Midterm elections are to politics what June day games are to baseball—it's actually more fun than you'd think, but hardly anybody shows up—and this year is shaping up no differently. Tomorrow, we will look at the results (we're not the Chron—we don't know what's going to happen before it happens), but today, here's our look back at the high- and low-lights of the campaign. (You can also check out our race-by-race election guide here. Read all our dispatches from the campaign trail starting here.)
Smartest Campaign Issue: David Campos and the Drag Queens vs. Facebook
Campos, and progressive supporters, couldn't have asked for a better issue to drop from the cloud into their laps—and they ran with it perfectly. Gender nonconformists are perfect surrogates in a race to represent the more-liberal half of one of the most liberal cities in America. As Harvey Milk Democratic Club co-president Tom Temprano pointed out during the controversy, "Don't fuck with drag queens." Yup—Donna Sachet is practically the First Lady of San Francisco. Campos rode that issue to a wave of positive headlines that left even opponents admitting he was correct on the issue. That doesn't guarantee Campos wins the election, but he played it perfectly. What better issue for a campaign premised on the idea that big tech companies are screwing over San Francisco's soul than a big tech company screwing over San Francisco's soul?
Biggest Bet That May Not Have Paid Off: David Chiu's Airbnb Bill
David Chiu's expenditure of major political capital in his successful bill to legalize and regulate Airbnb was a thing of inside-baseball beauty—and may have actually hurt his bid for the Assembly. It's a bit of a paradox—and there are many ways to look at it. Chiu is campaigning on his ability to craft big pieces of complicated legislation that—while they may not be perfect—represent productive compromise. After years of work, his office produced—and guided to passage—a bill that did just that. Problem is that too many people don't like it. From progressives worried about back taxes to other rental companies worried about regulatory capture, Chiu's biggest strength may have become his biggest liability. Of course, he could still win—he crushed Campos in the primary, after all. But if recent polling is to be believed, the race is tightening, and the Airbnb bill may be part of the reason why.
Biggest Fight That Isn't Really About Much: Khanna Versus Honda in the South Bay.
If you listen to the campaigns, the race for a South Bay Congressional seat is the biggest thing since Washington crossed the Delaware. If you listen to, well, just about anybody else, it's a race in which the two competitors have about as much to separate them as a Civic and a Corolla. (That's a Honda joke.) As San Francisco Senior Editor Ellen Cushing pointed out in The Nation, the major difference between the two candidates isn't ideology. As Andrew Leonard wrote for us, both Honda and Khanna have staked out a series of similar center-left positions. This race—and to some extent the Chiu and Campos one—seems to be more about sociology—which demographic tribe the candidate belongs to—than politics.
Guy With Most at Stake Who Isn't Running: Ed Lee
Though San Francisco's mayor has made it through most of his first elected term of office with a strong economy and a lack of major scandals, his chances of reelection aren't as secure as one might predict. That's thanks to city's ongoing angst over affordability, and whether or not his opponents can capitalize on it. There are several races this year that will be indicators of the strength of the mayor. Certainly, there's Chiu and Campos. (Should Chiu win, it's good news for Lee. Should Campos, it's bad.) But there's also Measure G, an anti-speculation tax on real estate sales that's been heavily pushed by progressives. A win on that would show big potential for a left challenger to Lee next year—somebody like Assemblymember Tom Ammiano or State Senator Mark Leno, for instance. If in the southeast, challenger Tony Kelly overcomes Supervisor Malia Cohen—generally an ally of the mayor—that's really bad news. Lee comes out of tomorrow either weakened or strenghtened, but either way, with more clarity about next year.
Biggest Election Where Nobody Knows the Outcome: Oakland Mayor
Incumbent Oakland mayor Jean Quan is far from popular. Her term in office has been beset by controversies: Namely, her handling of the Occupy Oakland protests, the city's crime rate, and her—how do we put this charitably?—repeated lack of familiarity with factual information. (She's even under fire for her driving.) Quan faces a strong field of challengers. But thanks to ranked-choice voting, she still stands a shot of hanging on by her fingernails. That won't be for lack of trying from challengers, including City Council members Rebecca Kaplan and Libby Schaaf (both in the center of Oakland politics), former Quan adviser Dan Siegel (to her left), and business executive Bryan Parker (to her right). The big question is which candidate can make up the most ground as those with lower levels of support drop out of the cycle. Best prediction? A late night.
Best Campaign of No Campaign: Jerry Brown
The Zen Fascist has perfected the way of no way. Like Aristotle's unmoved mover, Brown does not campaign in the sense that mortals would understand it. Rather, he is the metaphysical fulcrum around which all else revolves. The omphalos, in a sense, of California. There is a well-known koan that asks what would happen were an irresistible force to meet an immovable object. We think we have an answer: Brown wins by 18 points. Namaste.