In the wake of Assemblyman Leland Yee’s victory in the contentious state Senate 8th District Democratic primary, opponent Mike Nevin and some political observers are attributing his win to the "spoiler" effect of candidate and former Assemblyman Lou Papan.
Yee, a former San Francisco supervisor, who would be the first Chinese-American to win election to the state Senate should he win in November, was able to walk away with the race because Papan drew votes from former Supervisor Mike Nevin in his home county of San Mateo, according to one pollster.
"[Papan’s] presence in the race made it very difficult for Mike Nevin to win, whether it was intentional or unintentional," said Ben Tulchin, an independent pollster for Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.
It is an argument Nevin has made. He has attributed Papan’s candidacy in part to a long-running feud between the two of them dating back at least five years.
"[Papan] is a bitter guy, and his entry into the race changed the dynamics, because I would have been able to concentrate in San Francisco, but instead I had to spend money and time in San Mateo covering my base," Nevin said Wednesday.
"Clearly [Nevin] is upset about the outcome of the race," Papan said, denying he entered as a spoiler. "He’s been making the same excuse since he started."
Indeed, if one does the math, Nevin could have edged out Yee, but would have needed nearly 100 percent of Papan’s vote, according to elections figures.
Yee won the race to replace state Sen. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, for the District 8 seat — which encompasses the western half of San Francisco south to San Mateo and Belmont — with 37,637 votes or 49.7 percent, while Nevin garnered 27,704 or 36.6 percent. Papan managed 10,447, or 13.7 percent.
Yee campaign consultant Jim Stearns called the chance that Nevin would have won 100 percent of Papan’s votes "illogical."
Instead, San Mateo County voters would have in all likelihood split along lines similar to Tuesday’s results, with Nevin taking about 43 percent and Yee winning 36 percent, still not enough for a Nevin victory, he said.
"In the end, voters looked past endorsements to pick the candidate who had a record of accomplishment on health care, education and environment," Stearns said.