The three-way race for a spot on the San Francisco Superior Court hasn't made much of a splash so far — probably because voters are more interested in the three-way race for the White House. That's legit. But even by San Francisco standards, the local judge's race is juicy. And a recent poll paid for by the campaign to re-elect Judge Thomas E. Mellon Jr. suggests that this could be a dog fight to the finish.
The poll, which surveyed 500 likely voters in mid-April, showed 26 percent supporting Mellon, the incumbent since 1994. Two-term Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval had 18 percent, and criminal defense attorney Mary Mallen polled at 11 percent. (For the mathematically challenged, that leaves 45 percent of the sample electorate sitting on the fence or having no fucking idea who any of these people were.)
Mellon campaign spokesman Jim Ross argues that an eight-point lead for Mellon is bad news for Sandoval, but he also admits that Hizzoner has some work to do. "Do we need to go out and make a case why we need to be re-elected? Certainly," he said. "Is Mary Mallen stealing votes from both Judge Mellon and Sandoval, and could [she] push this into a runoff in November? Definitely."
Mallen's poll results might surprise anyone who's paying attention to this race, especially the insidery political snobs around town. In March, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club endorsed Sandoval, a straight guy, over Mallen, an out lesbian. San Francisco's other gay and lesbian Democratic club, the Alice B. Toklas, stayed neutral, making no endorsements.
So what explains Mallen's strong early showing? It helps to be a woman campaigning against two men in a liberal Democratic city. And it helps that one of her opponents is Sandoval.
Mallen said she's heard complaints on the campaign trail about the supervisor's 2005 statement on the FOX News TV show Hannity & Colmes that the United States should not have a military. She said some Jewish people have also complained about his one-time recommendation for San Franciscans to fight big businesses by picketing their Marin County homes and their bar mitzvahs.
Asked about all this, Sandoval said he was going to "take the high road," telling SF Weekly he is happy Mallen is in the race. Mallen doesn't necessarily agree. She said she saw Sandoval at the California Culinary Academy very early in the campaign, and he asked her not to run. "I said, 'I hope it's a good race,'" she said.