Suzy Loftus and her youngest daughter emerge to speak at her post-election party on election night, Tuesday, November 5, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Interim DA Suzy Loftus extends lead over progressive candidate Chesa Boudin

Supervisor Vallie Brown pulls ahead of challenger Dean Preston in D5

Interim District Attorney Suzy Loftus has strengthened her lead over progressive challenger Chesa Boudin in the race to become the next top prosecutor of San Francisco, according to the latest election results.

The new numbers released Wednesday afternoon by the Department of Elections show Loftus was ahead of Boudin by 2,205 votes. Loftus had 55,830 votes so far compared with 53,625 votes for Boudin, while candidates Nancy Tung and Leif Dautch each lagged behind in the contest. Loftus previously led by 240 votes.

The race is so narrow that neither side has declared victory.

“I am happy to see our lead grow,” Loftus said in a statement. “I am hopeful that the results in the following days will continue to back our vision for making San Francisco the safest city in the country.”

The new tally included 16,000 vote-by-mail ballots that came into the department Tuesday morning.

But at least 70,000 more ballots still need to be counted, including 57,000 vote-by-mail ballots and 13,000 provisional ballots, according to John Arntz, director of the Department of Elections. Arntz told reporters that he planned to count most of the vote-by-mail ballots by Friday.

“I am so proud of our movement,” Boudin posted on Twitter. “We won’t know the results for days. I’m confident that when all votes are counted, we will win.”

Turnout in the election is among the lowest in recent history with 40 percent of voters estimated to have cast their ballots, according to the Department of Elections.

In the 2015 re-election of the late Mayor Ed Lee, voter turnout was 45 percent, while voter turnout was 35 percent when Mayor Gavin Newsom ran for re-election in 2007.

Meanwhile in the other close contest this November, Supervisor Vallie Brown took the lead by 88 votes after trailing progressive candidate Dean Preston on election night, according to the latest results.

Preston was previously beating Brown by 218 votes.

But Brown pulled ahead in the contest with 7,278 votes compared to Preston’s 7,190 votes after the Department of Elections counted 1,900 more ballots.

It’s unclear how many ballots have yet to be counted in the District 5 contest.

Political strategist Jon Golinger cautioned voters not to read too much into the new District 5 results since the new tally included ballots that tend to vote more moderate, those cast before election day.

“While Dean Preston fell behind, I think it is still more likely than not he will pull ahead in the end,” Golinger said.

Preston’s campaign manager Jen Snyder said in a text message that “there will be good drops and bad drops, and this was a bad one.”

“We’ll have to see if people who turn in their [vote-by-mail] ballots day-of look more like poll voters or look more like early absentees,” Snyder said.

A Preston victory would tilt the politics on the Board of Supervisors further left and make it even more challenging for Mayor London Breed to push her agenda. Breed appointed Brown as her successor when she became mayor.

An early leader

Loftus had held a lead in the contest since early returns, despite Boudin picking up the most first-choice votes.

Political analyst David Latterman said at a post-election talk that he predicted Loftus would win because she held her lead after the subsequent rounds of votes that tend to be more progressive came in. He was speaking at a luncheon before the latest results came in and her lead widened.

“I don’t see how Chesa wins,” Latterman said. “It’s really close. There is always wiggle room. After the most progressive or left-leaning portion of the vote came in [on election night], she is still in first place.”

But other political observers were not as certain. “There are models out there that have either one of these people winning,” said longtime lobbyist Alex Clemens at the same event. “This race ain’t over.”

Loftus and Boudin are vying to succeed former District Attorney George Gascon, who stepped down last month to run for office in Los Angeles. His resignation gave Breed the opportunity to appoint Loftus as interim district attorney in the final weeks of the heated race.

Critics accused Breed of unfairly giving Loftus an advantage in the race, which would have been the first district attorney’s contest in more than a century without an incumbent in the running. But whether the appointment gave Loftus enough of a boost to propel her to victory has yet to be seen.

It has also yet to be seen whether Boudin can overcome the massive amounts of spending on ads attacking his campaign by the San Francisco Police Officers Association. In the last days of the race, law enforcement groups spent more than $650,000 to oppose Boudin.

Boudin, a deputy public defender, has positioned himself as the reform candidate in the race who will reduce mass incarceration and hold police accountable. While Loftus has struck a similar tone, the former prosecutor and police commissioner has also played up her law enforcement background.

The next election results are expected to be released Thursday at 4 p.m.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

 

(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

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