As I walked into the John Avalos campaign party in Roccapulco around 11 pm, Sup. David Campos told me, “It’s the best party in town!” And he was right. The speeches were just getting underway on the stage and there was a palpable energy in the large crowd even though many of them had been out campaigning since early in the morning.
Avalos’ wife, veteran progressive organizer Karen Zapata, set the tone. First, she recognized Eric Quezada, the longtime housing rights activist who died in August, and the rest of the progressive leaders, such as Tom Ammiano and Chris Daly, who laid the foundation for a campaign that finished the night strongly in second place, less than 13 percentage points behind with voters’ second and third choices still to be tallied.
If Ed Lee hangs on to win, she said, “We could be screwed unless we work together and organize.” It was a theme and a feeling that would permeate the event, this sense that Avalos and the progressives are enjoying a resurgence in the last month thanks to what’s happening in the streets, both with this campaign and the OccupySF movement that Avalos has taken a lead role at City Hall in supporting.
“We have to stick together and we have to push from outside the system. We have to push John and we have to push everyone in the system,” Zapata said, firing up the young crowd as she introduced her husband.
Avalos praised the campaign for having so much heart and with filling his. “This has been a campaign of the people,” Avalos said, seeming genuinely touched by the energy in the room.
The progressive movement has been fighting for the soul of this city for a long time, he said, citing the anti-displacement movement that became a political force in 2000-01, a struggle that continues today with the latest tech boom. “In a way, we’re embracing change that is accelerating our displacement here in San Francisco,” Avalos said.
But he said people are waking up to the idea that the people need to stand up to the super rich and their political enablers. “The Occupy Wall Street movement is changing the consciousness of this country,” Avalos said, noting how it is echoing themes that progressive San Franciscans have been sounding for years. “Everyone is talking the same language we’ve been talking, because we’ve been talking about the 99 percent for a long time.”
But between that movement and this campaign, he said the battle was just beginning, praising the “new generation of leadership, that’s what this campaign is about. We’re going to take back this city one way or another!”
And he closed with a chant from the streets: “Whose city?” Avalos shouted, and the crowd roared back, “Our city!”