For those who missed it, San Francisco held a mayoral election earlier this month. The results: Democratic candidate Gavin Newsom (supported by outgoing mayor Willie Brown, who had to leave office due to term limits) got 41% of the vote, while Green Party candidate Matt Gonzalez (who entered the race only three months before the election) got 20%. Which means there's going to be a runoff election December 9. If elected, Gonzalez would (I think) be the first Green mayor of a major US city.
I find two things interesting about this:
- I heard the two of them having a debate on KQED radio sometime in the past couple weeks (after the election). It seems to me that in a lot of political debates (though admittedly I haven't seen that many of them), the more conservative candidate often sets the terms of the debate; the more liberal candidate has to explain why, if they were elected, all the horrible liberal things the conservative candidate is talking about wouldn't come to pass. But in this debate, it really seemed to me that Gonzalez was setting the terms; true, Gonzalez was asked to prove that he wasn't unfriendly to business, but Newsom had to prove that he really was a liberal. It must be tough to be a conservative voter in SF at the moment—even the lesser of two evils (from that point of view) must not seem very lesser.
- In a poll taken last week, the two candidates were effectively tied. (Gonzalez actually came out two points ahead, but that's a statistically insignificant margin.)
I knew San Franciscans were liberal, but I didn't know they were this liberal. In the end, I'll be surprised if Gonzalez gets elected; it seems to me there are a lot of factors working against him. But I'm already pleasantly surprised to see that he's doing as well as he is; it's rare (in my experience) to see the dividing line between the only two candidates be to the left of the Democrats.
But I don't know much about San Francisco's political history; maybe this just isn't that surprising to people who've been paying attention.