Supervisor Norman Yee: How Did This Happen?

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It's not commonplace for San Franciscans to squire their out-of-town guests for sightseeing tours to District 7. You don't see pictures of well-manicured lawns or the Tower Market on postcards. People who like to use the term "San Francisco values" aren't thinking of District 7, a place where denizens likely think Dianne Feinstein is doing a heck of a job.

But the vote of the District 7 supervisor counts just as much as his 10 colleagues'. And, in that sense, Norman Yee's apparent victory is a big goddamn deal.

For all the filthy amounts of money poured into the District 1 and District 5 races, and for all the apparent surprise elicited after London Breed's ousting of Christina Olague, the ascendance of Yee, the most progressive of all the credible D7 candidates, is perhaps the biggest shocker of all.

On the day after the election , SF Weekly half-joked "that Yee is still a viable winner ... is amazing. Perhaps some Downtown fixer fell asleep at the switch." Quite seriously, in an election where tremendous amounts of money were thrown behind -- and against -- candidates and ballot measures, how could this happen?

Money was poured into District 7 -- largely backing Mike Garcia, Sean Elsbernd's anointed successor and the choice of the moderate establishment. But it wasn't anything like the soft-money orgy surrounding Districts 1 and 5 and San Francisco's ballot measures.

"A lot of the money guys thought Norman was really going to run away with this race," says Jim Ross, the political consultant who ran David Lee's unsuccessful bid in District 1. "A lot of the money guys felt that way and they gave up on it."

Yee polled well out of the gate for a number of reasons. Among them: The School Board president was the only elected official in the race, and he's an Asian man in an increasingly Asian district. David Latterman, a pollster who worked for D7 also-ran Mike Garcia, stated that Yee's name recognition was off the charts. His opponents couldn't overcome that, and Yee's strong early polling appears to have scared off well-heeled kingmakers.

F.X. Crowley's labor backers, however, never stopped fighting -- and this election was about as close as it could get. That said, Crowley and Garcia's ongoing hostility and inability to agree on some manner of ranked-choice strategy handed the race to Yee.

Setting aside the Monday morning quarterbacking on the race, how will Yee et al. govern? The predictable answer is: unpredictably. And that's only magnified if Supervisor Carmen Chu is tapped for the assessor's job, requiring Mayor Ed Lee to make another appointment (something that hasn't gone as he'd calculated thus far).

Counting to six on the board figures to become less automatic; rather than a swing supervisor, it appears supes now feature a rotating cast of swing votes depending on the issue.

Lee and his money man, Ron Conway, did convince the voters to abolish the payroll tax -- and this may well be the most significant outcome of this election (or any recent election). That remains to be seen. As does the behavior of the latest iteration of the Board of Supervisors.

Interesting times, interesting times.




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