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SF’s progressives show political strength in Board of Supervisors contests

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District 4 candidate Gordon Mar talks with supporters at his election watch party at the United Irish Cultural Center in San Francisco, Calif on November 6, 2018. (Emma Marie Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco progressives strengthened their control of the Board of Supervisors at the polls on Tuesday night, triumphing over tech and real estate-backed candidates, most notably in the Sunset District.

With an apparent victory by former nonprofit leader Gordon Mar in the District 4 contest, the progressives may have picked up a seat on the board that has long been held by moderate supervisors.

The election has handed the progressives, by some people’s count, a supermajority that can counter the political agenda of Mayor London Breed. Breed is up for re-election next year.

The early returns of the District 4 race showed Mar ahead of Jessica Ho, the leading moderate candidate and legislative aide to current supervisor Katy Tang. But when ranked-choice voting was calculated Ho took the lead by just 18 votes.

But as the vote tally was updated through the night, Mar’s lead continued to increase. By the end of the night Mar was ahead of Ho in ranked choice voting by 1,626 votes. It seems unlikely the outcome will change, but there are tens of thousands of ballots cast citywide that the Department of Elections will continue to count in the coming days.

Breed had endorsed Ho and she benefited the most out of all the supervisor contests from third-party, or independent expenditures. More than $650,000, largely from the Progress For All, a political group whose donors are largely pro-development labor unions and tech leaders, was spent in support of Ho.

Third-party spending backing Mar totaled about $170,000, including contributions from SEIU Local 2015, a labor union representing home care workers.

Mar had not declared victory as of press time, but in a speech to supporters he commented on the significance of voters electing an “independent progressive supervisor for the first time in the Sunset” who is “really going to stand up for working people, for tenants, for seniors, for families and really stand up to the big corporate interests and the development interests that have been taking over this city, especially in the last ten years.”

Supervisor Jane Kim, who is termed out of her District 6 seat in January, said that Mar was well-known in the Sunset and that helped him prevail over Ho, who just moved to the neighborhood in March from Los Angeles. “When I did door-knocking for Gordon [Mar] he had tons and tons of IDs. I think that it really hurt Jessica that she just moved to San Francisco in March,” Kim said.

Progressive school board member Matt Haney declared victory in the District 6 race to represent the Tenderloin and South of Market on the Board of Supervisors. Haney picked up more than 50 percent of the votes and had a lead of more than 4,400 votes.

Haney beat out two moderate challengers, Christine Johnson, a former planning commissioner, and Sonja Trauss, a founder of the YIMBY movement, who collaborated on a ranked-choice voting strategy.

Johnson and Trauss both benefited from about $350,000 in third-party spending largely from Progress for All, as well as from a Breed endorsement.

Drug dealing, homelessness and feces on the sidewalks were among the issues debated by the three candidates vying to represent the Tenderloin and South of Market Area.

“I’m excited to work with the mayor,” Haney said. “District 6 residents feel like we’re getting all the problems and none of the support. District 6 is used as a containment zone in many ways.”

At Haney’s election night party, District 8 supervisor Rafael Mandelman said, “The board is looking very, very good.”

Shamann Walton, executive director of Young Community Developers, was among the top fundraisers in the District 10 race to represent Bayview-Hunters Point and Potrero Hill, and appears to have prevailed. Walton drew support from both moderates and progressives, but some count him among the possible progressive supermajority.

District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani maintained a significant lead Tuesday in a four-candidate contest to represent the Marina and Pacific Heights on the Board of Supervisors.

Stefani kept ahead of the second top vote-getter, Nick Josefowitz, a BART Board member, by about 1,000 first-choice votes through the night and declared victory before midnight to a crowd of supporters in the Silver Clouds bar.

“I am honored that voters put their confidence in me to be their neighborhood voice at city hall,” Stefani said. “I look forward to working with our neighborhoods for years to come to make a difference on the issues important to our district and San Francisco.”

Stefani, a moderate, was seen as the progressives’ best ally in the four-candidate contest.

Haney will serve in the seat held by Kim, who is termed out of office, keeping the district under the representation of a progressive politician despite Breed campaigning against him and tech and real estate backing his opponents.

Political consultant David Latterman, who works on moderate candidates campaigns, said the progressives are now well-positioned on the board to combat Breed’s political agenda.

“It appears as if the progressives have a supermajority, although there may be a couple of people not there on choice issues,” Latterman said.

Michael Barba, Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, Michael Toren, Ida Mojadad and Nuala Sawyer contributed to this story.

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