On 4th try, gay San Francisco supervisor candidate Engardio wins

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday November 16, 2022
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Joel Engardio is the District 4 supervisor-elect on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Photo: Matthew S. Bajko
Joel Engardio is the District 4 supervisor-elect on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Photo: Matthew S. Bajko

It may have taken him four attempts, but gay former journalist Joel Engardio can now call himself a supervisor-elect. In a stunning upset, he has ousted from office District 4 San Francisco Supervisor Gordon Mar.

His victory means, for the first time in the city's history, three gay men will be serving as supervisors at the same time. It also marks the first time in a decade that there will be a trio of LGBTQ supervisors on the board.

In a statement to the Bay Area Reporter, Engardio said his campaign "was a movement of parents and residents who helped me win this historic election. They want a city that works and I look forward to getting to work so we can create our best San Francisco."

He also thanked "the Department of Elections for a transparent and trustworthy counting process. I also want to thank every District 4 voter for participating in our democracy."

In an email Wednesday to his supporters Engardio wrote, "It's an honor to be given the opportunity to lead the next steps as a newly elected city supervisor."

He had lost his three prior bids for the Board of Supervisors' District 7 seat. But his Lakeside neighborhood, where he shares a home with husband Lionel Hsu, was redistricted out of it this year and combined with the Sunset in Mar's supervisorial district.

It provided Engardio the opening to once again seek election to the board. He had continued to lay the groundwork for another supervisorial bid following his defeat in 2020.

He took on leadership roles in community groups focused on public safety and crime issues. Engardio was also a vocal supporter of the successful recall campaigns earlier this year against three of the city's elected school board members and former district attorney Chesa Boudin.

Those efforts paid off with voters in the more suburban neighborhoods on the city's westside. Since election night Engardio had led in the vote count, a strong position right out of the gate that seemed to startle even him when the first vote count was posted roughly 45 minutes after the polls closed on November 8.

His first-place finish never slipped away as additional voting took place over the last week. Wednesday afternoon elections officials posted another count, showing Engardio remaining the winner with 50.91% of the vote.

"My campaign activated and energized many residents who volunteered their skills and talents to effect change," Engardio wrote in his email declaring victory. "This largely parent-powered effort is about ensuring our city is a safe and joyful place for everyone."

Even though Mar was behind by only 489 votes, the supervisor called Engardio to concede the race and congratulate him on his win. In a tweet, Mar acknowledged there wasn't a path for him to win a second term with just 5,800 ballots left to be counted.

"While there are still ballots left to count, it's increasingly unlikely there are enough to change the outcome in our D4 race. A few minutes ago, I called Joel Engardio to concede and offer my congratulations," wrote Mar, part of the board's progressive majority.

Once he is sworn into office January 8, Engardio will serve alongside gay Supervisors Rafael Mandelman and Matt Dorsey, who are moderates like Engardio. They both won election to full four-year terms, Mandelman in District 8 and Dorsey in District 6.

Dorsey is the city's first HIV-positive elected supervisor. When Mandelman first won election to his seat that covers the LGBTQ Castro district in a June special election in 2018, he defeated gay District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, a longtime survivor of HIV who had been appointed to fill a vacancy. In the November general election that fall, Mandelman easily won a full four-year term.

Dorsey became the second known person living with HIV to serve on the board when Mayor London Breed appointed him last spring to the vacant District 6 seat. Former supervisor Matt Haney resigned when he was elected to a vacant state Assembly seat.

His chief of staff at City Hall, Honey Mahogany, had sought to be appointed to succeed her boss then ran against Dorsey in last week's election. She was vying to become the city's first transgender and first LGBTQ Black supervisor.

But Dorsey defeated Mahogany with 53.22% of the vote, according to the unofficial returns. Mahogany conceded their contest Monday.

District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, president of the board, and District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani, who was unopposed, both easily won second terms on the November 8 ballot. The real political fight for Walton will be if he can find a majority of votes on the 11-member board to remain holding the gavel next year.

The progressive is expected to face a challenge for the presidency from District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar, seen as more of a moderate. And with Engardio's win, Mandelman is very likely to also be nominated for the position when the supervisors meet to swear-in the winners of the even-numbered supervisorial races in early January.

Updated 11/17/22 with a statement from Engardio.

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