By Neela Banerjee and Joseph Hong
Click Here For Official Election Results (opens new window)
By election nights end in Americas most Asian American city, it was apparent that the dynamics of the Board of Supervisors had changed: The so-called Willie Brown machine had been shut down by upset victories in six of the nine districts where the mayors chosen candidates were crushed by grassroots challengers. With members Barbara Kaufman, Leslie Katz, Sue Bierman and Alicia Becerril replaced by a bevy of men, Sophie Maxwell, an African American, will be the lone female on the new Board.
Just as obvious: the Board has suddenly become much less API, and less representative of the citys demographics. Michael Yaki, one of the boards three Asian American members lost his seat to Jake McGoldrick; Mabel Teng, too, appears to be defeated by challenger Tony Hall; Lawrence Wong, the only non-incumbent Asian American candidate, lost his bid to Aaron Peskin in District 3. And Amos Brown, the sole black member of the board, lost his seat to Gerardo Sandoval.
In District 1, Yaki had trailed challenger McGoldrick much of the night. With all of the precincts counted, McGoldrick defeated Yaki 53 to 47 percent of the votes. Yaki opted out of the election night party circuit, as he did during the November elections, and wasnt available for comment.
District 1: Jake McGoldrick
District 2: Gavin Newsom
District 3: Aaron Peskin
District 4: Leland Yee
District 5: Matt Gonzalez
District 6: Chris Daly
District 7: Tony Hall
District 8: Mark Leno
District 9: Tom Ammiano
District 10: Sophie Maxwell
District 11: Gerardo Sandoval
Caption Goes Here
Despite his record on the Board and name recognition, Yaki had captured only about 30 percent of the vote during the primaries. Considering that over half of District 1 (Richmond) is made up of Asian Americans, and Asian Americans make up over 30 percent of all the districts registered voters, the API vote was critical. During the November election, it was clear that APIs split their votes among Yaki and Chinese American Rose Tsai, who came in third with about 20 percent.
Tsai had apparently siphoned off crucial votes from Yaki. Her endorsement of McGoldrick may have resulted in Yakis loss. Prior to the election, Tsai did say that she [had] always had a strong base in the Chinese American and Asian American community.
In District 3, Lawrence Wong lost to progressive Aaron Peskin, though he fared well, capturing about 40 percent of the vote. District demographics clearly favored Wong, though that wasnt enough to deliver a victory. Wong had swept all of Chinatowns precincts, while failing to capture the majority of votes from those outside of Chinatown which included Telegraph Hill, North Beach, Russian Hill, where voters there overwhelmingly supported Peskin.
In District 7, results showed Mabel Teng and Tony Hall neck-and-neck much of the night.
But with all the precincts counted, Hall pull ahead of Teng by a hairline margin of 50.5 to 49.5 votes. With a race that close, both candidates will be anticipating absentee ballot returns. However, absentee ballots, which tend to favor conservative candidates, may very well solidify Halls victory.
Indeed, District 7, which encompasses West Portal and Twin Peaks, is considered one of the most white and conservative districts in San Francisco. And Teng, savvy of that, took a moderate approach and focused her campaign on universal issues like pedestrian safety and clean neighborhoods.
Even before all the votes were counted, Teng, who kept to herself in her office at City Hall, came out to address the media briefly, only to sound wary and agitated, as though she had a premonition about the nights results all along.
I campaigned as hard has I could, she said. People just didnt turn out this is Dec. 12. People are not used to voting. District 7 had a 68 percent turnout Nov. 7. We had a dismal 30 percent turnout today, she lamented. I think people are confused they didnt know they had an election.
Teng, seizing the opportunity to address the media, said that it had been too simplistic. They just divided every race into the pro-Willie Brown camp and the anti- Willie Brown camp. I absolutely thought [the media coverage] was not accurate but thats how they have covered all the district election races.
Teng also said she was caught in the middle of the Willie Brown backlash. I have carried the label of being a pro-Willie Brown ally even though I was elected to the Board on my own. In fact, I was elected to the Board even before he was elected. I had voted against him on many occasions when I disagreed with him
It was unfair on the medias part to divide the races up into two camps.
Teng was also the target of race-tinged mailers by the Hall campaign, which accused her of accepting foreign contributions from Asia. Hall went so far as to claim in ads that he was the candidate who is one of us, a declaration some say hints of xenophobia.
We didnt spend a lot of money on ads, and we definitely didnt do negative campaigning. On the other hand, everything came out against us, said Sherman Teng, a campaign staff member. For us, it was most important to project what we did for the community and on the Board, which was what we did. We ran a very positive campaign.
The clear winner that night was Supervisor Leland Yee in District 4. After enduring smear campaigns drummed up by his opponenets, Yee went on to defeat mayor-supported challenger John Shanley by 55.8 to 44.2 percent of the votes.
It was a difficult campaign due to the soft money that was poured into so many of the campaigns, Yee said. But our 12 years of experience helped us to prevail and were looking forward to another term on the board.
Far from calling his victory a vindication, Yee did say, Even some of the Chinese community were against me. Some poured soft money into campaigns against me. The fact that we did well is a testament to staying close to the community.
Yee added that the new makeup of the board will bring a lot of positive changes because people are now representing the communities and are no longer on the Board for personal interests. Its definitely a board that is a lot more independent. Were no longer Willie Browns rubber stamp.
Knowing quite well that he could become the sole API member on the board, Yee didnt fail to criticize fellow APIs, namely Teng and Yaki.
While its important that Asians represent on the Board, its more important to have Asian Americans who actually represent their communities. It seems that some of the Asian board members have forgotten where they came from. Its obvious some of these members have become enamored to influence and have forgotten the need to represent our communities. The voters have spoken out about this obviously.