven T. Jones
Pollster David Binder's day-after election luncheon at SPUR is a tradition of the season and a must-attend for the wonkiest of political wonks. Among his insights:
* In an otherwise lackluster election, the Ma-Reilly Assembly race increased turnout on the more-conservative westside of San Francisco, thus hurting progressive measures like Measures A (which barely lost...probably) and B (which won, but not by as much as Binder and others predicted)
* There are still 40,000-60,000 absentee and provisional ballots to be counted in San Francisco, meaning Measure A (which was losing by a little over 1,000 words) could still flip, although Binder considers it unlikely given that absentee ballots in this race favored the "no" position.
* For its liberal reputation, San Franciscans are still fairly fiscally conservative and resist spending money. But we still support markedly more liberal candidates than the rest of the state.
* It was a good night for Asians and a bad night for wives seeking to replace their politician husbands.
* Democrats might have a hard time this fall keeping control of the statewide offices.
"Every year, on the day after the election, I come in bleary eyed and half-awake," Binder said, before launching into an insightful presentation.
In the months leading up to the election, many in Binder's focus groups weren't even aware of the June election. That translated into a dismal turnout of only about one in three registered voters. But the poor turnout and a mudslinging campaign probably helped Phil Angelides win the Democrat gubernatorial nomination, Binder said, because the party machinery that supported him was able to get core voters out to the polls.
"Angelides got the benefit of a lower statewide turnout," Binder said.
Registration by both major political parties has been in decline for 15 years, with "decline to state" registration growing to the point where it could be fully half the electorate by this fall, Binder predicted. But in this party primary election, many DTS voters stayed home, also helping Angelides. Among the DTS voters in San Francisco who did vote, 52 percent chose a Democrat ballot and 41 percent stayed with the non-partisan ballot.
Binder said the political mailers associating Prop. A with Chris Daly was probably a factor in its defeat, along with the measure's $30 million price tag. "In some ways, this was the biggest surprise in San Francisco," Binder said of A's defeat, having predicted it would win. Another factor could have been the fact that the Guardian website was down all day. He hadn't analyzed that to know how much, but said, "Clearly, the Guardian endorsement carries a long of weight."
The anti-eviction Prop. B managed to win in an otherwise moderate election, Binder said, simply because "It was a very reasonable question" and Mayor Newsom and other opponents were never able to articulate a good argument against it. "This was a defeat for the mayor," Binder said of B, the mayor's only proposition defeat of the evening.
The Yee-Nevin and Ma-Reilly races were a little tricky, and Binder said he was surprised by the large margins in both. Yee ran away with San Francisco, getting 65 percent of the vote despite Nevin's support from Newsom and many other politicians in the city. And Nevin, who was from San Mateo County and expected to do well down there, won by just a 7 point margin there. One factor, Binder said, could have been the decision by Nevin and the third challenger, Lou Papan, not to list professions in his ballot designations, making them seem like also-rans next to the "Assembly member and child psychologist" to voters that weren't terribly politically engaged.
Binder said Ma's early support and name recognition proved difficult to overcome, particularly when it was combined with Reilly's lack of political experience.
Consultant Jim Stearns had another take on the Yee (whose campaign Stearns ran) and Ma races and why their margins were unexpectedly large. Reilly started the campaign late and needed to run to Ma's left to make the race competitive at all, which she did well and won lots of key endoresements. But that support from the left didn't translate into many voters on the conservative westwide. Yet Yee was already naturally positioned to Nevin's left, and so when both ran campaigns on fairly moderate issues, they split that vote and the liberal voters that Yee already had in the bank gave him a big margin of victory.