Several SF supervisors seats up for grabs

October 29, 2008 7:11:32 PM PDT
The November 4th election will bring big changes to San Francisco City Hall. More than half the seats on the board of supervisors are in play.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will not be the same after the November election. Seven of the 11 seats are up for grabs.

"It's going to be interesting and somewhat refreshing to get some new blood and new people in there with new ideas," said Jaime Rossi, a political consultant who closely follows city government.

New faces are guaranteed because four of the seats are wide open -- the incumbents have been termed out. Gone are Gerardo Sandoval from District 11, Jake McGoldrick from District 1, 14-year board member Tom Ammiano from District 9, and current board president Aaron Peskin from District 3.

Newcomers are also trying to replace three incumbents -- Ross Mirkarimi in District 5, Sean Elsbernd in District 7, and Carmen Chu, who was appointed by the mayor to replace disgraced Supervisor Ed Jew in District 4.

Currently, the majority of the board (seven) are so-called progressives or liberal politicians. Three or four others are considered moderates and more conservative. They consistently side with the mayor. A change in the balance of power could bring dramatic change to city government.

"Politically, the progressives have looked at this as holding serve. They want to get a progressive re-elected to all of these seats in order to maintain the same balance of power, the same policies when it comes to land use or homelessness or all the other issues that we have in the city," said David Latterman, a local political analyst.

Latterman is doing polling for a moderate candidate in District 3. That district, plus District 1 and District 11, are considered key battlegrounds because they could flip from progressive to moderate supervisors.

"That would really change the direction of the board. That would be a huge change from what's there now," said Latterman.

It takes eight votes for the supervisors to overturn the mayor's veto of proposed laws. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has seen that happen time and again. If he had another ally on the board, it could shift the political dynamic.

Whatever voters decide, Rossi thinks there will be a new tone at City Hall. "I think people want to see a board that's functional. I think people want to see a board that puts forth policy that makes sense and whether that policy is considered progressive, or you consider moderate, or you consider conservative, they want to see policy that's talked through and thought through."

Each side knows what is at stake -- keeping control or gaining power -- and each is pouring resources into the races, especially those swing districts.

Our pundits say it is hard to read the tea leaves. They are reluctant to even guess how many might possibly move from the progressive camp to the moderates.

"A lot of it depends. There could be a flip of one or two or three," said Rossi.

"Just on probability, I think one. Two are possible. I would be very surprised to see three. And to be perfectly honest, I wouldn't be shocked to see zero," said Latterman.

Some of that uncertainty can be attributed to the city's ranked choice voting system. It allows voters to list their top three choices. If no one wins an outright majority on Election Day, the bottom candidates' votes are redistributed to the voter's next choice.

With 42 people running for seven seats, ranked choice voting will probably be a deciding factor.


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