The election is just around the corner, and while the fights over the Mission moratorium and short-term rental regulations have dominated airwaves, there are candidate races that will shape San Francisco for years to come.
The mayoral race is all but decided as there was no alternative candidate able to match incumbent Ed Lee in campaign spending or name-recognition. The sheriff’s race, a supervisorial race, and a city college race are all undecided, however, and could tilt the favor towards more progressive city politics — or towards more gridlock and grandstanding.
The election is this coming Tuesday, and if past numbers are any indicator, only 25 to 30 percent of the voting population will turn out this election, meaning your vote counts more than usual. If you’ve registered to vote, you can head down to city hall to vote any day before the election or you can go to a polling place on November 3.
The Mayoral Race
The mayoral race is stacked with candidates of different stripes, but the contest is essentially decided: Mayor Lee is widely expected to win. He has $1.5 million in campaign contributions compared to only $42,000 for his five opponents combined. Moreover, none of the others have significant political experience.
This hasn’t prevented them from conducting fierce opposition campaigns, however. Three of the candidates — Amy Farah Weiss, Stuart Schuffman, and Francisco Herrera — have banded together to get Lee out of office, asking voters to cast their ballots for them in any order they like, since the goal is to remove the current mayor.
And when all six candidates appeared together for the first mayoral forum last week, they blasted the current mayor for a lack of progress on affordable housing and suspected corruption in his administration. Though policy prescriptions are thin for all, the opposition candidates generally favor a more aggressive fight for affordable housing and a less cozy relationship with Silicon Valley.
District 3 Supervisor Race
It may seem that the supervisor of North Beach and Chinatown has no effect on the Mission, but the outcome of the District 3 race may shift the balance on the Board of Supervisors towards the progressives, thus impacting city-wide legislation on housing and other issues.
Julie Christensen, the incumbent, is another Mayor Lee pick. Lee chose her in 2011 to fill David Chiu’s seat when he was elected to the State Assembly. She has raised more than $1 million for the race, much of it from tech investors close to the mayor, and is the first to pass the million-dollar benchmark for a supervisor’s race.
Her main opponent is Aaron Peskin. He was the District 3 supervisor from 2001 to 2009 and was made president of the Board in 2005, but can run again because of the 6-year hiatus. He has backed the Mission moratorium and new short-term rental regulations, which Christensen opposes. He has faced criticism for a harsh leadership style, but he also has a progressive following and has raised some $750,000, mostly from different unions.
Because the two are quarreling over just 10,000 votes and are expected to spend a combined $2 million by the time the election is over, they are essentially shelling out some $200 a vote.
But the race is critical because it would shift the Board of Supervisors towards the progressives, giving David Campos, Jane Kim, John Avalos, Maria Cohen, and Eric Mar a 6-5 majority on contested issues. And it’s neck and neck: Polls cited by the Chronicle show Christensen leading 41 percent to Peskin’s 38 percent.
Wilma Pang is also running for the seat, though her small war chest and lack of name-recognition make her a long shot.
The Sheriff’s Race
Having to defend himself against various scandals over the past three years, incumbent Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi faces a tough race against Mayor Lee’s hand-picked favorite for the position, Vicki Hennessy.
Mirkarimi’s campaign for re-election is burdened by a few too many scandals, the most notable being the domestic abuse scandal with his wife that landed him in jail back in early 2012. At the time, his wife denied any wrongdoing on Mirkarimi’s part and recently put on a play to tell her side of the story, but the damage to his reputation has been difficult to repair.
The mayor tried to oust him then, moving to fire him for official misconduct, but Mirkarimi scrapped by after the Board of Supervisors fell two votes short of removing him. Mirkarimi eventually struck a plea deal, and the conviction that nearly cost him his job was expunged from his record this spring.
Mirkarimi also faced criticism for the 2013 death of a patient at General Hospital, for his support of sanctuary cities after the shooting of Kate Steinle at Pier 14, and for accusations of gladiatorial fights in prisons.
His policies on extending the sanctuary city law by commanding his department to cut communications with immigration authorities came under intense fire after Steinle’s murder by an undocumented gunman who had been deported five times.
His opponent Vicki Hennessy served as Mirkarimi’s temporary replacement during the domestic abuse scandal in 2012. She was brought out of retirement by the mayor to fill the position and has a long history in law enforcement. She started at the sheriff’s department in 1975, was promoted to chief deputy in 1997, and retired in 2011. She would be the first female to hold the office.
The City College of San Francisco Race
City College has been plagued with scandals recently as a result of a messy back-and-forth between the school and the state accreditation body. The body found the school lacking in management and voted to stop its accreditation — and then a state task force ruled in turn that the accreditation body was too punitive in its judgements.
But the school suffered from the perception of mismanagement and lost some 27 percent of its enrollment, or 9,000 students, since 2013. This could mean the disappearance of $32 million in state-funding, threatening the school’s survival.
In the middle of this fray are elections for a seat on the board of trustees. The spot up for grabs is currently held by mayoral-appointee Alex Randolph, who must go on the ballot to keep his seat. He’s challenged by Wendy Aragon, Tom Temprano, and Jason Zeng.