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Both of the Davids Can (and Will) Claim Victory in Last Night's Election

Plus: Why Prop B's passage isn't a referendum on development.

Reprinted with permission from Beyond Chron.


To nobody’s surprise, San Francisco’s Prop B won easily yesterday, as roughly 60% of voters sought to empower themselves by gaining veto power over waterfront projects exceeding current height limits. As I wrote in my election predictions, I do not share the doom and gloom scenarios of many Prop B opponents because 1) The initiative has a strong chance of being struck down by the courts and 2) Voters will approve the Pier 70 project in November.

Those who read far too much into the 8 Washington defeat last November will no doubt claim Prop B’s victory reflects voter backlash against development. But this analysis would have meant that David Campos would easily defeat David Chiu, as their Assembly district likely included a greater share of Prop B supporters than the city as a whole. So rather than a referendum on development, Prop B was a referendum on voters seeking more power for themselves. Such initiatives almost always win, as those who don’t care about voting on development projects are also less likely to vote.

As for the David vs. David contest, I predicted a result that would leave the race unchanged, and this proved correct. Chiu is ahead 48%-43% with election day absentees left to be counted. Both candidates remain in a position to win in November, with each being able to tout the results to supporters. When it became clear that David Campos and David Chiu would square off in the Assembly race, few gave Campos much of a chance. Yet a combination of factors, particularly sharply increasing rents and Ellis Act evictions and Campos’ unifying of the gay electorate, put the D9 Supervisor in a position where many believed he would finish first on June 3.

But signs of intense enthusiasm for a candidate can send misleading messages about the breadth of their support. In this case, the votes nearly matched enthusiasm levels. Campos exceeded the original projections in this race, and while he did not finish first, he can credibly argue to campaign funders that the larger November turnout could put him over the top. Chiu, on the other hand, ran an unenergetic campaign until three weeks ago, when he hit high gear. This greater intensity, along with independent expenditures from groups bashing Campos for voting to reinstate Sheriff Mirkarimi, helped put Chiu over the top.

Chiu could not win in November if he did not finish first in June. So he did what he needed to do. And a 5% spread is just large enough to convince state level donors that he will win in November. I think Chiu also believes he will be helped by a larger November turnout, and he will keep his intensity level up. An interesting question is whether attacks on Campos for the Mirkarimi vote will still have potency in November given the widespread distribution of mailers by independent pro-Chiu groups for June. Some believe Chiu's camp intended to hold the Mirkarimi vote back from mailers until November so as to maximize its impact, but felt it couldn't wait when Campos' campaign appeared to seize the momentum. Of course, the narrow spread leaves some question as to how much the Mirkarimi vote impacted the outcome in the first place.

Chiu raised over $800,000 for this race, with another $259,000 (and likely more) raised by independent campaigns attacking Campos. Campos raised $500,000. That’s a lot of money for a race that won’t be decided until November.

 

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