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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election 2012: Winners and Losers

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2012 at 1:15 PM

click to enlarge Ron Conway's fingerprints are all over this election. He won some, lost some -- and stands to profit by eliminating the payroll tax - JOI

There ain't no devil, there's just God when he's drunk -- Tom Waits

The striking thing about assessing San Francisco's big winners and losers emerging from last night's election is that they're often the same people.

In District 5, tech investor turned political money man Ron Conway's candidate, London Breed, trounced Supervisor Christina Olague, Rose Pak's preferred entrant.

In District 1, Supervisor Eric Mar, a favorite of Chinatown powerbroker Pak, destroyed David Lee, the beneficiary of metric shitloads of money from Conway and others.

In District 7, meanwhile, the consensus Downtown choice and Supervisor Sean Elsbernd's anointed successor, Mike Garcia, was thumped. Union boss F.X. Crowley and school board honcho Norman Yee are locked in a feverish battle -- but neither candidate would thrill the powers that be. Crowley is a lifelong union man and son of a lifelong union man. His take on the city's issues figures to be different than fiscal conservative and pension hawk Elsbernd. Yee, meanwhile, is a progressive. If he prevails -- and he may yet -- District 7 would feature a more left-leaning supervisor than District 5.

That this race has come down to a Crowley-Yee sprint -- and that Yee is still a viable winner -- is amazing. Perhaps some Downtown fixer fell asleep at the switch. 

See Also:

District 1: David Lee's Mounds of Cash Can't Unseat Eric Mar

District 5: Scenes from London Breed's Raucous Victory Party, and Other Races

District 7: F.X. Crowley Camp Spotted Crucial "Formatting Error"

Sending adults out with posters like this didn't help David Lee, whose campaign failed despite massive independent expenditures
  • Sending adults out with posters like this didn't help David Lee, whose campaign failed despite massive independent expenditures

Yesterday we wrote that the the theme of this election may well be the massive amounts of money -- particularly independent expenditures -- rolling in. On the morning after election day, that's still true -- but the real lesson is that spending money isn't enough. Spending money well is the key.

In District 1, Conway and pro-business groups showered astounding amounts of moolah on David Lee. But Lee didn't just lose -- he was eviscerated. "If you look for a District where you can change the nature of the board, which is pretty moderate these days, I think a lot saw [District 1] as an opportunity to change the board and make it even more moderate," said Jim Ross, Lee's consultant.

Mar responded with a volunteer-heavy ground game (thanks, Rose!). And, in the end, the massive influxes of cash may have actually hurt Lee. "I'm wondering if it was like [failed Republican gubernatorial candidate] Meg Whitman, where the more money she spent, it turned voters in the other direction," says Corey Cook, a USF political science professor. "In District 1, there were certainly diminishing returns. Not only was bad money thrown after good, toxic money was thrown after good."

In District 5, however, money was spent devastatingly well.

click to enlarge Anti-London Breed ads like this didn't sway enough voters
  • Anti-London Breed ads like this didn't sway enough voters
SF Weekly reported on multiple women's disconcerting allegations regarding progressive stalwart Julian Davis, and the candidate sicced his lawyer on accuser Kay Vasilyeva. Following this, a cavalcade of politicians and newspapers distanced themselves from Davis, setting up a two-woman race between Breed and Olague -- a progressive darling once more following her vote to reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.

In the waning days of the election, Conway's family poured $87,000 into cavalcades of ads in which peeved domestic violence prevention professionals battered Olague. This arrow appears to have found its target.

San Francisco has had its share of lovable rogues. And it's had its share of political fixers. And it has also featured no shortage of people or entities pouring copious amounts of money into the political process. But, in Conway, we have, for the first time, a very identifiable figure overtly altering elections with his vast sums of money and not bothering to obscure it.

"I think Mr. Conway has sown the seeds of his eventual destruction," says former Board President Aaron Peskin. "San Francisco doesn't mind colorful characters like Rose Pak. But when you're buying your way through everything, people don't like it."

That's not so certain, argues Cook. Conway "has become a lightning rod for progressives. Whether that will extend beyond progressives for people to say 'this guy is an example of what's wrong' remains to be seen."

Every ballot measure Conway supported passed -- and he stands to profit personally from the elimination of the payroll tax (Proposition E). He opposed the Hetch Hetchy measure, Prop. F, and that failed. It was the only prop to fail. And, as noted above, Conway succeeded wildly in District 5 while failing miserably in District 1.

That's what makes it difficult to assess traditional "winners and losers" from last night's election -- though the moderate establishment sure came up empty in District 7. The carnage was spread around fairly evenly, and much remains to be determined by how those elected perform.

Breed was the recipient of huge influxes of cash from Conway, Realtors, and other Downtown interests. But her spirited -- even profane -- defenses of rent control and other progressive issues indicate she may be an anti-establishment moderate, if such a thing exists.

"I think Breed will surprise people," says Peskin. "She's got a liberal to progressive constituency. I don't think she'll be a wholly owned subsidiary of anyone."

The same goes for Crowley. And, should he prevail, Yee -- who, mirroring Breed, would have to respect the moderate politics of District 7 as much as his own leftward leanings or the will of whomever supported him in his run.

This year's election, in the end, doesn't appear to have vastly altered any city political dynamics. And it may not have settled any issues -- other than revealing, once again, that quite a lot of folks here in the city have more money than they know what to do with.

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