DA candidate Chesa Boudin gets a lift on the SF State campus from Jimmy Fails, the star of The Last Black Man in San Francisco. Photo by Julian Mark, November 2019.

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. 

Follow Us

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.

Join the Conversation


Please keep your comments short and civil. Do not leave multiple comments under multiple names on one article. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Electing the son of criminals to a DA position in San Francisco will only increase the city’s already bad crime rate. He has publicly stated that he feels sympathy for criminals, no doubt because his own parents are.
    How the people could elect such a crime-favoring jerk is beyond me! Welcome to SF the Criminals Haven.
    I lived in SF for 30 years, from 1969 to 1999 and watched the city go downhill as a result of the DemoSocialist politicians who cared nothing for the working taxpayer.
    Well, the people have only themselves to blame for San Francisco’s current filthy state, since they elect these incompetents and allow them to further ruin the city.

  2. Given how close it is, I would suggest that Breed’s greasy appointment of Loftus lost her the election, when people like me voted “anyone but Suzy”. Very easy to do with ranked choice ballots.

  3. Provisionals don’t vote like hippies anymore. The 4-5% of the voters using provisional ballots are spread all over the city and don’t have an overwhelming lean in the progressive direction. Maybe just a few points. For example, in June 2018, the voters rejected Prop. D’s commercial rent tax for homeless services by a margin of 55-45%. The provisionals rejected it by a margin of 50.5-49.5%. You can say that the provisional vote was more progressive, but all that did was tighten the margin. It wouldn’t have changed the end result because even a majority of provisionals voted against taxing big business to fund the homeless. Not what you would expect from a bunch of extreme leftists. Maybe Prof. McDaniel could do some data analysis on recent elections so we have a firm foundation to analyze future elections, rather than relying on guess work and gut feelings and memories of the distant past.

    1. The June 2018 Prop D vote was not supported by community members engaged in advocacy around housing and homeless issues. It was considered by many a deal with developers. It would make sense that no on D would be stronger among a “more left” group.

  4. Awesome coverage. Is there any explanation for why today and yesterday, the results were more progressive? Late mail by votes I believe have just counted like early mail by votes, more conservative. I’m guessing a Bernie endorsement and the Vallie scandal might have proven to be detrimental for the two incumbents.

  5. Thanks so much for your coverage, Joe!
    Any ETA/guesstimates when this might all conclude and we can light a proverbial match to clear the air?

    1. Tito — 

      I’m gonna have to borrow that phrase.

      Elections boss John Arntz said it’d be 10 days on Tuesday or Wednesday. That’s because provisionals have to be not only counted but authenticated, individually.

      With that said, we may have a good idea about D5 on Saturday and some clarity on DA early next week.

      Prof. McDaniel is not wrong in stating that provisionals tend to lean not just left but rather left. It would take an anomalous event for Loftus or Brown to win now — but the margins are so tight that you never know until it’s all over.