In a topsy-turvy and unpredictable election, today we finally saw some predictability. And, barring unforeseen lunacy, some finality.

The provisional ballots, which traditionally skew to the left, did just that. Some 12,600 of them were processed today, and things went well for DA hopeful Chesa Boudin and District 5 aspirant Dean Preston.

Boudin now leads interim DA Suzy Loftus by nearly 2,500 votes, and there are only 1,200 uncounted votes remaining.

His campaign manager, Kaylah Williams, wept with joy as she left City Hall this afternoon. When asked for a statement, she replied, “I am over the fucking moon.”

Loftus conceded the election. “I didn’t win the race — but we won the support of so many San Franciscans who are demanding that our city work more effectively together to build safety,” she said in a statement. “Congratulations to Chesa Boudin. I will work to ensure a smooth and immediate transition.”

It’s not immediately clear what “immediate” means; the office is technically Loftus’ to hold until January. Boudin’s camp was unsure about any timeline as well.

Boudin is flying back from a visit to his incarcerated father in New York; he and his team had not anticipated the election would be decided so soon.

“The people of San Francisco have sent a powerful and clear message: It’s time for radical change to how we envision justice,” he said in a statement. “I’m humbled to be a part of this movement that is unwavering in its demand for transformation.”

In District 5, the day’s tabulations helped expand Preston’s lead over Supervisor Vallie Brown from a ludicrous 35 votes to 170. This could well be the tightest ranked-choice voting district election in city history — Mark Farrell won District 2 by 258 votes in 2010 (Tony Hall won District 7 by 39 votes in 2000, before ranked-choice voting was established).

But it was enough for Preston to declare victory.

Dean Preston

“This was a low-turnout, off-year election, and we ran an unapologetic, progressive, Democratic Socialist campaign,” he told Mission Local. “It’s exciting to win any race. And especially one like this.”

It’s a result that will leave the city’s establishment players — and, most of all, Mayor London Breed — smarting.

Her handpicked former aide Brown will be replaced on the Board of Supervisors with a vociferous opponent who nearly unseated her in 2015 and will now likely join her most strident legislative critics.

There will no longer be, in fact, a moderate bloc on the board. Just Catherine Stefani and Ahsha Safai — and Safai is tightly aligned with labor.

When George Gascon left his post to decamp to Los Angeles and run for office there, Breed took the highly unusual step of installing Loftus in the office right as absentee ballots arrived in voters’ mailboxes, and just a shade over two weeks before Election Day.

This was a calculated risk by the mayor — and Loftus. They all had access to the same polls that showed a total morass in this race with little to no name recognition.

In office, Loftus ginned up her name recognition and was a perpetual motion machine, addressing voter-friendly concerns — car break-ins, violent crime in Chinatown — and producing a heap of press releases in her wake.

Putting Loftus in office was a calculated risk. Everyone knew there was a downside. It has come to pass.

The move galvanized her opposition and — this is key — likely destroyed any hope of a ranked-choice strategy. Boudin, a public defender and leftist, is not like the other candidates. He is, therefore, not an ideal ranked-choice politician; it was not clear where his No. 2 and No. 3 votes would come from.

But this shouldn’t have mattered: Let the record show some two-thirds of voters did not give their No. 1 vote to a progressive DA candidate — and yet, none of those moderate candidates could break 50 percent after ranked-choice tabulations. That’s a failure, there. And now Chesa Boudin will be DA.

Most all of the mayor’s preferred candidates lost in 2018. All of them lost in 2019 and, this year, she put a lot more effort into it. And credibility. And other people’s credibility.

Mayor London Breed received 70 percent of the vote. And yet, in her first four-year term, she’ll be heading into a minefield, surrounded by emboldened critics.

These are the “interesting times” of the old Chinese proverb.

It will be interesting times for all San Francisco.

We will publish a full analysis of this election and its ramifications early next week. Stay tuned. 

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