No ballot count needed for these SF election winners and losers

Widespread voter confusion, wasted millions in campaign financing, claims of election fraud — just a typical November in San Francisco.

City voters proved once again that they can rise above the clamor, and while they had to wait patiently for their ballots to be counted under our spin-the-big-wheel system of elections, they at least reiterated that San Francisco has no plans to become Oakland.

For that, we can be thankful. For the election, however, a number of individuals and activities stood out, though not necessarily in a good way.

The Winners

Ed Lee: He was all but hog-tied and placed on a spit by his chief opponents during the past three months, but now has made history as The City’s first elected Chinese-American mayor. Lee was cool and unflappable throughout the campaign and showed that being likeable and steady are good virtues for a chief executive.

Asian voters: For years, there’s been talk about why the Asian community didn’t show the force of their numbers in San Francisco. The sleeping tiger has now been awakened, and don’t expect it to ramble away anytime soon.

MC Hammer: He hasn’t had a hit in years and his featured brand of “pop rap” is hardly shaking the world, but the entertainer was all over the campaign trail this year, producing a memorable video for Lee that played off his sedate manner. Is protocol chief out of the question?

Big Money: If there’s a reason Lee is all a-Twitter these days, it’s because tech companies and Silicon Valley investors such as Ron Conway poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into expenditure campaigns. And what do the donors want in return for their investment? That’s what keeps a few newspapers left standing.

The Losers  

RCV: The shameless pitchmen for ranked-choice voting claim it increases turnout in elections and avoids turnout drops in runoff elections. Yet in 2003, the December mayoral runoff had 253,972 voters, a nearly 55 percent turnout. In this week’s first test of the system for a mayoral election, the turnout was a measly 31 percent — at least the lowest number in a mayoral election in 35 years. Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Mark Farrell introduced legislation this week to eliminate RCV next year. Run, don’t walk to the polls.

Jeff Adachi: He deserves credit for making pension reform an issue — last year. But rather than stick to the issue and promote his own Proposition D, Adachi instead tried to use it to bolster his own late mayoral bid, failing miserably on both fronts. Pension reform will be with us for years; Adachi better hope for the same.

Dennis Herrera: His scorched-earth campaign against Lee was a turnoff for voters and he proved beyond a reasonable doubt why the city attorney shouldn’t run for mayor. When you start blasting the departments and individuals you’re chosen to represent, you’re as conflicted as Hamlet (see: tragedy).

Campaign finance: San Francisco’s taxpayer giveaway plan to its politicians may have run its course this year, with more than $4 million taken by the ambitious and the bored to run long-shot races for mayor. Phil Ting and Joanna Rees both ran upbeat, issue-driven campaigns, yet received barely 3,000 votes between them — about $300 for each vote cast. It’s one more system The City can’t afford.

DCCC: When it was reconfigured as an ultra-liberal apparatus some years back, San Francisco’s Democratic Party operation was supposed to be a new political machine for modern times. Instead it’s been marred by ideological
misadventures and poor choices, and its endorsements are quietly becoming a kiss of death. And you thought being a Democrat in San Francisco made it all so simple.

Big Money: Public campaign financing was supposed to level the playing field. All it’s done is increase the reliance on candidates to go outside to independent expenditure committees for Monopoly money in the hopes of landing on Boardwalk. The way some of the committees were run had people wondering if, instead, they should be issued “Get Out of Jail Free” passes.

Ken Garcia appears Thursdays and Sundays in The San Francisco Examiner. Email him at

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