On Wednesday, District 1 supervisor candidate Marjan Philhour had a razor-thin lead. Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner

On Wednesday, District 1 supervisor candidate Marjan Philhour had a razor-thin lead. Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner

District 1 race remains only contest ‘nobody is calling yet’

San Francisco’s supervisor races appear to be all decided after election night, except the District 1 contest, where a moderate and progressive candidate are separated by a thin margin with some 90,000 ballots left uncounted citywide.

District 1 candidate Connie Chan had a narrow lead over moderate challenger Marjan Philhour in early returns, but then the slight advantage flipped to Philhour in the final results of election night.

A clear winner could be days away as the Department of Elections will continue to count ballots and release updates every day at 4 p.m.

In the latest update Wednesday evening, Philhour’s lead over Chan decreased from 43 votes to 25 votes. The lead decrease came with just 32 more ballots counted in the race since election night.

Political analysts speaking earlier Wednesday at a traditional post-election recap event hosted by SPUR, a public policy think-tank, agreed the race remains too close call.

David Latterman gave the edge to Chan, under the notion that later ballots tend to swing to the more progressive candidate. However, he qualified this by noting that with COVID, past trends may be different. A Chan win would mean the District 1 seat would remain represented by a progressive, as has long been the case.

Latterman said the pandemic may have benefited Philhour in this race. Philhour has name recognition in the district from her previous run against current office holder Sandra Fewer, while Chan has been a behind-the-scenes government worker who hadn’t run for office before.

“I thought if [Philhour] had a shot it was COVID, because she did have higher name recognition, and with COVID Chan wouldn’t be able to get out there as much,” he said.

Alex Clemens, a lobbyist who co-hosted the event with Latterman, said one trend helping Philhour was that votes from another candidate in the race, David Lee, a more conservative candidate, were “slightly disproportionately” going to Philhour under ranked choice voting, giving her the current razor-thin edge.

Philhour’s lead comes despite the fact that Lee and Chan, both Chinese American candidates, announced a ranked-choice voting strategy about a week before the election, and urged voters to make either of them their first or second choices.

“This is the race that nobody is calling yet,” Clemens said. “Nobody should call this race yet.”

Over in District 5, progressive incumbent Dean Preston has apparently won, enjoying a strong lead over challenger Vallie Brown, who Preston beat last year.

“This was a lot of noise and it turned out it wasn’t really that close,” Latterman said of the race. He added, “It’s very hard to take an incumbent out after one year, without a real reason to do it.”

In District 7, moderate challenger Joel Engardio conceded victory Wednesday morning to leading candidate Myrna Melgar, who was up by about 2,000 votes. Melgar was endorsed by the current office holder, Board President Norman Yee, who is aligned with the progressives. Later Wedneday evening, she declared victory.

Clemens said that voters in one of the most “conservative” districts in San Francisco elected “not the most conservative person in the race.”

Latterman said that normally with such a strong field of candidates “the winner squeaks it out.”

“This is not close,” he said.

In the District 11 contest, moderate incumbent Ahsha Safai has had a strong showing over his progressive challenger, John Avalos, who held the seat previously.

Latterman said the contest was “probably in a way the most antagonistic race,” with a “battle of two incumbents and two extremely different people.”

“I thought this race was going to be closer than this,” Latterman said. “This is locked.”

Taken as a whole, Latterman said the “status quo, I think, for the most part held” on the Board of Supervisors, which recently has had a progressive supermajority. But the outcome of District 1 could help shift that.

“D-1 could be a true flip if that holds, but it remains to be seen,” he said.


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