There’s a lot of “Ed Lee seems to be winning the San Francisco mayor’s race” verbiage out there this morning, but I’m not so sure just yet.
Yes, he’s in the lead after the initial tally, but ranked-choice voting means that’s not always conclusive.
In Oakland’s mayoral race last November, former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata had 33.73 percent of the vote in the first round of counting, with Councilwoman Jean Quan (the leading progressive alternative) in second place at 23.47 percent – a nine-percentage-point gap – in a field of 10 candidates. Perata continued to hold the lead until the third-place finisher – Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, another progressive – was eliminated and an overwhelming percentage of her supporters’ second- and third-choice votes catapulted Quan past him to victory.
Now in San Francisco, appointed incumbent Mayor Ed Lee has 31.38 percent in the first round, with Supervisor John Avalos (the leading progressive alternative) in second place at 18.67 percent – an almost 13-percentage-point gap – in a field of 16 candidates. The next-closest contender is City Attorney Dennis Herrera at 11.27 percent, followed by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu at 8.93 percent and state Sen. Leland Yee at 7.48 percent.
So I’ll be very interested to see how many of those top-of-the-backfield candidates’ supporters included Lee as their second or third choice; given Herrera’s, Chiu’s and Yee’s politics, I think it’s more likely their supporters would’ve picked Avalos over Lee.
Then again, Perata was a rather polarizing candidate – people generally either loved him or hated him, with little gray area between – who ran a campaign that deliberately ignored ranked-choice voting, making no effort whatsoever to solicit second- and third-place votes. Although Lee’s campaign had some difficulties in the final month, it’s hard to see him as another Perata.
We’ll know more this afternoon.
UPDATE @ 4:05 P.M.: Er, never mind, then. First RCV tally shows Lee with a convincing victory.