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Does a Republican have a chance of winning an SF supervisor race?

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District 2 candidates from left: John Dennis, Schuyler Hudak, Nick Josefowitz and Catherine Stefani.

A Republican candidate for supervisor says a new survey he funded shows he has a shot at winning an election in liberal San Francisco.

District 2 candidate John Dennis said the random survey shows he has more support in the race than Democrat Nick Josefowitz, one of the two presumed frontrunners for the seat on the Board of Supervisors. The survey placed Dennis second behind the incumbent, Supervisor Catherine Stefani.

About 28 percent of the 678 registered voters surveyed by phone last week said they would likely cast their ballots for Stefani, while 22 percent said Dennis, 19 percent said Josefowitz and 6 percent said candidate Schuyler Hudak. The rest were undecided or refused to answer.

“What it means is that San Francisco has had enough of the theater in City Hall,” said Dennis. “They’ve had of enough of the City Hall bubble and the political machine making promises and doing nothing. They’ve had enough and they want to try something completely different.”

But others cast doubt on his chances of winning as well as the methodology of the survey.

“This is a nice attempt for him to get some news coverage, to try and project some relevance into the race, but he has almost no chance of getting elected,” said Jim Ross, a political consultant who is not supporting any candidate for District 2. “This doesn’t mean anything other than there is a group of people who support John Dennis, who has run for office several times.”

Dennis, a real estate developer who has unsuccessfully run against Rep. Nancy Pelosi three times, describes himself as a Libertarian who is socially liberal but fiscally conservative — “a dead-on match for the district.”

District 2, which includes the Marina and Pacific Heights, has the highest number of registered Republicans in The City. Voters there tend to be more politically moderate and among the wealthiest in San Francisco.

Dennis hired a telemarketing firm to conduct the survey through Bill Wilson, a Fairfax-based political consultant who primarily works in data and predictive analytic modeling. Wilson defended the survey as an accurate representation of “the feelings in the district about the race” while acknowledging its shortcomings.

“This is not a scientific poll,” Wilson said. “The only real split that I did on it was that I asked the callers to reach people in terms of their partisan affiliation as close as possible to the percentage that they were in the voter file.”

Of the 678 people reached, 15 percent were Republican and 63 percent were Democrat, according to the survey. The rest had no party preference.

City data shows 13 percent of the roughly 48,000 voters registered in District 2 are Republican.

Wilson said the callers did not attempt to reach enough voters to reflect the race and gender demographics of District 2, which would have cost more money. Also unlike a poll, the survey does not factor in voter turnout.

“I think what you have there is an accurate picture of the race and the relevant candidates, we’re not looking for precision here,” Wilson said. “What we are going to get is a good, highly probable picture of relative positions.”

Wilson said he worked on the survey for free as a courtesy to a mutual friend with Dennis. Wilson said he has contracted with the telemarketing firm for three decades, but declined to provide the company name on the record.

“I don’t know that the poll proves anything because it’s such an unusual methodology,” said Mark Mosher, a campaign spokesperson for Stefani. “I think using that methodology could show anyone could get elected in the district.”

But Mosher said the Stefani campaign also has a poll putting her in first.

“Catherine is in the lead,” Mosher said. “Republicans who are looking for solutions on car break-ins, homelessness and [maintaining neighborhood character] should consider giving her one of their three votes.”

Hudak, the candidate purportedly in last place, according to the survey, also criticized the results in a statement.

“I can’t help but question the reliability of a telemarketing poll, since our team is out there knocking on doors and talking with voters every single day,” Hudak said. “But in a poll with similar reliability, my mom called 600 voters over the weekend, and in that scientific poll our numbers were looking pretty good.”

A spokesperson for Josefowitz declined to comment.

Ross, the political consultant, acknowledged the high number of Republicans in District 2, but said Stefani has a stronger base in the district and support at City Hall. He said Dennis’ party affiliation is likely to cost him votes.

“Calling someone Republican in San Francisco is a curse word,” Ross said. “The national politics, the national atmosphere overwhelm everything.”

By positioning himself as the anti-establishment candidate, Ross said Dennis has a better chance of taking away votes from Josefowitz than beating Stefani under ranked-choice voting. Josefowitz has similarly positioned himself as anti-establishment and defeated the last Republican to hold office in San Francisco for a seat on the BART Board.

“Not only is he the elephant in the race, he is the elephant in the race,” Ross said of Dennis. “Once people find out that he’s a Republican, they’re not going to vote for him.”

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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