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Election 2018: Leno concedes SF mayor's race

by Matthew S. Bajko

Mark Leno conceded the mayor's race Wednesday. Photo: Cynthia Laird
Mark Leno conceded the mayor's race Wednesday. Photo: Cynthia Laird  

Gay mayoral candidate Mark Leno conceded defeat Wednesday in his bid to become San Francisco's first LGBT mayor.

He had remained stuck in second place over the last four days as the election returns were updated. It was a reversal of fortunes from last week, when he had eked out a first-place finish after elections officials determined the first ranked-choice voting results.

Board of Supervisors President London Breed, who represents District 5 and initially was in second place, began closing in on the top spot with each successive update of the vote tally. By Saturday she had overtaken Leno and, ever since, has seen her edge in the vote count increase.

Wednesday morning Leno called Breed to concede the race and thank her on her win. He told reporters crammed into the front office of his Budget Signs business not far from City Hall that she had been "gracious" on the call and said she would welcome his help as mayor.

In addition to congratulating Breed on her victory, Leno said he also called "to wish her every success, both personally and professionally, in her new job as mayor of San Francisco."

He added that Breed is "a remarkable young woman who is going to do a fine job as mayor."

London Breed, right, shown voting last month, has maintained her lead in the mayor's race. Photo: Kelly Sullivan  

Leno, however, did not rule out running again for mayor against Breed in 2019, when she will be seeking a full four-year term in Room 200 at City Hall. Twice he told reporters that "is a decision for another day."

As of the Bay Area Reporter's press time Wednesday afternoon, Breed was at 50.42 percent of the vote after nine rounds under the city's ranked-choice voting system. Leno was at 49.58 percent and trailing Breed by 1,861 votes, according to the unofficial returns.

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.

Elections officials said Tuesday they still had 8,000 ballots to process and expect the process to take several more days to complete. They have been updating the tally daily at 4 p.m.

Breed is set to become the city's first elected African-American female mayor. Addressing reporters on the steps of City Hall Wednesday afternoon, Breed pledged to put the campaign differences behind her and focus on bringing the city together to tackle such pressing issues as homelessness and affordable housing.

"I am prepared to do everything I can to bring together the Board of Supervisors and to bring everybody together to start solving our most challenging problems," said Breed.

Becoming the city's first black woman elected as mayor "is really amazing and really an honor," said Breed, particularly since she is a native of the city who grew up in public housing and saw family members and friends be killed or jailed.

She briefly served as acting mayor upon the sudden death of the late mayor Ed Lee on December 12 until a majority of her board colleagues in January elected former District 2 supervisor Mark Farrell mayor on an interim basis.

"We await the final results to see if our citywide success will translate into an eventual victory," wrote Breed in a note to her supporters Monday evening. "The important thing for now is that every ballot be counted. The hardworking staff at the Department of Elections are working tirelessly to process a historic number of ballots."

Once Leno conceded the race, congratulations began rolling in for Breed. Farrell issued a statement offering his "sincere congratulations to mayor-elect London Breed on her election victory. I commit my full support, both personally, and through my staff, to make this transition between our administrations as smooth as possible."

He added that, "It was my great fortune to have been welcomed so quickly and graciously by everyone in the mayor's office, and I am committed to extending that same courtesy to mayor-elect Breed."

Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who had early endorsed Leno and then dual endorsed Breed in the race, posted his congratulations to the incoming mayor on Facebook. He wrote that she'll "be fantastic and will do great things for our community. You have my total support. I look forward to partnering to move San Francisco in a positive direction."

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, elected last week to a second term, said he looked "forward to working collaboratively with" Breed and her administration in the coming years.

"I'd like to congratulate mayor-elect Breed and look forward to working with her to tackle the many common challenges facing our communities, from the region's growing homelessness crisis to the need for critical transit improvements that will get the Bay Area moving again," stated Liccardo.

District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim has remained in third place in the mayor's race, and as of Tuesday she was at 27.65 percent of the vote. She had teamed up with Leno to urge their supporters to vote for the other one as their number two choice in the race. And until the weekend, it had looked like the strategy was working to the benefit of Leno.

Kim, in fact, had all but conceded the race to Leno last week, stating in an emailed statement June 6 that, "it looks very likely that Mark Leno will be elected San Francisco's next mayor."

On Wednesday she issued a statement to offer her own congratulations to Breed.

"I'm proud to live in the largest city in America with a woman as mayor," stated Kim. "I also want to thank Mark Leno and acknowledge his nearly two decades of service as a publicly elected official who has accomplished so much on behalf of our city."

She wasn't the only one to incorrectly call the election for Leno. Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization that had endorsed Leno, early in the morning of June 6 issued a statement saying that Leno "was poised to make history" as San Francisco's first openly gay mayor.

But it increasingly became clear this week that Leno would not break through the city's political rainbow glass ceiling.


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