The most remarkable number in the election results was clear before a single election-day ballot was counted. The absentee ballots were released around 8:30 p.m., and they were stunning: Ed Lee has 26,621 votes. The nearest competitor, John Avalos, was at 7,080.
That's right -- Lee was almost 20,000 votes ahead before election day. And that turned out to be the margin of victory -- Avalos actually got more votes than Lee from the people who voted Nov. 8.
The reason Lee is likely to be the next mayor is because -- through a combination of traditonal hard work on identifying supporters and getting them to vote by mail and quite possibly some degree of illegal conduct -- he had 26,000 votes in the bag long before the polls opened.
He was, of course, helped by the independent expenditure committees and by the fact that he had a natural base in Chinatown (and people on the ground there to get that base to vote). But none of the other campaigns managed to come close to that level of organizing. It's something progressives have to keep in mind -- elections in San Francisco are no longer won and lost on election day.