David Chiu has snagged the mayoral endorsement of the San Francisco Chronicle, beefing up his fairly paltry list of endorsers and giving his campaign something to trumpet with its hefty cash reserves in the final weeks. Most importantly, the endorsement opens up the race and probably hurts perceived frontrunner Ed Lee.
After the Examiner endorsed Lee as its top pick, it would have solidified the appointed incumbent mayor's standing as the consensus pick of pro-business centrists – who always have a strong influence in the mayor's race – if the Chron had also gone that way. But now, both that vote and the Chinese-American vote will be divided, with some of the latter also picked up by Leland Yee, who got the top endorsements of the Labor Council, Sierra Club, and other influential groups.
The Chronicle endorsement probably gives the biggest advantage to Dennis Herrera, who has placed second in most public opinion polls as well as many endorsements, including getting the second place nod in the Guardian, Examiner, Labor Council, Milk Club, San Francisco Democratic Party, and others – an impressive array that covers the full spectrum of San Francisco politics.
Lee, Herrera, and Jeff Adachi also got praised by the Chronicle in a companion editorial entitled “Three other candidates to consider,” and that will also help Adachi with his left-right punch and outsider appeal, making him another candidate who can't be counted out just yet.
By opening up the mayor's race and creating a more complicated calculus in the city's ranked choice voting system, the varied list of endorsements and the dethroning of Lee as a done-deal could also be a boon to John Avalos, the consensus pick of the city's left who has a long list of first place endorsements (including those of the Guardian, Milk Club, SF Democratic Party, and many others). Avalos could capitalize on the rising frustration with corporate America that is embodied to the Occupy movement, which he has been nearly alone among the mayoral field in actively supporting.
(You can read an Excel file of the endorsements of various San Francisco organizations, which we'll periodically update, here.)
While the Lee campaign and the many independent expenditure groups that back him are expected to vastly outspend the rest of the field, obscene displays of corporate cash could end up backfiring this year, particularly against the backdrop of OccupySF and the business community's raid on employee health care funds and deceptive surcharges on restaurant bills, which Chiu and Lee have been supporting.
Bottom line: with four weeks left until Election Day, the mayor's race is still up for grabs.