With provisional ballots making up the vast majority of outstanding votes, challengers Boudin and Preston are in the catbird seat


A purported construction mishap today knocked out running water at City Hall. Anyone only aware of San Francisco’s condition via misery safari/needles-and-feces articles regarding our filthy streets would not have been surprised with the woeful state of the restrooms today at our seat of government. 

One thing that wasn’t backed up, however, was ballots. Department of Election workers crossed their legs and diligently flushed through some 26,761 of them, leaving 1,500 mail ballots and 14,000-odd provisional ballots to begin working through on Saturday. 

Provisional voters tend to lean left — way left. “They vote like hippies,” one longtime city political operative told me. 

If so, the hippies may yet carry DA hopeful Chesa Boudin and District 5 challenger Dean Preston to victory. It was a very good Friday for them. Boudin erased an 879-vote hole and is now atop interim DA Suzy Loftus by 156 votes. 

Yes, 156 votes: 78,809 to 78,653. Boudin has 50.05 percent of the vote to Loftus’ 49.95. 

That’s close. But District 5 is even closer. Preston, who led by 35 votes over Supervisor Vallie Brown at the end of yesterday, now leads by … 35 votes. This is a statistical anomaly. 

Rarely does a flipped coin land on its side, but, dios mio, it does happen. 

These are amazingly close races. But S.F. State political science professor Jason McDaniel said both Boudin and Preston are now in commanding positions with some 1,500 late absentee ballots and 14,000 provisional votes to be tallied. 

“I will be shocked if the provisionals change this now,” said McDaniel. “It’s very clear to me Boudin will be the winner of the DA’s race and it’s most likely that Dean Preston will win the D5 race.” 

A provisional ballot, if you’re wondering, is a ballot given to a voter when there are questions regarding that voter’s eligibility. 

And, again, if you’re wondering, 86 percent of them have been deemed valid over the past four San Francisco mayoral elections, per John Arntz, the city’s election director.

In today’s batch of votes, Brown did whittle away several — literally several — of Preston’s first-place votes. But he continued to do better than the incumbent among ranked-choice votes transferring from the two minor candidates in the race, leading to his slim margin. 

Boudin meanwhile continued to rack up first-place votes at a greater clip than Loftus. She is getting more of the transfer votes from third- and fourth-place finishers Nancy Tung and Leif Dautch — but not enough, and not as many as she had in past batches. 

The high number of “exhausted” Tung and Dautch ballots — in which a voter only filled in one choice — and a notably high transfer between Tung and Boudin may determine this race. 

The moderate candidates’ inability to adopt a ranked-choice strategy and Boudin’s heavy investment in Chinatown and endorsements from Chinese organizations and newspapers may yet loom large. 

The water has come back at City Hall. But the counting never stopped. The next update will come at 4 p.m. on Saturday. 

Like our election coverage? Support Mission Local today so that we’re around for the next election as well.