SF's left hopes for a needed boost

San Francisco's left isn't dead.

After years of losing efforts and another rough showing during the worst affordability crisis in recent San Francisco history — which is quite literally removing San Francisco's reliable lefty voting bloc from their homes — The City's progressives are in need of a boost.

They may yet get it.

At press deadline, David Chiu enjoyed a 2,400-vote margin of victory over David Campos in the race to succeed Tom Ammiano as the eastside representative in the state Assembly, and a ballot proposition designed to halt the onslaught of evictions losing the city's opposition movement appeared headed for defeat.

But Campos, with 36,000 votes left to be counted, refused to concede.

To cheers of, “Si, se puede,” the Mission District supervisor pledged that people power may yet overcome dollars and prove that the city “is not for sale.”

“No one can buy this city,” he said, taking time to blast Chiu for using enormous amounts of tech cash to help outspend him by a 3-to-1 margin. “We are not going anywhere.”

All of progressive San Francisco was gathered at the 3100 block of Mission on Election Night, eager for word from the 17th District Assembly race, where left-leaning Campos relied on people power to beat Chiu, and from Proposition G, the Harvey Milk-seeded idea that real estate speculators who evict renting San Franciscans deserve a healthy, punitive tax.

What's left of The City's lefty factions packed shoulder-to-shoulder at El Rio's marijuana-scented back patio and next door at Virgil's Sea Room, where drinks on the menu include an offering named after Frank Chu, the city's famous sign-toting eccentric who once had a bar named for him a few blocks away.

But the bar, 12 Galaxies, is gone now, as are many of the friends, family members and comrades of the people here. Gone to Oakland, gone to Portland, gone somewhere else from here during The City's worst affordability and housing crisis in memory.

The crunch that's seeing longtime tenants served with eviction notices and a younger, wealthier set associated with the tech indsutry replace them isn't all bad news for the left. For one, it brought out the crush of people here, who gave Campos the bigger ground game — and maybe the biggest in over a decade.

“I don't know if we put this many people in the street since 2003,” said former Supervisor Chris Daly, who spent the past month in a familiar place: knocking on doors of single-room occupancies in the Tenderloin, trying to drum up votes for Prop. G. “We're still here. We're still fighting.”

“But welcome to America,” he said, as more results rolled in. “But welcome to America, where the dollar reigns. And we just got [expletive] pounded with it.”

Ammiano, who until January is still the 17th District assemblyman and the highest-ranking left-leaning politician in The City, held court at the bar, taking sips from a martini and trading stories with onlookers as the crowd waited for results with steadily-diminishing patience.

Former Supervisor Bevan Dufty shared space with sometime foes and allies supervisors Eric Mar and John Avalos, who as the second-place finisher to Mayor Ed Lee in the 2011 mayoral race was the left's last great hope.

Citywide, turnout appeared lower than expected, in part, observers said, because of the negative tone the campaign took, with regular attack ads tying Campos to the vote to reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi after Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to grabbing his wife by the arm.

“That negavitity from the Chiu camp worked to suppress the vote,” Avalos said. “But even if we lose … regular people fighting to save the San Francisco people around the world cherish.”

In the tech-mad, digital-crazed city, some computer failures dampened the mood. Increasingly frustrated eyes were glued to smartphones, where fingers tried in vain to refresh The City's elections webpage, which could not handle the traffic.

After the vote-by-mail returns had Campos down — “just as I expected,” he told The San Francisco Examiner at 8 p.m. — nervous poll-watchers had to wait until close to 10:30 p.m. to see the lead narrow to 2,400 votes, or less than 3 percentage points.

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