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Election 2018: Leno holds slight lead in SF mayor's 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 was holding on to a slight lead Wednesday morning in his bid to become San Francisco's first out LGBT mayor. If the results stand, it will see progressive leadership of Room 200 in City Hall for the first time in decades.

According to the unofficial returns, Leno was the top finisher with 50.42 percent of the vote after nine rounds under the city's ranked-choice voting system. Because none of the eight mayoral candidates received a majority of the votes in the first round, 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.

Board President London Breed, who represents District 5, ended up in second place with 49.58 percent of the vote after the ranked choice voting was tabulated. She was trailing Leno by 1,146 votes as of Wednesday morning.

Addressing roughly 250 people who had assembled in Jane Warner Plaza, the public parklet in the heart of the city's gay Castro district, Tuesday night to watch the election returns come in, Leno said it had been an honor to run for mayor as an out gay man.
"I couldn't be more proud standing here tonight," said Leno.

Mayoral candidate London Breed. Photo: Kelly Sullivan  

At her election night party at the Delancey Street Foundation, Breed told her supporters that, "no matter what happens we are winners."

Tuesday's special election was called due to the late mayor Ed Lee's sudden death in December. Due to her position as board president, Breed had become 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 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.

Mayoral candidate Jane Kim addresses supporters Tuesday night. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland  

Kim ended up in third place with 26.65 percent of the vote under the instant runoff voting system. At her election night party, Kim said she was "incredibly proud" of her mayoral campaign.

"In five months we knocked on 100,000 doors and held 101 house parties," said Kim, who is termed out of her supervisor seat this year. "I'm proud of the vision and agenda that we put forward. Regardless of who wins so many people want to see that agenda move forward."

At 1:33 a.m. Wednesday, about an hour after the city elections department had released the IRV tabulation showing Leno in the lead, Equality California issued a statement saying it appeared that Leno "was poised to make history" as San Francisco's first openly gay mayor.

"Tonight, we are cautiously optimistic that Senator Mark Leno may finally break San Francisco's rainbow glass ceiling," stated Rick Zbur, executive director of the statewide LGBT advocacy group, which endorsed Leno and campaigned for him. "We're proud to have stood with him in this critical race and look forward to the final results."

Meeting with reporters Wednesday afternoon, Leno was asked what it means to possibly be the city's first gay mayor. Leno told a story about being asked by a reporter if he thought his sexuality would have an impact on a campaign.

"I hope that the people of San Francisco would care about my sexual orientation and the experience I bring.

"To the LGBTQ community, this is a very big deal," he said.

"The majority of voters voted for change, new direction, and much better for San Francisco than we've seen in years whether it be on the issues of homelessness and affordable housing or the increase in property crime," Leno said. "We can do better and we will do better."

Mark Leno greeted supporters on Election Night. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

Leno said the race remains "very close," and that there are about 90,000 ballots to be counted.

He said he was "on pins and needles" at midnight on Tuesday at his campaign headquarters.

"I literally walked out the front door with my sisters when we heard hoots and hollers of joy" from inside the building. He turned around and went back, finding out he was ahead.

Early Wednesday afternoon, Kim issued a statement saying she had congratulated Leno on the early returns.

"Right now, it looks very likely that Mark Leno will be elected San Francisco's next mayor," Kim stated. "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."

Breed was scheduled to make a statement at 3 p.m. Wednesday after the B.A.R.'s press deadline

Forty years ago saw Harvey Milk be sworn in as the city's first openly gay elected leader when he took his oath of office in January 1978 as a supervisor. Tragically, he was killed that November inside City Hall along with then-mayor George Moscone by disgruntled former supervisor Dan White.

Leno, who served in both the state Assembly and Senate, was first appointed to the Board of Supervisors in 1998. He was elected to Milk's former supervisor seat in 2000 when he ran to represent District 8 at City Hall. The supervisors that year reverted back to being elected by district rather than citywide.

Milk confidante Cleve Jones said Tuesday night that "God willing," Leno "will be the next mayor of San Francisco."

San Jose mayor's race
There was little drama in the South Bay Tuesday, as San Jose voters overwhelmingly re-elected Mayor Sam Liccardo to a second term. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Liccardo received 74.12 percent of the votes, according to unofficial returns.

Liccardo, a straight ally, has sought support from the LGBT community during his term. He joined the Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination Coalition, which was started after same-sex marriage became legal nationwide, as a way to organize coordinated responses to other types of discrimination against the LGBT community, such as housing and jobs.

There were three other candidates in the race. None received more than 15 percent of the vote.

David-Elijah Nahmod, Cynthia Laird, and Alex Madison contributed reporting.


  • Anonymous, 2018-06-10 10:02:11

    Well, to Black - and GAY - people, Breed is also someone WE would like to see. The gay community is myopic and always has been. Why must the "first" be a White (well, Jewish) gay man? Why not a Black woman? It has always been this way, and I find it as angering as it was when I tried getting the gay bars to hire Black bartenders back in the 1970s. Finally, my own lover hired Danny Lord, making him the FIRST Black bartender in the top bar in the Castro - the Badlands. That was 1984. I understand, as a gay man, why "we" would want to see a gay man as mayor. But removing Breed as acting mayor? That was a slimy move. Glen McLeod -

  • Anonymous, 2018-06-10 10:05:20

    And incidentally, Mark and I know each other. I wish him well, but the article clearly shows a bias towards someone who is, for all intents and purposes, White (yes, I know Mark’s Jewish. But still a whiter hue to his skin).

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