UPDATE: Breed cautiously optimistic about lead in SF mayor’s race

Update, 10:10 P.M.:
With voters from 350 of 604 precincts counted, Breed remained in the lead with 35.68 percent of the vote, followed by Leno at 26.26 percent of the vote and Kim at 21.5 percent of the vote.

Breed took the stage at her election night party after the second round of election results came out and delivered a cautiously optimistic speech.

“The early returns look good. But as I told you all, this is going to be a close race,” Breed said. “Everyone has cast their ballot. All we can do is wait and see. But I feel good inside.”

Members of Kim’s campaign were also optimistic about Breed leading in the polls

“When I was looking at the early results, a lot of them were older folks, and I think Jane does much better with a lot of younger folks, so I’m really excited to see what same-day voting is going to look like and I’m very optimistic about what the results are from there,” said Brandon Harami, canvassing director for Kim’s campaign.

Leno hoped to see his gap between Breed decrease to have a chance in winning.

“Should we see that the nine points that are separating me from Supervisor Breed become six or five after the first place votes are counted today, at that point rank choice comes into play and we would definitely be in the range that could potentially win the race,” Leno said.

FIRST RESULTS 9 p.m.: The first batch of ballots counted in San Francisco’s mayor race Tuesday shows Board of Supervisors President London Breed in the lead.

Breed has received 36 percent of the votes, while former state senator Mark Leno received 26.6 percent and Supervisor Jane Kim 18 percent. The tally is for 79,000 ballots cast and voters’ first choice picks.

The Department of Elections also tabulated ranked choice voting for the early results, which shows Breed would prevail.

The next update by the Department of Elections is expected by 9:45 pm. Tens of thousands of ballots remain uncounted. Polls closed at 8pm.

In the 2015 mayoral election, 203,000 people voted, about 45 percent of registered voters.

With the December death of Mayor Ed Lee, San Francisco’s unanticipated mayor’s race was off at sprinting speed — the contest was waged within a brief five-month window.

One of the most dramatic moments of the election was at the outset, when Board of Supervisors President London Breed was ousted Jan. 23 from her post as acting mayor by the board’s progressive bloc. Breed is considered a moderate politician and, if elected, would become San Francisco’s first elected black female mayor.

Progressives criticized Breed for becoming the candidate of choice for Ron Conway, a tech investor and the late mayor Ed Lee’s most prominent backer, and tech and business interests. A week later, at a kickoff of Black History Month at City Hall, Breed told the crowd “And no, I am nobody’s slave — no white man millionaire slave,” in an apparent reference to Conway.

Breed’s ousting, however, did little to diminish her campaign and may have even boosted it. She capitalized on the immediate name recognition jump and kicked off a high-energy fundraising campaign.

Breed has raised more than $1 million in $500 donations.

Major tech and real estate entities coalesced around Breed’s campaign, spending big on SuperPacs, or third-party political groups. Outside spending benefiting Breed’s campaign totaled more than $1.6 million.

Early arrivals milled around at the London Breed election party on the Embarcadero shortly after 8 p.m. Phelicia Jones, union steward for SEIU 1021 and an activist against police brutality, said she supported Breed despite tech money flooding into her campaign.

“Even though a lot of people say she’s in the pockets of big developers, what politician isn’t?” Jones said.

She emphasized the importance of having the first black female mayor to contend with issues of racism. “That’s big, and especially after they pulled that coup and ousted her out,” Jones said.

Other candidates benefited from outside spending as well, but to a much lesser extent.
Throughout her campaign, Breed has emphasized her life story, born and raised in San Francisco’s public housing.

Mark Leno, the Milwaukee-born former state senator and city supervisor who would be the first openly gay mayor of San Francisco, had long set his sights on running in November 2019 but had to quickly pivot after Lee’s death. His campaign has focused on highlighting the ills of a tech-dominated San Francisco, promoted getting technology companies to hire more local residents and doing more to help out longer-term residents feeling economic pressures and housing instability. He also pushed a homeless plan.

Before the results were released, Leno mingled with volunteers and campaign organizers in the Castro. “”I’m exhilerated for what’s coming tonight. We had 300 volunteers contacting every Leno voter, making sure each and every person came out to vote,” Leno said

Supervisor Jane Kim, who was raised in New York, has notable accomplishments like negotiating with developers to build more affordable homes as part of their projects and championing a free City College.

Former Supervisor John Avalos, a progressive who endorsed Kim, was among the first to arrive at Kim’s campaign party at Folsom Street Foundry in the SOMA. In December after Lee died, Avalos said he told Kim to run.

“Her voice was so strong in 2016,” Avalos said. “I think she’s really needed.” Kim ran for State senator in 2016 and lost to Scott Wiener.

On May 10 Leno joined forces Kim for a ranked choice voting strategy meant to help either of the two progressive candidates beat moderate Breed.

Kim, who would be the first Asian woman mayor (the late mayor Ed Lee was the first Asian mayor), called on her base to pick Leno as their second choice and Leno called on his base to vote Kim as their second choice.

In ranked choice voting, voters rank the candidates one, two or three. The candidate who first receives more than 50 percent of the votes prevails. If no candidate gets 50 percent of votes in first choices, candidates with the least votes are eliminated and voters second and third choices are factored in.

Leno raised about $900,000 in contributions and Kim about $500,000. Kim benefited from $447,000 in outside spending and Leno $201,418.

As the early results came in, Supervisor Norman Yee, who was at Kim’s election night party, said, “London would represent more of the status quo than anyone else. Jane would represent [someone] more willing to change and same with Mark Leno.”

Joshua Sabatini
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Joshua Sabatini

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