Lee, Mirkarimi, and Gascon win first ranked choice tally

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Elections Chief John Arntz takes questions from reporters.
Steven T. Jones

San Francisco’s first run of ranked choice voting tallies for yesterday's election shows Ed Lee winning the mayor’s race (with progressive favorite John Avalos in second), George Gascon remaining district attorney, and Ross Mirkarimi becoming the new sheriff in town.
“Progressive victory, citywide, that’s huge,” Sup. David Campos told Mirkarimi this afternoon outside the Elections Department, where a scrum of journalists and politicos gathered to get the results. It would indeed be a rare citywide victory for progressives, which analyst David Latterman says constitute about 19 percent of the electorate, compared to 39 percent who identify as moderate and 36 percent who call themselves liberals.   
About 7,500 provisional and 24,000-25,000 absentee ballots remain to be counted over the next few days, said Elections Chief John Arntz, telling reporters, “I’m not saying these are the final results by any stretch.” But there is good reason to believe these winners will stick.
In the sheriff’s race, where Mirkarimi faced off against three candidates with long law enforcement backgrounds, David Wong was the first to be eliminated, and the lion’s share of his 9,487 votes went to fellow Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Miyamoto rather than Chris Cunnie, the former head of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, knocking Cunnie out of the race.
Of Wong’ votes, 3,828 went to Miyamoto, 2,637 were exhausted (meaning Wong voters had no second choice), 1,682 went to Mirkarimi, and just 1,325 went to Cunnie, who had been in second place. That gave Mirkarimi almost 40 percent of the vote, compared with 30.7 percent for Miyamoto and 29.8 percent for Cunnie.
On the next round, Cunnie’s 42,877 votes were redistributed as follows: 16,820 to Miyamoto, 14,675 exhausted, and 11,322 to Mirkarimi, giving him 53 percent of the vote. “I’m optimistic, but I’m not declaring victory,” Mirkarimi told reporters. He said that he hopeful that he’ll get the chance to continue the 30-year progressive legacy of retiring Sheriff Michael Hennessey, who endorsed Mirkarimi.
The only real variable in the sheriff’s race is how Cunnie’s second place votes break in the event that incoming ballots change who gets eliminated after Wong, but Mirkarimi said he was happy with how well progressive campaigns did in this election.  
“I want to say how proud I am of the Avalos campaign. It did a good job at getting people out who have felt disenfranchised,” Mirkarimi added.
Indeed, Avalos surprised much of the political establishment by finishing strongly in second place with 18.3 percent of the vote compared to Lee’s 31.5 percent and Dennis Herrera’s 11.3 percent. In the first ranked choice run, it took 11 rounds of eliminations for Lee to break the 50 percent threshold of victory. And when he did, he jumped all the way to 61 percent, mostly because voters who chose Herrera as their third choice exhausted their ballots.
When Herrera was eliminated in Round 10, 18,276 of his 29,717 votes were exhausted, and of the balance, 6,683 went to Avalos and 4,705 went to Lee, where they had been at 28 percent and 49 percent respectively. Avalos then finished second with 39 percent of the vote.
Other notable rounds in the mayoral runoff were when fourth place finisher David Chiu was eliminated and his nearly 20,000 votes broke most heavily in favor of Ed Lee and being exhausted, reinforcing the idea that he draws his support mostly from moderates and is no longer part of the progressive movement that helped elect him to the Board of Supervisors.
Avalos got just 2,376 of Chiu’s second place votes, compared to 5,894 for Lee and 3,832 for Herrera. By contrast, when Leland Yee was eliminated a round earlier, his votes were redistributed fairly evenly among Lee, Chiu, Herrera, and Avalos. Part of the reason that Avalos never gained ground on Lee was that the mayor got more second place votes than his progressive challenger on every elimination between Round 3 and the final round.
In the DA’s race, Gascon’s 42 percent total of first place votes is an insurmountable lead, particularly given that he also did well on the second place votes, showing that attacks on his secrecy and police connections didn’t do much to hurt him. When third place finisher Sharmin Bock was eliminated in the third round, Gascon got 13,301 of her votes, compared with 10,430 for David Onek, and 11,840 exhausted.
The Elections Department will run new totals every day at 4 pm