Ed Lee, Leland Yee and the progressive vote


A couple of months ago, I got into an argument with Enrique Pearce, who runs Left Coast Communications, the firm that set up Run Ed Run and ran one of the independent expenditure committes for Ed Lee. I told him that his firm was misnamed, that Lee was not a "left" candidate; he told me that Lee was the best bet for progressives because he was the "only candidate who could stop Leland Yee."

Now: We can all argue forever about Yee's progressive credentials (I've done that in detail here). But if Pearce was telling the truth, he was wrong, so wrong, and the numbers show it. Leland Yee came in fourth. Lee didn't prevent Yee from becoming mayor; he prevented John Avalos or Dennis Herrera from becoming mayor. Very different story, Mr. Pearce.

Willie Brown and his rich friends were all ecstatic at his party at the Palace Hotel, and why not? They're back in the game, back in charge at City Hall. And if Brown -- who, by the way, engineered this whole thing in one of the most brilliant political moves in San Francisco history -- is that happy, there's a reason for it. The wealthy and powerful interests in San Francisco think Lee is going to do what they want. That's why they're celebrating his election.

I'm not trying to be a downer here -- it's still possible that the ranked-choice voting system will put Avalos in first. But it's not at all likely. The only way that could happen: If the "anybody but Ed" vote was so strong on election day that virtually all of the second-place votes from Bevan Dufty, Jeff Adachi, Yee, David Chiu and Dennis Herrera went to Avalos. Possible, but don't be on it.

The reality is we're probably facing four years of Mayor Ed Lee, and I hope he proves me wrong and shows that he's willing to stand up to the people who put him in power. Possible, but don't be on it.


it might be the wrong reality. What this election shows isn't so much that Willie is pulling a few strings (although I'm sure he is) but rather that the vast majority of SF residents and voters aren't nearly as left-wing as you'd like.

More than 80% - four people in five - rejected left-wing politics in favor of the Lee/Yee/Herrera/Chui/Dufty style of moderate politics. We may be liberal but we're not socialists.

And if you accepted that, I think that would be a positive first step on the road to political redemption and relevance.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 12:43 pm

Love the way you spin it, but then why is it that Avalos came in second? And in an election with a low voter turnout, no less...while Yee, Chui and Dufty barely got above single percentage points? With Herrera lagging well behind Avalos. Perhaps this town is a lot more progressive than you care to admit.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 5:14 pm

He and his initiative got clobbered! I never thought he'd get above single digits, and I was totally correct.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

The progressive vote wasn't split - Avalos was the only game in that town.

While the moderate vote was split between Lee, Yee, Adachi, Herrera, Chui, Dufty, Hall, Aliota-Pier etc.

It's easy to do well when you're the only representative.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 5:43 pm

A lot of the second and third ranked votes of those 'moderates' and conservatives transferred to Avalos. Unfortunately more of them transferred to Lee.

The point is, these dynamics were complex.

(The tasks of progressives next time is to reduce that complexity for the voters.)

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 6:06 pm
Posted by guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 6:17 pm

SF'ers aren't as liberal as many here would like to think.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

considering how low the voter turn out was. C.W. Nevius also claimed a "landslide victory" when Newsom was re-elected.

Posted by Michael W. on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 7:17 pm

went to Avalos? Avalos was a very polarizing candidate who typically would either be #1 pick, or not picked at all.

And over 80% didn't put him first.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 6:17 pm

The Department of Elections ranked choice spreadsheet is available at sfgov.org/elections.
As of the currently reported numbers, the difference between Avalos' first place votes (34,556) and his final ranked choice result (53,174) was the allocation of others' 2nd and 3rd votes: 18,618.
Of course, that doesn't count people who put Ed Lee first and Avalos second (believe it or not, I was talking to one such individual yesterday.)

Ed Lee on the other hand, picked up 23,715 2nd and 3rd place votes.

Perhaps if an "anyone but Ed Lee" approach had been taken earlier, and if a left candidate finally had a decent absentee campaign, which has never happened at the Mayoral level, Avalos would have managed to beat him.

Posted by Larrybob on Nov. 17, 2011 @ 10:38 am

Actually, Tim ... the fact that Leland Yee came in fourth does not necessarily mean that Avalos or Herrera would have won. Absent Ed Lee, Yee would probably have won -- but once Ed Lee entered the race, his Asian-American base was decimated overnight.

Posted by Paul Hogarth on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 12:55 pm

Paul, your analysis ignores the presence of Chiu who had Chinatown's (Pak, CCDC, Ho, etc) reluctant backing before Ed was convinced to enter the race.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 1:03 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 1:05 pm

Lee got three times the votes of Chui, Yee and Ting combined. Incumbency matters.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

Willie Brown, Steve Kawa, and Rose Pak, as the election was nearing, could see that Chiu would be the leading Downtown candidate but would also lose to progressives.

So they ran Ed Lee.


Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 17, 2011 @ 11:56 am

If not Lee, then someone else. It's been that way in SF since Agnos. The moderate always wins.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 17, 2011 @ 12:11 pm

The implication of your premise Paul, that Ed Lee was chosen to defeat Leland Yee, is that Ed Lee was planning to run all along and was lying when he said he wouldn't?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

he wasn't asked whether he would run. He was asked whether (at that precise point in time) he INTENDED to run. And at that precise time, I believe he had no intention to run.

Once he started to do well in the job, and his approval ratings were high, those around him to persuade him to change his mind.

So he didn't lie, he reconsidered.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 1:25 pm

That would disprove Paul's assertion that Ed Lee was selected to beat Leland Yee?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 1:36 pm

Ed didn't originally intend to run but was later persuaded.

Whether those who persuaded him were trying to avert Yee being Mayor, I can't say. You'd have to ask them. But if that was the tactic, it worked.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

Ed Lee told us in the spring -- and I was in the room -- that he was not going to run. Not that he had no intention of running, but that he simply wasn't going to do it.

I'm not saying he lied; he changed his mind. But his position was very clear until late summer.

Posted by tim on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

At every point in time, he was being completely honest about his intentions.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 1:47 pm

Call a spade a spade. I think he was lying all along.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 11:36 pm

But he wasn't Avalos, so voting for Lee, although he didn't keep his promise was better than a vote for Avalos.

Lee just broke a promise, Avalos is a menace to the city.

Posted by chum on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 11:51 pm

Leland Yee came in .... fifth, behind Chiu, Herrera, Avalos.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2011 @ 3:50 pm

Tim, you know better.
Untill Lee got in the race, every poll taken showed Leland Yee with a comfortable lead.
Chiu was also doing well.
The only reason Avalos and Herrera are 2and 3 is because votes Lee took Yees (and Chiu's) first place votes, loweing thier totals.
Avalos and Herrera simply didn't share Lee/Yee/Chiu Chinese base and were less affected.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

Are there more recent results I don't know about that place Yee in fourth? Because SF Elections says he's in fifth place, 2,000 votes behind David Chiu.


Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 1:37 pm

I think the above comments underestimate the surprising strength of the Avalos campaign. And Yee's Chinese base was never the same as Ed Lee's base; Yee was never popular in Chinatown. I thought six months ago that Yee was the frontrunner, too -- but in retrospect, I don't think that was accurate.

Posted by tim on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 1:37 pm

while moderate voters had a huge choice.

On that basis, Lee's success is more surprising. He wiped the floor with Yee, Herrera, Adachi and Chui, scoring more votes than all of them combined.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

Some progressives voted for Herrera, Yee, and even Chiu and Adachi as their first choices. I know tons of progressives who didn't pick Avalos first.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 11:43 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 1:42 pm

i am picturing Willie Brown, Rose Pak, Ron Conway and Paul Hogarth in a back room deciding to select Ed Lee (never ran for office) as interim mayor by lying to the Board about his "plan" to run, because they had decided that Ed Lee could defeat Leland Yee, but David Chiu (elected official, board president) could not.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 1:43 pm

For Brown et al. Not sure exactly what that says, but that's what I think.

Posted by Guest 66 on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 5:48 am

the few winners from the results, doing much better than expected and pushing Yee and Herrera down the stack.

I voted Dufty/Chui/Lee so all my 3 votes counted, which is gratifying.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 7:43 am

Beyond Chron has consistently made assertions about Ed Lee that seem to be inconsistent with the facts?

For instance, considering that Ed Lee refused public financing and flew past spending caps and apparently even had the support of PG&E through multiple layers of independent expenditure committees (BOMA), this comment from Randy seems almost corrupt:

"Lee never became identified as the candidate of the elite."


If Lee was not the candidate of the elite, then who was????

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

"Willie Brown and his rich friends were all ecstatic at his party at the Palace Hotel, and why not? They're back in the game, back in charge at City Hall."

I must have missed the era when Willie and his rich friends weren't in charge at City Hall.

When was it? Certainly not under Brown, then Newsom/Lee. During Frank "Matrix" Jordan's reign? Under Agnos? Maybe Moscone? Dianne Frankenstein?

Posted by Eddie on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

The glaring fact is, despite the posturing from Herrera and Lee, 67% of San Franciscans didn't vote. That's the lowest voter turn-out in decades for a major race like Mayor. No one got excited enough among eligible voters to actually vote.

In the last round, almost a third of voters who did manage to go to the polls, did not vote for either Avalos or Lee, with 28.50% in exhausted ballots by that time. Lee got 44% of the actual votes tallied.

No one should be happy about the fact that 2/3 of San Franciscans turned off and tuned out this year. We have a Mayor with no mandate but a lot of big money to begin the slow privitization of our public square.

Posted by Guest lucretiamott on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 6:04 am

the winner. But this win was huge. To get over 60% under IRV is massive. Lee got more than 50% more votes than anyone else.

And there is zero evidence that the non-voters would have voted differently than the voters.

Lee is mayor whether you like it or not.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 7:40 am

And Lee won 60% of a pathetic 33% voter turnout. Hardly a mandate.

These results are more an indication that two thirds of the voters are so jaded by politics that they couldn't even be troubled to vote for anyone, especially the incredibly milquetoast Edwin Lee.

On the other hand, Avalos gained more support and momentum during the full course of the election than any other candidate. The strong surge for Avalos was incredibly inspiring and was definitely a mandate from radical and progressive voters that his politics are where we want our movement to go.

And this brings up the following point to all you left critics of ranked choice voting. It is notable that in a winner-take-all election Avalos would have been -low- in the pack because people would have been afraid to vote for him, and instead would have cast 'safer' votes for more centrist left candidates like Herrera and Yee.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 9:36 am

"definitely a mandate from radical and progressive voters that his politics are where we want our movement to go."

yeahhhh, Get more radical and see how much further you get. Avalos wouldnt have been elected Mayor of black rock. He had nothing to offer.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 9:58 am

What you are claiming doesn't jive with what actually happened in the election.

As the election progressed Avalos gained a continuously building powerful progressive surge, while the other candidates essentially stood still or faltered.

And then, of course, there is the Occupy movement.

Radical is the new demand from most of the 99%, and the only reason you are scoffing at this building powerful left populist mandate, is that you are afraid of it...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 10:07 am

the only plausible candidiate on the left, while there were many moderate candidates.

In a straight runoff, Avalos would have been killed. Sf is far more moderate than you like to think.

3 in 5 voters for Lee is a mandate. A bigger win than Newson vs Gonzo

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 10:29 am

The fact that the progressive side of the vote fell back in higher numbers on Avalos as their ranked choice, rather than a more 'moderate' candidate like Herrera shows exactly the opposite, and that the progressive component of the vote is pretty much where we have always understood it is.

Incorporate into this analysis the -massive- corporate and developer ad money which flooded behind Lee to manipulate public perceptions, and your analysis is shown to be even further off.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 10:48 am

even two out of five voters.

You cannot wish away the main reason for Lee's clear victory - most voters thought he'd make a better Mayor for ALL residents of this city

I told you 2 months ago that Avalos would lose unless he developed some pro-business, pro-economy polcies. He didn't even try, and so lost by a significant margin.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 10:57 am

The primary reason Lee won, was that he had massive corporate and developer money behind his campaign.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 11:08 am

Voters said jobs and business was the number one issue

Lee focused on that issue

Avalos ignored it.

Simple as that.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 11:19 am

If there had been four credible left candidiates, each would have gotten 5% or so. One in five Sf'ers being liberal isn't a shock. It's also not a mandate.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 10:33 am

you take - victory is always right around the corner for you!

I admire that. Your house could be burning down with you in it, and you would talk about how it's all ok because fires are cozy.

Here's where it stands, in reality world:

- Ed Lee won with 60+%, in IRV, which is pretty exceptional for IRV.
- John Avalos, who ran a full campaign, received ONE THIRD of the votes Matt Gonzalez did in 2003 (after accounting for full RCV total). Matt ran a last minute campaign.
- John Avalos received less than half the votes Ammiano received in 1999 AS A WRITE IN (once again, after accounting for full RCV total).
- In 2001, 7 of the 11 BOS seats were held by the progressie block. Today, 4 of them are, and one of those seats will be gone thanks to Ed Lee appointing Mirkarimi's replacement.
- The largest victory of the night went to a Republican, pro-death penalty candidate. Congratulations to Gascon for DA. Eight years ago your DA was Hallinan.

As Lurker said last night, look over these facts and try to tell me you are in a better place than you were 1 year ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago. Or more likely, just follow Chris Daly's amazing lead from last night, and just keep complaining about everyone else and how it's all so unfair. Because that's really working for you, lol.

It's over for you guys here. Move to Portland or something.

Posted by Sambo on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 11:23 am

Lee also had the mantle of an incumbent which helped as well beside massive IE in which the cap had to be raised twice. Avalos came in a decent second thanks to the 2 and 3's of others and a surge on the last day by progressives. Now the question is that both irv and public financing will be on the chopping block, how does Avalos use his second place to mold progressives into a more potent force to challenge Lee. We have supervisors' races coming up, including his own, next year.

But the fact is, 2/3rds of SF eligible voters didn't vote on Tuesday and those that did, 2/3'rds voted either for Avalos or someone else beside Lee. Lee's strategy all a long was to hope with so many candidates in the race, his incumbancy and tons of money spent before he ran, that would in the end, guarantee he would win. Progressives do need to ask why so few voted and why, 1/3rd of those, did not vote for either Avalos or Lee.

But IRV itself had nothing to do with anyone candidate losing as Herrera may be asserting.
My vote for Avalos counted until the final round too.

Posted by Guest lucretiamott on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 11:35 am

"Progressives do need to ask why so few voted and why, 1/3rd of those, did not vote for either Avalos or Lee."


That's why. It doesn't resonate. Your thrive as an oppositional, alternative force but are flat out incompetent as leaders. It is no accident that your best years came when this town was overrun with obnoxious, new money dot-commers, George W Bush had just stolen an election and Willie Brown was flaunting cronyism in the face of the City.

When you don't have those things to be "against" you have NOTHING. That's why. Your platform in itself is based on placing Socialist policies upon a city that exists in a modern day capitalist framework.

It sucks. Really bad. Figure it out. I'm laying it out for you. Your welcome.

Posted by Sambo on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 11:53 am