F.X. Crowley supporters abandon pursuit of District 7 recount

S.F. Examiner File PhotosPrice: It would have cost at least $62

After flirting with the idea of demanding a recount for the District 7 supervisorial election that was decided by just 132 votes, labor leader F.X. Crowley and his backers stood down on Monday, citing costs.

On Friday, Department of Elections Director John Arntz provided recount proponents with the estimated cost of recounting District 7’s 31,334 ballots, which led to school board President Norman Yee’s 132-vote victory over Crowley in the nine-candidate contest.

A machine recount would cost $62,416 and a manual recount $69,433, Arntz said. Crowley or his backers would have been liable for all the costs of the recall if the effort did not ultimately change the election’s result.

“We’re pulling the plug on the recount,” political consultant Jim Stearns said Monday morning, the very day that Arntz planned to bring in staff to begin the estimated 23-day process. “We simply don’t have the money.”

Stearns works for the labor-backed political committee that had planned to fund the effort.

Crowley issued a statement Monday conceding his loss, but it may also have cast a cloud on Yee’s victory.

“Unfortunately, the final price of the recount proved too costly,” Crowley’s statement said.

Yee’s supporters, however, said the talk of a recount should not cast doubt on the outcome.

“Norman Yee won fair and square,” said Yee’s campaign manager Enrique Pearce. “I’m glad that they spared us all.”

Stearns and attorney Jim Sutton, who filed the request on behalf of a retired teacher, said the projected recount costs, the first such estimate since The City began to use the ranked-choice voting system, should prompt a re-examination of campaign regulations.

“We urge the Department of Elections to consider adopting a rule whereby The City would pay for a recount should the results be within a certain margin, as is done in several states,” Sutton said in a letter. He also suggested that contribution limits should be relaxed to allow candidates to raise money. Currently, candidates can only raise $100 from each donor to their candidacy to fund a recount.

Pearce said a recount trigger might be worth exploring, but only for a much narrower margin of victory, perhaps 20 votes. He said statistically, recounts only result in a “handful” of result changes.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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