On Tuesday's election night a couple of weeks ago, I ambled up to the Castro District where Mark Leno's campaign headquarters looked like it had been hit by a tornado.
Exhausted campaign volunteers looked a bit dazed after months of effort...
...and one whole room in what was once a huge Pottery Barn store was filled with detritus that included portable metal ironing boards for collecting signatures.
A screen had been set up outdoors at 17th and Castro which was showing candidate Mark Leno being interviewed back at headquarters. S.F. Examiner writer Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez (below) was one of the best journalists writing about the mayoral race over the last year, and it was fun seeing him at work on Market Street.
I wandered to newly-elected District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman's election party at the Cafe du Nord, and ran into a French friend I made 40 years ago in Berkeley who I would drag to election night parties all those decades ago. On the cab ride home, the driver told me that in his experience the person with the most money behind them always won the election for San Francisco Mayor, and I sadly agreed with him, figuring candidate London Breed had the race wrapped up.
So imagine my surprise the next morning when Mark Leno was actually ahead by a razor-thin margin over Breed thanks to ranked choice voting and candidate Jane Kim's voters who had given him their second-place vote. At 4PM the next afternoon, there was a scrum at the Department of Elections in City Hall's basement with reporters trying to get the breaking story.
The department had put out print copies of all the results on their front counter, which the clueless woman in the red jacket did not seem to realize so she was badgering the talented S.F. Examiner journalist Joshua Sabatini (looking at the camera) instead. This scene continued daily over the next week as Leno's lead disappeared with late mail-in ballots and provisionals. It was a sad ending, not because Leno or Kim would have been San Francisco's leftist saviors, but because there is so much smart, youthful energy in this city that could be harnessed for positive change. Breed represents a very old, corrupt, pay-to-play cabal that has been in charge since at least Willie Brown, Jr. was Mayor. Breed feels like an unconvincing, personally vicious version of the former Mayor Ed Lee, who would do whatever San Francisco's powerbrokers told him to do, no matter how repulsive it might have been to him personally. We've seen this story before, and it doesn't end well for anyone, even those reaping the political spoils.