Hold on to your butts, people — the June mayor’s race is in its final stretch, and things are gettin’ strange.
Case in point: Democratic candidates London Breed and Angela Alioto are now openly courting Republicans in a last-ditch bid to win.
This is bonkers for a number of reasons. Breed is a Democrat who authored a law putting The City on the record denouncing President Donald Trump’s action to block immigrants from Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. And it’s not like San Francisco actually has an aisle to reach across — most every seat in The City, if not every, is held by a Democrat.
Yet, as you read this, letters (yes, on paper!) are hitting mailboxes across San Francisco from former Republican Secretary of State George Shultz, wherein he sings the praises of Breed as the top choice for Republicans.
At the bottom of each letter is a slender notice: “Paid for by London Breed for Mayor 2018.” The Ethics Commission confirmed Breed’s campaign paid $8,891 for the mass-mailing.
This is the same Shultz who sat through the Reagan administration’s failed “War on Drugs,” and whose foreign policy decisions included much-derided efforts to invade foreign countries for that drug war.
And if Breed is veering right, Alioto has flown off the road straight into Trump-town.
As the San Francisco Examiner first reported Thursday, Alioto is gathering signatures for a ballot measure to weaken our sanctuary city laws.
Our sanctuary city policy is central to the ideals of modern day San Francisco, protecting immigrants in a commonsense way that ensures they can report problems in the community to police without fearing deportation. That makes everyone safer. So why offer peanuts to elephants?
San Francisco Democratic Party Chair David Campos explained it simply: In a razor-close election, The City’s 33,874 registered Republicans tend to vote for moderate Democrats, but still need to be courted. Those votes could swing Breed to victory.
“In a democratic process, everyone has a right to who will support them, who will share your values and principles,” Campos told me. In his mailer, Shultz noted Breed has “a willingness to bring all viewpoints to the discussion.”
I wonder if those viewpoints includes Shultz’ one time “joke” with President Ronald Reagan that they should send then-Libyan Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to San Francisco, which was first reported by the Washington Post in 1986.
“Why not invite Qaddafi to San Francisco, he likes to dress up so much?” Reagan reportedly joked, to which Shultz answered, “Why don’t we give him AIDS!” The Post reported laughter following the “joke.”
Then-Supervisor Harry Britt, a noted champion of LGBT rights in The City, publicly shot back at Shultz.
“Perhaps we should send Mr. Shultz to Libya,” Britt told the Associated Press. “He might be more comfortable there with the sensitivity toward human life that the Libyan Government displays.”
By contrast, Breed said Friday in a statement, “Secretary Shultz is not only an American hero and a great San Franciscan, he represents a dignified, collaborative brand of policy thinking that transcends today’s petty partisan politics, and I’m proud to have his support.”
It’s too bad San Francisco leaders three decades ago apparently had more sense than our “Democrats” today.
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Just how does ranked-choice voting work, anyhow? Don’t worry folks, I’ve got a brief RCV-for-Dummies for you, hot off the presses from your resident dummy.
Voters can select three candidates under ranked-choice voting. When all the votes are first tallied, any candidate with a majority and more than 50 percent of votes wins.
If no candidate reaches a 50 percent majority, the candidate with the least votes is bumped off the list. Let’s call them Candidate X. Any voter who listed Candidate X as their first choice will see their second choice used instead. The process is repeated until any candidate garners 50 percent of the vote.
Pedro Hernandez, deputy director of FairVote California, said there are some common misconceptions in ranked-choice voting.
“Marking the same candidate three times doesn’t help you or your candidate,” he said. “Your No. 2 or 3 only gets looked at if your first choice is defeated.”
So if Alioto loses in one round, writing her name in two more times won’t help.
Also, Hernandez said, “You’re not doing yourself any harm by having a second or third choice.” Think about it — if your first choice got knocked out of the running, it’s already game over (for them).
As for how all this shakes out electorally, that’s up for debate. Candidates Mark Leno and Jane Kim announced joint endorsements of one another on Thursday, hoping San Franciscans rank the progressive duo as their first and second choices.
Brick Circle Advisors principal David Latterman told me voters don’t always rank choices along ideological lines. He believes Leno’s more moderate supporters will vote Breed as a second choice, whereas Kim’s voters will tend to choose Leno as a second choice.
But isn’t this the year of the woman? Will voters create their own Kim-Breed slate?
In San Francisco, Latterman said, “There’s no strong evidence of gender voting, ever. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t happen here, but it historically hasn’t.”
Political consultant Jim Ross, who previously worked for Gavin Newsom, told me ranked-choice voting strategies push candidates to have “broader” messages and to attack each other less — that is, until the last few days leading up to an election, when candidates start to highlight their differences once the top contenders have been identified.
“Being different than your opponent actually hurts you,” he said. “You’re not going to get second-place votes.”
By becoming allies, Ross said, Leno and Kim can court a broader range of voters by appealing to different groups. Breed, on the other hand, can’t court the West Side without alienating the rest of The City.
“London Breed is kind of stuck,” he said.
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Police Chief Bill Scott isn’t the only San Franciscan rumored to be trucking south for Los Angeles. Scuttlebutt flyin’ around 5th and Mission claims San Francisco Chronicle Editor in Chief Audrey Cooper herself interviewed for a potential new LA Times Editor in Chief gig.
It’s not so far-fetched. The LA Times’ new owner, billionare investor Patrick Soon-Shiong, told the New York Times he was exploring a new top editor. The paper also reported Soon-Shiong has called numerous folks for the job, from New York Times Editor Dean Baquet to the Washington Post’s Marty Baron.
The rumor of Cooper’s departure grew to such a clamor that I’m told she had all-hands staff meeting to calm her reporters’ fears. But her word choice in the meeting, I was told, decidedly danced around the idea that she’d interviewed for the gig while adamantly denying she was leaving.
Cooper told me via email, “There is no truth to this rumor — but I hope the talented LA Times staff finds an editor who respects that newsroom as much as I respect ours.” When asked to confirm whether or not she held that staff meeting, Cooper never did hit that “reply” button again. Silence, as they say, speaks volumes.
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Fellow Democracy nerds, I offer you a shoutout to San Franciscan Gary McCoy for casting The City’s first early ballot by hand in City Hall on May 7. The Department of Elections tweeted a photo of McCoy, smiling, perhaps looking a bit confused, as he dropped his ballot in a big red box. McCoy said he wasn’t aiming to be first.
“Needed to be at work by 8:45 a.m. in Golden Gate Park,” he said, “[I] wanted to vote and get it out of the way.”
Maybe not the most stirring electoral message, Gary, but one well worth making: Get your gams-a-steppin’ folks, and vote.