Mayor London Breed in November 2018. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez

The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference.

If San Francisco voters don’t love Mayor London Breed, we certainly seem to like her fine. We sure as hell don’t hate her.

But when it comes to caring about who she wants to govern alongside and what she wants us to vote for, San Franciscans were totally indifferent. Nearly every hotly contested candidate or proposition on yesterday’s ballot that the mayor weighed in on lost, or is losing.

Homeless measure Proposition C won. Matt Haney won in District 6. Gordon Mar is winning in District 4 — a progressive supe in the Sunset! Eric Mar’s brother! It’s an impossible scenario, and yet it’s happening. It seems the only people who listened to Breed’s advice this election season were the tech barons who deferred to her wisdom in opposing Prop. C (before admitting that, hey, they just don’t want to pay taxes).

In District 6, where Breed prominently supported Christine Johnson and Sonja Trauss and text-banked with them on Election Day, Haney’s people told me that the issue of Breed’s imprimatur came up only a handful of times during tens of thousands of voter interactions. In District 4, where Breed got behind Jessica Ho, Mar’s people said that, in the heavily Asian Sunset District, the backing of Mayor Breed didn’t mean quite so much as the backing of Mayor Ed Lee. You figure it out. What’s more, Breed’s advocacy for opening up safe injection sites didn’t exactly sit well with denizens of the city’s west side.

Flanked by District 6 candidates Christine Johnson (left) and Sonja Trauss, Mayor London Breed texts would-be voters on election day. Photo by Julian Mark.

Haney trounced Johnson and Trauss by an eye-opening margin (much more on that here). There are 139,000 ballots left to count and, perhaps 10,000 to go in District 4 — but the lead for Mar “looks very solid to me,” notes SFSU political science professor Jason McDaniel. In a crowded field, he continues, Mar “benefitted from the ranked-choice voting transfers.” So far, he’s pulled down more No. 2 votes from the candidate running a 1-2 campaign with Ho than she has.

Is Breed vulnerable to be unseated next year? Barring a missile from Pyongyang or some manner of scandal worse than the scandals city voters have already ignored — and we ignored a married mayor impregnating his fund-raiser or a single mayor carrying on an affair with his married underling who was his close friend’s spouse — no. But it’s not Breed’s blessing that’ll do her appointee, Supervisor Vallie Brown, all that much good in 2019. Rather, District 5 voters are going to weigh whether Brown is a better neighborhood supe than Dean Preston. That’s all. 

In the meantime, like Lee before her, Breed will have an adversarial and potentially rambunctious board working against her. The relationship with the board has not been well-maintained. And, now, with perhaps eight supervisors finding common cause, the board doesn’t have to merely react to the mayor — it can go on offense. “Mayor Breed is substantially weaker today than she was yesterday,” sums up a veteran political operative. “That is a result of political miscalculation and hubris.”

Far, far more San Franciscans voted for Prop. C than voted for London Breed. She now finds herself on the other side of a means of tackling San Francisco’s most pressing issue than 60-odd percent of this city’s voters. And, if the tech barons are supposedly receptive to our mayor’s wishes — will she lean on them to not sue the city over Prop. C? That could qualify as “leadership.”

It is not yet known what Breed will make her signature issue for 2019 and re-election. It sure as hell won’t be a bold homelessness initiative. Fixing Muni is the perpetual motion machine of San Francisco politics. Affordable housing is a great idea, but a mayor can only push that needle so much.

Your humble narrator is hearing rumors of a workforce housing bond. That sounds grand but, once again, your elected officials are far keener to extract funds from everyday folks (and go into bonded debt) than big business. We’ll see if Breed et al. express reservations about the “accountability” of those overseeing the housing funds.

If the mayor had embraced Prop. C, it would not only have likely ensured a two-thirds majority and staved off years of legal wrangling (and potential crushing losses for this and other tax initiatives), but it would have scattered and routed Breed’s opponents on the left, leaving them in disarray for years to come.

This was not an easy situation by any means for the mayor. But she played it into a triple.

Questionable decisions were made following questionable advice. It remains to be seen if the mayor makes changes regarding her inner political circle — will anyone be held “accountable” for this?

Incoming chief of staff Sean Elsbernd can’t arrive quickly enough.

He should bring a fire extinguisher.

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Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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  1. Kind of a limited perspective. Matt Haney has been running for District 6 Supervisor for many years. Part of the reason why he pushed for building a school in Mission Bay while on the School Board and his countless D6 appearances prior to this year. Furthermore, it appeared that the labor IE was far better organized than the POA IE. And strangely enough, about 1/3 of Sonja’s non-exhausted votes were transferred to Matt. I believe the strategy of appealing to a broad spectrum of voters worked, including making prominent non-progressive endorsements from former Mayor Gavin Newsome and touting misleading literature of former President Obama’s 2016 endorsement. His campaign appeared to be the only one that didn’t stick to the issues alone, but resorted to mudslinging and emotional appeals. There are so many more variables that can be taken into consideration. I don’t believe it was simply Matt’s campaign ground game that delivered him the victory. In addition, Gordon Mar is a long-time Sunset resident who was able to rally a lot of labor support behind him and ran against a new SF resident. Though his actual personality is a lot like cardboard, Gordon was a lot more marketable than Jessica was.

    I don’t believe London’s endorsement is the kiss of death. I don’t believe Prop C supporters will oppose London in 2019. I do believe, London will benefit greatly from the incumbents advantage. I also believe, from what residents are saying on the ground, she is doing an extraordinary job as a mayor delivering on basic neighborhood services. A simple political theory that comes to mind is the median voter theorem. I believe London’s priorities are more aligned with the median voter, unlike past progressives who have branded themselves as extremely far left despite not always making progressive decisions. If the mayor is doing a bad job, she will be susceptible to a challenge. If not, it will be a waste of money and time to challenge her. Lastly, the election for D5 supervisor might have a larger pool of candidates. Rumor has it that City College Trustee Shanell Williams May run. Ultimately, I think it will come down to whether or not Supervisor Brown is doing a poor job or not. It was perceived that Christina Olague did a poor job especially for voting against a mayor who appointed her. It was perceived that Julie Christenson was a bad Supervisor by several uninformed statements she made in the media, and in Supervisor Mandelman’s case, he had been running for that position since he lost in 2010. It is simply not enough to campaign against Vallie because she is a moderate. The median voter does not care about the political factions. London beat Dean in 2016 without barely lifting a finger. It will not be hard to take him down again, especially if progressives cannot unite behind a single candidate.

  2. Wow. Sounds like Haney had a dynamite ground game. That’s the old way to win elections in the City. Hopefully ML will revisit and report more in depth on this aspect of the campaign.