Forging compromises and unifying disparate views are usually a good political ethic under-ranked choice voting. Conservative Ed Jew did it in 2006, drawing from the second- and third-choice votes for liberal Jaynry Mak and centrist Doug Chan to win an upset for the Sunset District 4 supervisor seat. If San Francisco District 1 supervisor candidate Eric Mar had early on resolved issues affecting JROTC cadets and building contractors, he could have attracted second and third place votes from his more moderate contenders, including Chinese Historical Society of America Director Sue Lee and City College ESL teacher Alicia Wang. Instead, APA high-school students and their supporters may have a winning ballot initiative to restore the JROTC program in the public schools (it was ahead in one early poll). Mar now has a third front against him for not implementing a leadership and character-building alternative that once served more than a thousand APA high school students…. Mar has tried to boost his small business credentials by featuring Chinese-speaking realtor Yvonne Liu as his kickoff emcee and prominently touting the endorsement of Clement Street Merchant Association President Jesse Fink. One way to enhance his business credentials would have been to unlock opportunities for Asian American Contractors Association members under the school district’s restrictive Project Labor Agreements. Instead, contractors last week took out a full page ad against Mar in a Chinese-language paper, months after Mar uncharacteristically said they performed shoddy work and compared it to buildings in quake-devastated Sichuan, China. Mar called a press conference to diffuse the controversy, but Richmond merchants have started taking down pro-Mar signs. Instead of bridging Mar’s progressive-liberal base in the Inner Richmond (2,300 APA votes) and the district’s more than 5,000 moderate to conservative APA voters in the Outer Richmond, Mar’s polarizing effect could make picking up second and third votes from Lee and Wang under rank choice voting rockier between now and Election Day… Although criticized for his JROTC and contractor opinions, Mar in his nearly two terms on the school board did elevate Gwen Chan to interim San Francisco superintendent of schools. Her appointment made her the first Asian Pacific American to fill the post that oversees an APA-majority student population. Chan’s appointment came about after the district had bought out the contract of Arlene Ackerman, the first African American female superintendent. Mar for years had been a frequent critic of Ackerman’s management style, which had led to confrontational moments over education policy and Chinese American student school assignments.
POWER UP: One supervisor candidate getting massive re-election exposure is District 4 (Sunset) Supervisor Carmen Chu, who’s featured in the prime-time TV ads against Proposition H, the so-called Clean Energy Act. Chu, barely in office for a year, will benefit from her strong stance against the measure, which could cost up to $4 billion to takeover PG&E assets and allow supervisors, not voters, to issue revenue bonds to underwrite the takeover. Chu is reflecting her majority-Chinese American district’s fiscal prudence. In the June election, Proposition A-a parcel tax to fund teacher salaries requiring a two-thirds vote-received 53 percent of the district’s vote, the lowest among all 11 districts.
BOOTS ON THE GROUND: With three weeks to go, who are the best APA candidates to get the vote out? One indicator was San Francisco school, college board and supervisor candidates gathering up to 1000 voter signatures to defray a $500 filing fee… Out of all the school board candidates, three APAs were among the top five of 15 candidates in valid signatures. Coming in first was Sandra Lee Fewer (1128 valid signatures, 87 percent validity rate), followed by Rachel Norton (1024, 84 percent), incumbent Norman Yee (912, 85 percent) and Emily Murase (929, 88 percent)…Steve Ngo was among the top candidates (917 signatures, 88 percent valid) for College Board….
SIGNING FOR SUCCESS? Signature gathering doesn’t guarantee success, but it’s a clue into the quality of trained volunteers or a well-financed campaign. So, it was a July test run for this month’s final weeks of knocking doors or dialing for voters… For supervisor, the top candidate citywide was Asha Safai, who’s stumping in the heavily Chinese, Filipino and Samoan District 11 and stumping with Barack Obama on the ballot as the candidate with the “funny sounding name”… Safai gathered 1,622 valid signatures out of his total of 2,162. Second was Chinatown/North Beach District 3 supervisor candidate David Chiu, racking up 1,300 valid voters out of 1,941. Chiu’s campaign crew earned a two-thirds validity rate and can tap onto the same shoulders to vote for him… However, signature efforts do burn up dollars and volunteer hours. District 1 supervisor candidate Eric Mar, a perennial frontrunner who usually runs low-budget campaigns, has more name recognition than upstart Chiu after winning two school board races. Mar only weighed in with 155 signatures, or 71 percent…. Meanwhile, Supervisor Carmen Chu signed up 944 with 74 percent valid…
NO DEAD ARMADILLOS FOR MAR: Eric Mar’s skirmishes with contractors and JROTC are reminiscent of another progressive candidate. AsianWeek‘s news and photo archives will show Mabel Teng, the former San Francisco supervisor and assessor-recorder, morphing from radical chic of her proud old Chinese Progressive Association days to pleading for justice at a Vincent Chin rally and speaking at the Democratic National Convention for Rev. Jesse Jackson’s presidential bid in 1980s. During the early 1990s, you’ll find her retouched “mainstream” College Board photos as she broadened her political base. During the late 1990s, Supervisor Teng, however, was under fire from a moderate-to-conservative Chinese American base during the heyday of the S.F. Neighbors Association led by the Richmond’s Rose Tsai and Sunset’s Julie Lee. Teng was shifting gears to the political center while bidding for the S.F. Board of Supervisors presidency in 1998 and laying the groundwork for the 2000 re-election in District 7, a seat with The City’s most conservative neighborhoods in St. Francis Woods and West of Twin Peaks. But she lost both bids while vainly teeter- tottering her progressive roots with an emerging Chinese American constituency. The lapsed-then-reborn progressive Teng provides a lesson for Mar, who’s foregoing a third school board term for a Nov. 4 run for supervisor in District 1 (Richmond)…THE ROAD NOT TAKEN: Mar could follow Teng’s path. But, he could end up in the middle of the road where Texas populist Jim Hightower once said, “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.” Teng’s shift in the late 1990s alienated her progressive base while Chinese Americans like Tsai and Lee mistrusted her new-found moderation on landlord-tenant issues, for example. As a result, she lost her 1998 board presidency bid to Tom Ammiano. By the end of 2000 and only 34 votes short, she also lost her supervisor’s seat and derailing a path to the state assembly that was later taken by Leland Yee and then Fiona Ma. Two years later she recovered, becoming Assessor-Recorder and by 2004, becoming the most prominent public official on same-sex marriage after Mayor Gavin Newsom. But by 2005, Teng was again out of office, resigning abruptly for personal reasons… BRIDGE TO NOWHERE: Mar boasts on his website that he’s a “Progressive Teacher, Progressive Attorney.” His labor, immigrant and tenant credentials are validated by stalwart support from Henry Der, Leon Chow and Ling-Chi Wang and outgoing Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who won election in 2000 and 2004. However, as Teng tried, Mar-considered a front runner early in the race-has not completely bridged his progressive base and moderate to conservative Chinese American community like he did with supporter and former Chinese Six Companies President Harrison Lim….
Reach Samson Wong at (415) 321-5886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.