Aaron Peskin appears to have reclaimed the seat he once held on the Board of Supervisors between 2001 and 2009, defeating Mayor Ed Lee’s appointee Julie Christensen.
The victory of Peskin is a rather dramatic development in San Francisco politics, shifting the balance on the board to a progressive majority and ensuring the mayor will have a more challenging time during his second four-year term in pushing his political agenda.
For months, the two have waged intense well-funded campaigns over who will serve on the Board of Supervisors as the representative of District 3, which comprises Chinatown, North Beach, Russian Hill and the Polk Street area.
“Let me just say the following words, from the bottom of my heart: We did it,” Peskin told the crowd gathered at Club Fugazi in North Beach on election night.
By the time the votes were counted just after 10 p.m., Peskin enjoyed a more than 1,100-vote lead. The Department of Elections still has to count more than 40,000 ballots cast citywide, but it seems unlikely Christensen could catch up.
“We’ve heard the stories about the housing crisis, the eviction crisis,” Peskin said. “We’ve run a campaign on the issues. We’ve not run a campaign about personality.”
Peskin has met with success by promising to fight for a more affordable San Francisco and effectively making the case that the Board of Supervisors should function more as a check and balance on the mayor’s power instead of a rubber stamp.
Peskin gained strong support from tenants groups and maintained a visible and strong ground presence leading up to voting day — a hallmark of progressive district elections.
Christensen was appointed to the board by the mayor to fill the vacancy left by David Chiu, who was elected to serve in the state assembly. Before taking office, Christensen was community leader on various projects.
Peskin notably drew support from Chinatown powerbroker Rose Pak, a prior ally of Lee who fell out with the mayor when he declined to appoint Cindy Wu of the influential Chinatown Community Development Center to the District 3 seat.
Christensen’s opponents had portrayed Christensen as a puppet of the mayor, doing the bidding of the mayor’s most prominent backer tech investor Ron Conway, unwilling to put the needs of residents first. A surge of spending supporting Christensen entered the race last week, significantly surpassing spending supporting Peskin, but that apparently failed to pay off.
At a subdued party at Monroe in North Beach, Christensen described the race as a “whirlwind” and noted that she was not a “politician” at the outset of her appointment by Mayor Ed Lee in January.
Jason McDaniel, assistant professor of political science at the San Francisco State University, said Peskin’s victory is the mayor’s only loss at the ballot Tuesday and a considerable one. “The most important thing going forward for the mayor’s agenda is the composition of the board,” McDaniel said.
Still, McDaniel said the fact that Lee had his ballot victories, like passing the affordable housing bond, may temper the progressive resurgence, which a Peskin win represents. “That puts the mayor in a stronger position vis-a-vis a board that is suddenly not as predisposed to passing his agenda,” McDaniel said.
Jonah Owen Lamb and Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez contributed to this story.