San Francisco interim Mayor Ed Lee is leading the mayor’s race after all of the first-place votes were counted tonight, but he did not reach the 50 percent mark, so the city’s ranked-choice voting system will decide the race.
Lee received about 31 percent of the vote, while Supervisor John Avalos had about 19 percent, City Attorney Dennis Herrera had about 11 percent, and Board of Supervisors David Chiu had about 9 percent, according to complete unofficial election results.
San Francisco’s ranked-choice system allows voters to rank up to three candidates. If no one reaches a majority, candidates with the lowest vote totals are eliminated and their second- and third-place votes are reassigned until someone gets to at least 50 percent.
Tony Winnicker, spokesman for Lee’s campaign, said “we’re going to respect the ranked-choice process and make sure every vote is counted, but every sign points to an insurmountable lead.”
Winnicker said Lee and the campaign are feeling “very confident and very good.”
Also pleased with tonight’s numbers was Avalos’ campaign, spokeswoman Erica Fox said.
“We’re excited,” Fox said. “It was great to see the numbers go up each time more votes are counted, and we expect to see those numbers continue to climb as we go through the process of ranked-choice.”
David Latterman, a University of San Francisco lecturer on politics, said Lee’s lead will be hard to overcome.
“I don’t see how any single candidate will be able to overtake him,” Latterman said. “But never say never in this business, and I learned this last year.”
He is referring to the 2010 mayor’s race across the Bay in Oakland, where former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata had 35 percent of the vote on election night compared to 24 percent for then-City Councilwoman Jean Quan.
However, after several rounds of ranked-choice voting, Quan overtook Perata to become mayor.
Latterman said San Francisco’s race is different though because while Quan and other mayoral candidates teamed up against Perata in Oakland, a diverse field of 16 mayoral candidates did not make much effort to organize against Lee.
“Ed should be fine with second or thirds” in the ranked-choice process, he said.
Lee, who was appointed interim mayor in January when Gavin Newsom was elected lieutenant governor, has been the perceived frontrunner in the race ever since he announced his candidacy in August after initially pledging not to run.
Turnout was low for the election, with less than 31 percent of the city’s 464,000-plus registered voters filling out ballots.
The city’s Department of Elections will release updated results in the race at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News