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Politics as Usual

The stakes in November

A look at the big people and props on the ballot
Get the full democratic election experience by casting your ballot in City Hall. Photo: Dllu

Political pundits are predicting a huge blue wave of Democratic voters in the midterm elections. But here in lefty San Francisco, waves of Democratic voters casting their ballots is just called Election Day.

This November, we have an election that will feature national votes of tremendous import, as well as state and local votes on candidates and propositions that will affect nearly everyone in large and small ways. Let’s look at some of the most significant votes citizens are being asked to cast this fall, starting
with District 2’s representation in City Hall.

SUPERVISOR

District 2’s supervisor used to work for our previous supervisor and for the supervisor before that, before she was appointed by our previous supervisor to be . . . supervisor. Got that?

Catherine Stefani is facing three opponents this November in her bid to win her first full term, and all four of them show how rich District 2 is in intelligent, experienced, and committed candidates. It’s a nice problem to have, but only one can win. Here’s an overview of each candidate.

John Dennis: Cow Hollow resident Dennis has a lot going for him. He’s a successful businessman, having created Foundation Real Estate as well as other businesses; he has a great backstory, growing up in a tough New Jersey public housing project, the son of a longshoreman and a city clerk; and he’s focused on the issues people care about, ranging from homelessness to crime to housing. His Achilles heel is he’s a Republican in a city that eschews the GOP. That means any random reader of the Marina Times has a better chance of winning this election than he does. Fair? No. But kind of true.

Nick Josefowitz: Besides having perhaps the best campaign slogan (“Pick Nick”), Josefowitz has experience in business (he founded solar energy company RenGen Energy, which missed an opportunity to call itself RenGenEn) and elected office (he has served on the BART board since 2014). A Pacific Heights resident, Josefowitz is presenting himself as someone who will bring new data-driven ideas to City Hall, a position that earned him the Chronicle’s endorsement.

Schuyler Hudak: With experience working for Gavin Newsom, Dennis Herrera, and Jerry Brown (including serving as director of his 2011 inauguration), Hudak has government experience aplenty. But she also is the founder and CEO of Cor Media, a documentary video news company, and she has been a prolific fundraiser for local causes and organizations, including bringing in more than $4 million as chair of General Hospital’s fundraisers in 2014 and 2015.

Catherine Stefani: This Cow Hollow resident has served as District 2’s representative on the Board of Supervisors since being appointed to the position earlier this year by her predecessor, then-Mayor Mark Farrell. With deep experience in City Hall, ranging from her work for Farrell and Michela Alioto-Pier to her time as county clerk, she’s the insider who gets along with both factions of the board. Stefani has also served as a deputy district attorney in Contra Costa County, giving some weight to her anti-crime pronouncements. She has the endorsements from 10 other supervisors, plus just about every other heavy hitter on the political scene, from Dianne Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi to unions and Democratic Party political clubs.

STATE PROPOSITIONS

Today, “progressive” refers to the left edge of the Left; but 100 years ago, Progressivism was a movement based in the growing middle class, many of them Republicans, and devoted to cleaning up government and targeting out-of-control plutocrats. It was political muscle-flexing by the bourgeoisie, a group much-mocked by current progressives. These early progressives instituted popular referenda in various states as a way to use the popular vote to get around what they viewed as corrupt and/or incompetent legislatures. (They also ended child labor, got women the vote, established direct votes for U.S. senators, and accomplished other good things, but let’s stick with voter referenda here.)

This November, statewide propositions range from the crowd-pleasers to the micro-managers. There are 12 statewide measures on the ballot; we won’t go into all of them, but some of the standout ones are worth exploring.

Take Proposition 7, for example. This would take the state off the on-and-off-again time switch known as Daylight Savings Time. DST is so universally hated (the EU recently announced plans to dump it, following a survey of voters there) that if this proposition does not pass, then Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are right: It’s rigged.

There are a couple housing-related propositions — numbers 5 and 10 — that we go into in more depth in this issue’s Real Estate Reporter (page 22).

Proposition 8 (which deals with profit pruning at dialysis clinics) and 11 (which defines certain break rules for paramedics) are so specific they risk turning the proposition system into special interest governing through the ballot box. That’s not what the progressives envisioned.

But two more statewide measures stand out. The Republican attempt to boost GOP voter turnout in an inauspicious year for conservatives is resting on Proposition 6, which would repeal the 12-cent-a-gallon gas tax that is supposed to pay for billions of dollars in overdue and much-needed transportation infrastructure. Considering the fluctuations in gas prices over the past decade, it is ironic that supporters of Proposition 6 weren’t alarmed at price spikes well above 12 cents a gallon as long as that money was going to energy companies; but paying for critical transportation infrastructure is somehow beyond the pale?

Finally, Proposition 12 prohibits state businesses from selling any food that comes from animals raised in conditions out of compliance with new requirements for cage size and cage-free living (see Political Animal, page 20).

Locally, San Francisco voters have five measures on the ballot. Proposition A would repair the Embarcadero seawall with proceeds of a $425 million bond (see Kevin Frazier’s Marination on page 1). Proposition B is Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s proposed charter amendment to tighten rules for the use of city residents’ personal data (see Aaron Peskin’s From the District 3 Supervisor on page 11). Proposition C would raise taxes on local businesses with revenue of at least $50 million to increase funding for the city’s homeless services (see Reynolds Rap, page 1). Proposition D looks elsewhere for more money: the city’s newly legal cannabis businesses would be hit up with additional taxes, which after all was part of the rationale proponents gave for legalizing marijuana (with eyes greedily looking at the windfall Colorado has reaped from its legalization of the drug). And Proposition E would require a certain portion of the money raised from San Francisco’s hotel tax to be spent on art and other cultural purposes. This one might seem either too simple (of course, give a portion of the money to those good causes) or confusing (aren’t we already doing this?).

Unlike the state measures, there is no crazy-time proposition this year on the local ballot. That’s good news. All five of the local measures could very well pass, but they share an election with a dozen statewide propositions. When confronted by a large number of ballot measures, California politics expert Dr. Larry Gerston has pointed out, voters often respond by voting against most or all of them.

NATIONAL ELECTIONS

The November 2018 election is the most important vote since the November 2016 election, in large part because Democrats see it as a chance to undo some of what happened in that scandalous election.

Amid all the talk of a possible blue wave of Democratic voters or claims of undercounting Republican votes, there is still a widespread expectation that Democrats will take back control of at least the House of Representatives.

Because of the large number of Democratic senators fighting for reelection in states that voted for Trump, the Senate race was never expected to be anything other than a bloodbath, with party resources being triaged out to whatever sinking candidate had the brightest glimmer of a chance. But then Trump changed all that, and Democrats are energized and some are even talking soberly of winning a narrow majority in the upper chamber of Congress. That’s likely too much to expect, but the fact that Democrats’ moods have shifted from expectations of a blowout to expectations of holding their own and maybe picking up a seat shows just how toxic the president is, even in some of those states he narrowly won in 2016.

No, the action for Democrats is in the House, where they only need to pick up 24 seats to take control. The respected online Cook Political Report has judged only five Democratic incumbents as “at risk,” but 60 Republicans are estimated to be at risk of losing their seats. And 23 of those GOP-held seats are in districts won by Hillary Clinton. Consider that the party in power typically loses about 30 seats in a midterm election, and you can see why Democrats are optimistic.

This national story has a local angle, too. In the California U.S. Senate seat on the ballot, incumbent and San Francisco native Dianne Feinstein is way ahead in the polls, and her opponent, fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon, is getting no traction in the race against her.

Another shoo-in victor is our representative in the U.S. House, congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. The first woman to serve as Speaker of the House is also credited with running a tight ship with a historically raucous caucus. She currently serves as minority leader, and many expect her to wield the gavel again after a Democratic takeover. However, a number of Democrats — including a lot of male candidates running in purple districts — have called for someone else to be speaker. Is Pelosi our once-and-future speaker? If she isn’t, how long will she stay in Congress? For that, we’ll have to wait until the backroom squabbling and vote-trading begins in December and January. As for November, Pelosi is doing whatever it takes to help her party retake any semblance of power in Washington, and if that includes turning the other cheek when a Democratic House candidate pledges to oppose her, so be it. Considering that Pelosi typically wins elections with between 70 and 90 percent of the vote, all you need to know is that someone is running against her and will lose.

One more San Francisco angle is that former mayor and current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is so far ahead of his Republican challenger, businessman John Cox, that Newsom is spending his time boosting his party’s down-ticket candidates across the state, at least when he’s not battling the president on Twitter. President Trump heaped scorn on Newsom, telling his followers, “How about this clown in California who’s running for governor?” Newsom tweeted back with a clown jibe of his own, comparing the president to the scary clown in Stephen King’s book It: “lol, hi @realDonaldTrump. Interesting description coming from the guy who is literally locking up kids like Pennywise.”

If you think the past two years have been a wild ride: buckle up, buttercup, it’s only going to get more interesting.


 

HOW TO VOTE

The deadline for registering to vote in the Nov. 6 election is Oct. 22. You can vote by mail or in person at City Hall ahead of Election Day or at your local polling place on Election Day.

Vote by mail: Ballots are sent to permanent vote-by-mail voters about one month before the election. They can be requested up to seven days before Election Day. Your returned mail ballot must be postmarked on or before Nov. 6 and must be received no later than Nov. 9.

Vote at your polling place: On Election Day, polling places will be open 7 a.m.–8 p.m. You can also drop off your sealed and signed vote-by-mail ballot at any polling place on Election Day. Find your local polling place at sfelections.org/tools/pollsite/index.php.

Vote at City Hall: There’s nothing quite like exercising your democratic duty in the city’s ornate seat of government. You can vote in City Hall (1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 48) starting 29 days before Election Day: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday the two weekends before Nov. 6, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; and Tuesday, Nov. 6, 7 a.m.–8 p.m. The City Hall Voting Center will be closed Oct. 8.

Details at sfelections.sfgov.org.

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