Observations on San Francisco’s November 2008 election, part 2

More good stuff from the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association’s post-election analysis of the Nov. 4, 2008 election with Alex Clemens of Barbary Coast Consulting and David Latterman of Fall Line Analytics, plus a couple of my own comments (See part 1 of the observations here). This round includes Prop. 8, Chris Daly’s role as bogeyman, the next president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and Ron Dudum’s future:

Prop. 8 aftermath. The victory of California Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment withdrawing the right to civil marriage from gay men and women, has been deconstructed a million ways to Sunday already. Various analysts have offered their opinions: Prop. 8 won because African-American voters are more conservative on social issues than the electorate at large, and they came out in great numbers to vote for Barack Obama; or Obama is partially to blame because he wasn’t vocal enough about opposing Prop. 8 (and he said he was personally opposed to gay marriage); or San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom didn’t campaign against it actively enough; or Newsom was too visible and became a negative factor; or the anti-8 campaign just screwed up by being fractured in the beginning and missing out on key fundraising opportunities.

Whatever the explanation, both Clemens and Latterman said that support for gay marriage seems to be increasing by about one percentage point per year, and they expected to see the issue on the ballot again.

Clemens said he believed that the next time gay marriage appears on the ballot, supporters of gay marriage won’t rely on a paid-media campaign of television ads and mailers. Instead, they’ll do something like what the Obama campaign did with its vast pool of volunteers. That is, the campaign will be fought in the field, with supporters of gay marriage (probably including as many straight supporters of gay marriage as they can find) going door to door and talking with individual voters.

Alex Clemens, David Latterman and Gabriel Metcalf discuss the outcomes of the Nov. 4, 2008 election at SPUR.

Alex Clemens, David Latterman and Gabriel Metcalf discuss the outcomes of the Nov. 4, 2008 election at SPUR.

My own guess about the fate of gay marriage in California is that the legal challenges to Prop. 8 will go on so long that a measure seeking to undo it will hit the ballot before all those challenges are resolved. If that’s within two years, I’d bet the new anti-8 proposition will lose, but in just a few years longer a subsequent proposition spelling out a constitutional right to civil marriage for gay men and women will win. After that, a few measures seeking to replicate Prop. 8 will come up, but will lose, before supporters decide to direct their money elsewhere.

Regarding the impact the victory of Prop. 8 may have on Newsom’s ambitions to be governor of California, Clemens said that while it may have a negative effect now, a few years down the line it may be good for Newsom to be seen as the father of gay marriage in California. “Four years from now,” said Clemens, “it will be a badge of honor.”

Daly done as a demon? District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly’s days as an effective bogeyman for opponents such as the Apartment Association, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and others seeking to bring the city’s moderate and conservative voters to the polls may be done, according to Alex Clemens of Barbary Coast Consulting and David Latterman of Fall Line Analytics.

Although the San Francisco Association of Realtors ran a lot of ads (and robocalls) linking Daly to supervisor candidates in Districts 1, 3 and 11, implying that voting for them would be like voting for Daly and would unbalance the Board of Supervisors, that doesn’t appear to have had any impact on voters (possibly it just got drowned out by progressives’ enthusiasm for voting for Barack Obama for president). “I think Daly ended up being neither a help nor a hindrance,” Latterman said. Clemens added that one of the big problems with using anyone as a citywide bogeyman is that with district elections, the scale of campaigns is small enough that voters can actually meet the candidates in their district and form their own opinion, so linking candidates to a citywide villain figure just isn’t effective.

Who’s the next super-supe? Asked to speculate on who might be the next president of the Board of Supervisors, Clemens joked that he wasn’t going to name names, as he didn’t want to be shot at.

I don’t have any worries about potshots, but this question is so complex that even people with a much more intimate knowledge of the board than I have these days are having trouble putting their finger on who it might be. I do think that District 5’s Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi would be interesting in that seat, though. Mirkarimi may talk like that guy down the hall in the dorms who had a Phototron in his closet, but he’s actually a really sharp legislator who might be able to work with both the progressives and the centrists on the board.

Clemens noted that the next president of the board could even be in a good position to become San Francisco’s next mayor. If U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein decides not to run for governor of California (and if, as rumored, she gets the chairmanship of the Senate Intelligence Committee, this may be more likely), and if Newsom does make it to Sacramento, that makes the president of the board the most powerful and visible figure in city government.

Has Dudum hit the wall? Sunset District resident Ron Dudum ran for District 4 supervisor again, and again he fell short of the mark, gathering a level of support nearly identical to what he got in earlier contests: about 37 percent of first-choice votes in the district, under San Francisco’s ranked-choice voting system.

I think Dudum needs to examine his ambitions for office under a very bright light. Dudum’s not a bad guy (Disclosure: I went to grade school with a couple of members of his extended family) and he certainly has a solid base of supporters who like him and want to send him to City Hall. And the mechanics of his campaign seemed adequate for a district contest. The problem is that when it comes to his message, Dudum is running the same campaign over and over again — and failing over and over again, with the same not-quite-adequate percentage of the vote. If he wants to win, he needs to find some way of getting a significant number of additional votes beyond his existing base. In the Sunset District, this means getting the support of more Asian voters. The only other chance I can envision for a Dudum victory is if he runs amid a large field of Asian candidates with no major name recognition, who spread the vote among themselves. The problem there is that there just haven’t been enough people running for office in recent District 4 elections.

Vote-by-mail matures. Latterman offered that he sees signs the percentage of San Franciscans who vote by mail may be plateauing after several years of steady increases. Additionally, as more voters vote by mail, so the pool of mail-in voters comes to resemble the electorate at large. In San Francisco, this means that early vote-by-mail voters aren’t as conservative as a group as they used to be.

Dems gain numbers in state. According to Latterman, registration of voters under the Democratic Party rose about 2 percent in this election season, mirroring the increase in San Francisco Democrats. The number of registered Republican Party voters went down statewide, while the number of voters declining to state a party affiliation rose.

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One Response to Observations on San Francisco’s November 2008 election, part 2

  1. Bob Richard says:

    The only other chance I can envision for a Dudum victory is if he runs amid a large field of Asian candidates with no major name recognition, who spread the vote among themselves.

    Ranked Choice Voting makes this extremely unlikely because it makes the number of Asian candidates needed to hand Dudum a victory very large. RCV rewards candidates who build a majority coaltion, starting with their own core supporters — those who prefer them to all other candidates — and then adding second and third choices from the core supporters of other candidates. Dudum is going to have learn how to communicate his political message to part of the Asian community.

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