A favorite old Far Side comic depicts a dying duelist expiring in the arms of the ritual's adjudicator and stating "I could have sworn you said eleven paces..."
In other words, failure to comprehend the rules can result in getting a bullet in the backside. In fact, it tends to lead to it. And that brings us to the case of Sheriff-to-be Ross Mirkarimi.
Not to take away from Mirkarimi's victory -- but it always helps to have opponents who don't understand the rules of the game. Parsing the election data, it's now painfully evident that Police Officer Association boss Gary Delagnes played that role in this election.
Mirkarimi, the photogenic and well-known District 5 supervisor, eked out a notably close win over two lesser-known and more conservative opponents, longtime former cop and union honcho Chris Cunnie and Sheriff's Captain Paul Miyamoto.
It's not just a matter of conjecture that supporters of Cunnie and Miyamoto had a lot more in common with one another than with Mirkarimi's backers. The volunteers waving Cunnie and Miyamoto signs on the street told you as much. Numerous backers -- most all of them public safety workers out on their own time -- admitted to your humble narrator that either Cunnie or Miyamoto would be acceptable -- but stalwart progressive Mirkarimi "has no business running a jail."
Even a rudimentary understanding of how ranked-choice voting works, then, should have led both candidates to agree to mount an Anybody-But-Ross campaign. Cunnie would have implored his supporters to vote him first and Miyamoto second and Miyamoto would have done the opposite.
But this didn't happen. What's more, Delagnes, Cunnie's most vocal booster, excoriated minority law enforcement groups
that had the temerity to endorse anyone but Cunnie -- and only Cunnie. It seems a large number of Cunnie's supporters followed the Delagnes line and voted solely for their preferred candidate. The result of that is Sheriff Mirkarimi. You can see it in the election data here
. At the time he was eliminated, Cunnie had just shy of 51,000 votes. Of those, Mirkarimi absorbed around 13,500 Cunnie second- and third-place votes and Miyamoto took 20,000. But 17,500 Cunnie voters didn't bother to fill in a second- or third-place choice.
Their votes -- which could have boosted Miyamoto -- went into the recycling bin. Mirkarimi only outpolled Miyamoto by some 9,000 votes. The majority of those Cunnie-and-only-Cunnie voters would have made the difference.
Delagnes, a pugnacious straight-shooter, has not returned our calls yet. But if he'd rather not talk to this reporter, it's always possible for him to phone his second- or third-favorite of my colleagues. Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly