"We won an election, people," Chesa Boudin told supporters on election night. And, lo, he was right. Photo by Julian Mark.

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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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. One more reason we’re leaving this city. Law and order is non-existent, and the geniuses just elected a far left regime. That means more homeless, more poop on the streets, more “sanctuary” bullshit at the expense of working class taxpayers. Congratulations, SF…you get what you deserve.

  2. Er, the end of the article turned into a bit of a partisan rant there didn’t it? Poor journalism

    1. Sir or madam — 

      Go to the dictionary. Look up “partisan.” Look up “rant.”

      We’ll wait.


    2. Alex,

      Yeah, turns out Joe does have favorites.

      Same thing happened over at Chron with John Diaz.

      Two folks you almost never see picking sides couldn’t take a loss.

      On the flip side of the coin, I don’t know how to process a win like this.

      I can only move to next biggest reform/dream.

      Hoping we can change the Charter and elect our police chief.

      Only way we’ll get reform there.

      Go Niners!

      Y’all see that Alabama/LSU game?


      “We don’t need no stinking defense!”


      1. H. —

        Love ya’ but I didn’t “take a loss.”

        You’re a smart guy, always, but off base.


  3. Thank you for your measured and thoughtful reporting throughout this campaign season. I am not happy with the election outcomes and worry about the future of our city. I hope you will keep writing and providing your perspective.

  4. You make it sound like the fact that London Breed won 70% of the vote is some kind of mandate, but it is not very impressive, given that her opposition were all basically fringe candidates. The city is pretty evenly divided between Breed supporters and non-supporters.

    1. “pretty evenly divided”

      Really Joy?! Looks more like 2/3 to 1/3 to me. If only the country were so “evenly” divided over Trump.

      1. If you count ballots that did not vote for mayor, London Breed has 61% of the vote. Seems if there were a viable alternative candidate it could have been a tight race. Hence “pretty evenly divided”. But it’s tough in an off-year.

        Interesting that 14% of voters left mayor blank compared to 4% in the D5 supervisor race.

  5. Ugh. With Chesa Boudin in office get ready for an avalanche of criminal behavior – car break-ins, retail theft, and robberies. Criminals from all over the Bay Area will be headed for SF, where they know there will be no punishment… even if the Boudin-neutered police department manages to catch anyone in the first place.

  6. WooHoo! Congratulations to Preston and Boudin; along with respective campaign managers, Snyder and Williams.

    Best coverage two years running here at ML. Having a reporter at each prominent campaign party is a real treat.