Democratic Party Shuts Out Asians For Mayor

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State Senator Leland Yee pursued campaign ethics reform but won only a moral victory with the third highest votes among mayoral candidates.

The city’s leading progressive and liberal Latino politicians coalesced for mayor at the SF Democratic Party while five major Asian Pacific American (APA) politicians came up well short of any ranked mayoral endorsements going on mailers and ads to nearly 255,000 SF Democrats. Progressive leaning Sup. John Avalos won the nod for the first pick [Table 1] under the party’s ranked choice voting system while the consolation second pick went to liberal leaning City Attorney Dennis Herrera. Meanwhile, five major APA mayoral candidates – incumbent Mayor Ed Lee, State Senator Leland Yee, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, Board President David Chiu and Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting – did not win the third ranked consolation recommendation. Likewise, the party declined to endorse any remaining Democrats, including former Supervisors Bevan Dufty and Michela Alioto-Pier

YEE WITH MOST VOTES: Out of the five APA candidates, only Yee came “close” with 8 votes [Table 4], falling short of nabbing the third ranking endorsement for mayor. Ultimately the committee decided to go neutral. Second highest among APA candidates, Chiu garnered 4 votes in two different rounds of voting. Mayor Lee, encouraged to run by establishment Democrats in House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and moderates in US Senator Dianne Feinstein and former Mayor Willie Brown, did not garner much support with only 2 votes during various rounds of voting. Latest entry Public Defender Jeff Adachi and Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting did not receive any votes during any rounds….

Mayoral candidate John Avalos receives SF Democratic Party's top ranking.

AVALOS-HERRERA DEAL: In the days before the meeting, trial headcounts showed Avalos would come up five short of the first ranked endorsement and needing 17 to win the endorsement for the first ranking. Meanwhile, Herrera was trailing behind him in second place. Avalos won by offering Herrera the consolation prize of the second ranking. As a result, both delivered enough votes to each other to win. And further, it’s a smart move since Avalos is the 2nd worst financed candidate ($100,232 cash left, including $50,000 in public financing as of June 30). Meanwhile Herrera is the best financed candidate ($586,294 cash, including $534,507 public financing) who would be better able to underwrite a major SF Democratic Party get-out-the-vote campaign. Among major APA candidates, Yee ranked 3rd with $444,820 cash left, including $399,326 public finance, Ting ranked 9th and last with $37,066 cash and no public financing. Lee and Adachi had not raised any money since they were not candidates as of June 30…

LATINO COALITIONS: The county committee vote showed the ability of Avalos and Herrera to coalesce a liberal-progressive coalition of Latinos, labor, LGBT and environmentalists. However, APA mayoral candidates among themselves could not bridge divisions among their supporters. Sensing an uphill battle, two of four Chiu supporters shifted to winner Avalos in the first ranking. Assemblywoman Fiona Ma herself pledged her first ranking to former Supervisor Bevan Dufty before settling for Leland Yee on her second ranking. In the contest for the second ranking, Mayor Ed Lee’s two partisans did not support anyone and opted for a neutral Democratic Party endorsement…

Commissioner Mary Jung (above) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein stuck by Mayor Ed Lee for the top ranking at the SF Democratic Party.

APA DISUNITY: The eight APA county committee members could not provide a solid base to support any APA candidate. They voted for four different candidates [Table 2]. One supported party neutrality in the mayor’s race while another abstained. If that foreshadows the APA vote this November, San Francisco will not have its first elected APA mayor.

TWO LATINOS IS COMPANY, FIVE ASIANS A CROWD?: Chinese American and voters identifying themselves as Asian Pacific American (Chinese along with Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese and others) face a challenge. APAs are nearly one-fifth of voters. While they have three rankings to choose for, they must pick from five viable APA candidates – Adachi, Chiu, Lee, Ting and Yee – and perennial APA candidate and music professor Wilma Pang. On a strictly ethnic vote, more than 83,000 APA voters (according to Voter Contact Services, 18.5% of electorate) will be diluted among six APA choices. An APA candidate will likely be receiving less than the 18.5% of the vote…. Meanwhile, if there’s an ethnic affinity for Avalos and Herrera, SF Latino voters, 10 percent of the electorate, will have three shots at ranking a mayoral candidate. So, there’s less a problem accommodating Herrera and Avalos and a third non-Latino candidate who theoretically can win 10% of voters who are Latinos (over 47,000 out of 450,090).

Supervisor and County Committee member Eric Mar supported John Avalos for his first mayoral choice.

SUCCESS WITH RANKED CHOICE: APA candidates under ranked choice since 2005 have succeeded when three or fewer major APA candidates have run. In 2006, Ed Jew’s supervisor win with substantial ranked choice support from legislative aide Jaynry Mak and former police commissioner Doug Chan. Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting’s win in 2005 with major support from Deputy Assessor Ron Chun. And Supervisor Eric Mar in 2008 squeaked by with just enough help from voters of museum executive Sue Lee and state party activist Alicia Wang

AFRICAN AMERICAN WIN BUT NEAR LOSS: Although, fears of a divided APA mayoral vote could be ameliorated like last November’s supervisor election of African American Malia Cohen in District 10 (Bayview and Hunter’s Point) race with five major and at least three minor African American candidates. However, while Cohen is the Board of Supervisors’ only one African American legislator, her victory was nearly overtaken by two non-African Americans in retired teacher Marlene Tran and art director Tony Kelly

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15 of the 32-member committee endorsed Avalos for mayor. The Supervisor chaired the board’s budget committee in 2009 and 2010 and authored the local hire law. On the second round of voting, Avalos won a 15-vote majority of non-abstaining votes:

Supervisor John Avalos – 15 (endorsed)

City Attorney Dennis Herrera – 4

Mayor Ed Lee – 2

Former Supervisor Bevan Dufty – 2

Board of Supervisor President David Chiu – 1

Neutral – 4

Abstained – 3

*With lowest votes in round 1, State Senator Yee, Assessor-Recorder Ting, former Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, Public Defender Jeff Adachi were dropped in this second round.

School Board member Sandra Lee Fewer went with John Avalos for the SF Democratic Party's top ranking.


(final round)

County Committee member David Chiu – Chiu

County Committee member Sandra Lee Fewer – Avalos

County Committee member Tom Hsieh – neutral

County Committee member Mary Jung – Lee

County Committee member Eric Mar – Avalos

State Senator Leland Yee – neutral

Assembly member Fiona Ma – Dufty

Attorney General Kamala Harris – abstained


Mayoral candidate Dennis Herrera gets SF Democratic Party consolation prize, beating incumbent Ed Lee.

The committee settled for Herrera, whose office is noted for his State Supreme Court legal defense of 2004 same-sex marriages. On the third round, the party gave Herrera a 13-vote majority out of non-abstaining votes:

Herrera – 13 (endorsed)

Neutral – 11

Adachi, Alioto-Pier, Chiu, Dufty, Yee, Ting – 0

Abstained – 7

*With lowest votes in rounds 1 and 2, Dufty and Lee were dropped.


For the 3rd ranking, the committee on a 14-vote majority (of non-abstaining votes) declined to endorse any candidates after one round of voting:

Neutral – 14 (endorsed)

Yee – 8

Chiu – 3

Lee – 1

Adachi, Alioto-Pier, Dufty, Ting – 0

Abstained – 5

About the Author

Veteran columnist has appeared in up to 450,000 households weekly in the SF Independent, Examiner (2000-04) and AsianWeek since 1996. As Editor-in-Chief (2003-07), AsianWeek and Samson received wide recognition from the California Legislature, New American Media, League of Women Voters, GLAAD, Organization of Chinese Americans, SPUR and APA civic groups. Thru the SF Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections, SF Elections Task Force and Chinese American Voters Education Committee, Wong helped boost APA influence from 25,000 in the 1980s to over 50,000 voters by the early 1990s.