contests wide open
by Matthew S. Bajko
Three hotly contested campaigns for San Francisco supervisor seats remain horse races ahead of Election Day.
Two out candidates seeking board seats have received jolts of momentum in recent weeks, though, increasing their chances of being victorious.
Gay journalist Joel Engardio, running for the open District 7 seat west of Twin Peaks, received a surprise endorsement from the San Francisco Chronicle in his race. He is touting the paper's backing on door hangers at every house in the district.
None of the better-known candidates in the race – Norman Yee, president of the city's school board, former Port Commissioner Francis "FX" Crowley, and Board of Appeals President Mike Garcia – has been able to break out as a clear frontrunner. The outcome is likely to come down to the city's instant voter runoff system, giving Engardio a chance to eke out a victory and become the first out person elected to a supervisor seat from a district on the city's west side.
"This race is anyone's, I think," Engardio told the Bay Area Reporter this week. "I think I can pull off an upset miracle no one expected because anecdotally I keep running into people who say they voted for me or their friend or neighbor told them about me. The signs look good."
The contest for the District 5 seat, held by incumbent Supervisor Christina Olague, continues to be upended following her vote to reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. Appointed to succeed Mirkarimi, a former supervisor, earlier this year, Olague is running to become the first out bisexual to be elected supervisor.
Her chances also improved after one of her main challengers, Julian Davis, became embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal. But those upset with her bucking Mayor Ed Lee, who appointed her to the seat and wanted Mirkarimi ousted due to a domestic violence incident between the sheriff and his wife, are gunning to defeat Olague.
This week they launched a website, http://www.sfwomenforaccountability.com, attacking Olague for her vote.
"We cannot allow her to roll back the progress we have made in preventing domestic violence and protecting survivors and so we have joined with other women and anti-domestic violence advocates to oppose her election," stated Andrea Shorter, an out lesbian and former president of the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women, who appears in a video on the website.
The latest hit against Olague comes after a number of progressive leaders, such as former Mayor Art Agnos and District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, have rallied to her defense. They recently gathered on the steps of City Hall to tout her candidacy.
"Being progressive is not about being a robot," stated gay rights activist and labor organizer Cleve Jones, who took part in the rally. "Christina is not a cookie-cutter, but she's exactly what we should expect from a progressive leader: she is compassionate, independent, purposeful – and she knows her shit!"
With a number of strong challengers in the race, such as London Breed, executive director of the African American Art and Culture Complex, and City College Board of Trustees President John Rizzo, the contest for the Haight and Western Addition-based district is considered a toss up to be decided based on ranked choice voting.
As he fights for re-election in District 1, Supervisor Eric Mar could become the first incumbent to lose his seat in more than a decade. His opponent, David Lee, has hammered Mar as being out of touch with the needs of the Richmond district.
Money has been flooding into all three of the supervisor races. As of Tuesday more than $1.1 million had been spent on the District 1 race, with the bulk of the funds ($705,207) going toward electing Lee.
In District 7 the Ethics Commission this week raised the campaign spending limits for Engardio, Garcia and Crowley to $350,000, and raised the amount for Yee to $370,000. Total spending in the race is expected to exceed $1.5 million.
The limit for candidates receiving public matching funds in District 5 – Olague, Davis, Rizzo and Thea Selby, a Lower Haight neighborhood activist – stood at $310,000 as of this week due to the money being spent on behalf of Breed's campaign surpassing that amount.
"I think what we are seeing is really disturbing in the 11th hour this huge influx of cash from really wealthy downtown interests that are having a big impact on the races," said Tom Temprano, the vice president of external affairs for the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club.
The District 3 supervisor race, where Board President David Chiu is running against three little known opponents – Marc Bruno, Joseph Butler, and Wilma Pang– for the North Beach centered seat has not drawn much notice this year. Nonetheless, Chiu raised more than $240,000 since January. And last month he reported having $123,815 in his campaign coffers.
Gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos is running unopposed for a second term representing the Mission and Bernal Heights neighborhoods. He is on track to have spent more than $110,000 this year, despite facing no opposition for his seat.
In the adjacent District 11, Supervisor John Avalos is also running unopposed. He had raised nearly $60,000 as of late last month for his bid.
With Campos, Avalos, and Chiu (should he win) all termed out of office in 2016, the three are seen as possible candidates to run for the state Assembly seat now held by Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who will be termed out of office himself in 2014.
Speculation has swirled around Campos, in particular, as being a likely candidate, having already succeeded Ammiano on the board. He has yet to form a state committee to run for the legislative seat, but is likely to do so as early as next year to begin laying the groundwork for a campaign.