We go to the polls tomorrow, November 5, for a local election in which it feels like the stakes aren't particularly high except for a certain District 5 supervisor and a certain interim district attorney. But a few of the ballot props this time around are pretty important, and everyone should get out there and vote if you haven't already mailed in or dropped off a ballot.
Below we bring you SFist's voter guide, which lays out the candidates for elected office and the propositions without any endorsements. And yes, Mayor London Breed is looking to get re-elected, and no one has appeared interested in stopping her.
The Mayor's Race
London Breed is running virtually unopposed this time around, after first being elected in a special election in June 2018. She had previously served as acting mayor following the sudden death of Mayor Ed Lee in December 2017, via her role as president of the Board of Supervisors, but that job was ceded temporarily to Supervisor Mark Farrell for reasons of political sensitivity. You can read about the other five candidates in the race here, including Ellen Lee Zhou, the woman behind this notably racist billboard that depicted Breed counting cash and ignoring human trafficking. The Chronicle Editorial Board wrote Breed this half-hearted endorsement last month, noting that she "has yet to prove a leader of grand vision or bold pronouncements." 48 Hills' Tim Redmond, under the SF Bay Guardian moniker, declines to endorse Breed but doesn't endorse anyone else either.
District 5 Supervisor
There is one and only one Board of Supervisors spot up for grabs in the city this off-year, as this District 5 race is technically a special election for the seat of appointed, non-elected Sup. Vallie Brown. Brown was hand-picked by Mayor Breed to serve in the seat after Breed was elected mayor. She has the advantage of incumbency, and has racked up most of the major local Democratic club endorsements, thanks in part to her opponent Dean Preston running as a “Democratic Socialist.”
Appointed in July 2018, Sup. Brown has been a reliable backer of Mayor Breed, and her signature legislative moves include a natural gas ban in city buildings, prohibiting city-funded travel to states with abortion bans, and affordable housing measures for teachers and on Divisadero Street. She’s got a moving biography, as the Guardian tells us how she lived out of a van with her mom in her teenage years. But that compelling tale has been drowned out by a recent scandal showing she’d evicted tenants on Fillmore Street 25 years ago, first reported by SF Weekly in early October. Follow-up reporting by the SF Examiner and Mission Local showed that the evicted tenant had, in fact, paid her rent, so opponent Dean Preston is making easy hay out of this very old but dirty linen.
Preston came within a hair’s breadth of beating London Breed in 2016 for this same District 5 seat, losing by just 4 percent out of 41,000 votes. He’s a harder-core tenant protection guy, having founded the local nonprofit Tenants Together and served as an anti-eviction attorney at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. If elected, Preston would swing the Board of Supervisors to a progressive majority, and his other big-ticket issues include free Muni and 10,000 more affordable housing units in 10 years.
There is no public polling on this race, but the Chronicle describes it as “neck and neck.”
While there are four candidates running for SF District Attorney, all of them Democrats, recent polling published in the Chronicle shows challenger Chesa Boudin slightly ahead of Suzy Loftus with the other two candidates well behind (though realize that poll was commissioned by Boudin’s campaign). This had been the first open, no-incumbent race for San Francisco District Attorney since 1909, until the sudden resignation of George Gascón and controversial appointment of Loftus scrambled the landscape of the contest last month.
Your sudden incumbent Suzy Loftus, also personally installed by Mayor Breed, spent four years as president of the San Francisco Police Commission and worked under Kamala Harris when she was both San Francisco DA and state attorney general. She’s quite friendly with the establishment law enforcement community, and in her two weeks on the job she's killed a program that diverted DUI cases to lower courts, and started a car break-in prevention task force.
Her main opponent Chesa Boudin (pronounced “CHAY-sa boo-DEEN”) has been on the receiving end of a sudden rash of nutty attack ads, which the Examiner reports comes courtesy a $654,000 donation from the SF Police Officers Association. They absolutely despise Boudin, thanks to his core positions of reducing incarceration, eliminating cash bail, testing every rape kit, and greater protections for immigrant communities. Currently a deputy public defender, Boudin is the son of two Weather Underground activists, his father is still in prison, and he’s won the leftie-coveted Bernie Sanders endorsement.
Your other candidates, respectively, are Alameda County deputy attorney Nancy Tung who quit the same position in Gascón’s office over philosophical differences, and state deputy attorney general Leif Dautch, whose platform focuses on mental health treatment and environmental justice.
Not much to know here besides the fact that City Attorney Dennis Herrera is running unopposed for his sixth term on the job.
Board of Education
Incumbent Jenny Lam, a Breed appointee, is running for her first election with two opponents, Kristen Strobel and Robert Coleman. As the Chronicle notes, Coleman only jumped into this race because he is passionate about saving those "Life of Washington" murals at George Washington High School — Lam previously voted to have them painted over. The Chronicle endorses Lam despite that controversial vote, but the Guardian points out that Lam also serves as Breed's full-time, paid advisor on education — it's a potential conflict of interest that existed before, under Mayor Gavin Newsom.
Incumbent Treasurer José Cisneros has been doing this job since 2004, and he's running unopposed.
Community College Board
Incumbent Ivy Lee, a civil rights attorney, is running unopposed.
Paul Miyamoto, the current Chief Deputy Sheriff, is running unopposed to replace retiring Sheriff Vicky Hennessy.
Current Public Defender Manohar Raju, who was appointed by the mayor to replace Jeff Adachi after his death in February, is running unopposed.
SFist discussed Mayor London Breed's big affordable housing bond measure back in June, and this is it. The $600 million package of bonds for housing is the biggest SF voters have ever been given the chance to approve, and it's projected that it would help get 2,800 new units of affordable housing built in the next four years. Both ends of the political spectrum endorse this measure, with the Guardian only noting that "it doesn't go far enough" and tenants may end up paying some of this via higher rents.
Nothing to see here except it will change the name of a city department — the Department of Aging and Adult Services — to the Department of Disability and Aging Services, in the city charter.
This is the "say yes to vaping" measure originally sponsored by — and now disowned by — Juul Labs. Originally intended to overturn the Board of Supervisors-approved ordinance banning e-cigarette products pending their FDA approval, Prop C has now become a piece of bad PR for Juul following the nationally covered epidemic of lung illnesses connected to vaping. Juul spent some $11.6 million pushing this ballot measure, but now it seems all but certain to fail.
Prop D imposes a 3.25 percent tax on all rideshare fares, from Uber and Lyft, with the money raised going to Muni and to the County Transportation Authority for planning, design studies, and various traffic-calming measures.
The impetus for this proposition dates back to Ed Lee's tenure, after he tried to free up some under-used public school property in the Sunset to build teacher housing. Breed subsequently found out that Lee's plan couldn't be put in motion because of a zoning law that prohibits changes of use like those on public lands. Prop E changes that law and allows for the use of public land for 100-percent affordable and educator housing — which will impact around 500 parcels across the city.
Prop F is little bit confusing. On the one hand, it seems like a good thing in that it will create more transparency around campaign finance and PACs at the local level, and prevent big donors with land-use matters before the city from donating to local politicians' campaigns for at least a year after a project gets approved. The Guardian endorses the measure, saying it's a "a crucial reform ... that would reduce the influence of dark money and big independent spending on San Francisco elections." But the Chronicle says that Prop F "singles out developers... and ignores the influence of organized labor and others who consistently get what they want." Are developers the only moneyed special-interest group that needs this kind of policing? You can decide.
Joe Kukura contributed to this story.