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Leno maintains, barely, lead in SF mayor race

by Matthew S. Bajko

Mark Leno, left, is surrounded by well-wishers after learning that he had pulled ahead in the mayor's race early Wednesday morning. Photo: Bill Wilson
Mark Leno, left, is surrounded by well-wishers after learning that he had pulled ahead in the mayor's race early Wednesday morning. Photo: Bill Wilson   

Gay mayoral candidate Mark Leno held on to his lead Friday afternoon in the race to become San Francisco's next mayor. Should he win, the former city supervisor and state lawmaker would be the city's first out LGBT mayor.

According to the unofficial returns, Leno continued to be in first place with 50.04 percent of the vote after nine rounds under the city's ranked-choice voting system. Board President London Breed, who represents District 5, remained in second place with 49.96 percent of the vote and trailed Leno by only 144 votes.

It marked another day where Leno's edge in the race had slipped. As of Thursday afternoon, Breed was short by 255 votes, a significant reduction from Wednesday morning when she was behind Leno by 1,146 votes.

Because none of the eight mayoral candidates received a majority of the votes in the first round Tuesday, the third and second place votes of the candidates with the least number one votes are tabulated until a winner emerges with 50 percent plus one of the vote.

Elections officials still have tens of thousands of ballots to count. They will be updating the tally daily, including over the weekend, at 4 p.m.

The special election on the June 5 Primary ballot was called due to the late mayor Ed Lee's sudden death in December. Because of her position as board president, Breed immediately became acting mayor but was ousted from the position in January by a majority of the Board of Supervisors.

In her place they elected former District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell to serve as mayor until the result of Tuesday's election is certified and the new mayor is sworn in sometime in July. Farrell's supporters said they did not want Breed to have an advantage in the mayoral race in explaining why they chose to make Farrell mayor.

Breed's supporters used the board's vote to attack Leno with helping to oust a woman of color as mayor. And, for a time, the tactic appeared to be working, as early polls showed Breed in first place.

But then Leno and District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim teamed up to urge their supporters to vote for the other one as their number two choice in the race. The strategy ended up benefiting Leno, as a large majority of Kim's voters gave him their second choice votes.

Kim ended up in third place, and as of Friday, had 26.75 percent of the vote under the IRV system. She had all but conceded the race to Leno on Wednesday.

"Right now, it looks very likely that Mark Leno will be elected San Francisco's next mayor," stated Kim in a press release from her campaign. "Out of respect for the ballots still being counted and received, we will wait for a final announcement, but should these returns hold true, I look forward to working with his Administration and I've called him and congratulated him on these early results."

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