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The 11 Things You Need to Know About Last Night's Election

Scott Lucas | November 5, 2014 | Story

The bullet points: Libby Schaaf is Oakland's new mayor, Supervisor David Chiu holds a small but solid lead in the race for one of San Francisco's two Assembly seats, and South Bay challenger Ro Khanna may have come up short in his bid to unseat Congressman Mike Honda. More observations and analysis:

Oakland Has a Mayor
Councilmember Libby Schaaf, who received a big boost from a late-breaking endorsement from Jerry Brown, a former mayor of Oakland, walked away with a landslide. (You can see the full results here.) In a crowded field, Schaaf, who campaigned to the middle-left, picked up 29% of the first-round votes—almost twice that of incumbent Jean Quan—and never looked back, knocking out Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan in the 15th round by a 62-37 margin. Probably not the kind of mandate Quan was seeking.

The GOP Continues to be Toxic in California
Yesterday's wave election—which gave Republicans at least 52 senators, a 243-seat majority in the House, and 31 governorships—seemed to bypass California entirely, with Democrats sweeping statewide races. Despite barely running a campaign, Governor Jerry Brown sauntered into his fourth term by a 17-point win over challenger Neel Kashkari, a former Obama Administration official. The Schwarzenegger years are now looking more like a passing aberration than ever—California was as blue as it gets last night. In fact, San Francisco lost its sole Republican officeholder, as James Fang lost his race for BART board to newcomer Nick Josefowitz.

San Francisco Maybe, Probably Elected David Chiu
Supervisor David Chiu holds a small but solid lead over Supervisor David Campos in the contest to replace termed-out Assemblymember Tom Ammiano. With a batch of absentee and provisional ballots left to be counted, the moderate Chiu holds a 51.3-48.6 margin (about 2,500 votes) over the progressive Campos. (See the full results here). Neither campaign has claimed victory or conceded yet, but it doesn't look good for Campos. Chiu's likely victory means San Francisco is fitfully embracing its new tech economy while adopting much of progressives' socially-liberal agenda.

A Bad Night for SF Progressives
Independent of the Chiu-Campos race, several issues and candidates backed by San Francisco's left political faction lost last night. Tony Kelly likely failed to unseat Malia Cohen for the Board of Supervisors, and Prop G, an anti-speculation tax on property sales, went down 54-46. If the Chiu result holds up in the next few days, it all adds up to a big blow to progressives' chances to unseat Mayor Ed Lee next year.

A Mostly Good Night for SF Moderates
Mayor Ed Lee hit for singles last night, backing relatively non-controversial measures like the minimum wage increase, an extension of the children's fund, and a transit bond. But he won. He's got to be pretty happy about his chances of reelection this morning. Scott Wiener's soda tax went down (see more on that below), but it did garner a majority of voters. So that's at least a moral victory for him.

But a Good Precedent for Progressives
Though they lost Measure G, SF's progressives are, in many ways, dictating the issue space in the city right now. The minimum wage is a perfect example, a left-wing issue that's so popular in the city that the moderate mayor is compelled to throw his weight behind it. The Chiu-Campos race is similar. If Chiu ekes out a win, it will be in large part by adopting many progressive issues during his candidacy. Sometimes, when you're losing in the short run, you're still winning in the long term.

A Good Night to Get High
Drug legalization—or at least lower sentencing—is now where gay marriage was a decade or so ago. Oregon and Washington D.C. voted to legalize marijuana. Here in California, voters opted to soften penalties for drug possesion with the passage of Proposition 47. Soda? Not so good. Pot? Go crazy. God bless America.

The New Normal on the Waterfront
Measure F, which approves redevelopment of Pier 70, passed easily. The project, which includes 2,000 market rate units, 600 below-market rate units, commercial space, retail, and parks, in the Dogpatch is about as close to perfect as it gets—there was very little opposition, even from those who opposed last year's hot-button development measure, 8 Washington. This is the new normal—the only stuff that gets built on the waterfront has to be perfect.

Soda Tax Wins in Berkeley, Not SF
Supervisor Scott Wiener appears to have bet incorrectly with his ballot push for a tax on sugary beverages. The San Francisco measure, which was written so as to require a two-thirds majority for passage, commanded a simple majority, but failed to break the threshold. Berkeley, however, made history—and continued to be extremely Berkeley—by passing the nation's first tax on soda by a 75% majority. (Berkeley also rejected a measure that would have slowed development in its downtown core.)

There Is Power In a Union
Though the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction is non-partisan, the two candidates, incumbent Tom Torlakson and challenger Marshall Tuck, differed strongly on the issues, with Torlakson defending teacher tenure and voicing worries about high-stakes testing, and Tuck as an advocate of charter schools. It was expect to be close, but Torlakson's win last night reinforces one of the most important rules in California politics: Don't mess with the teachers' unions.

Khanna Honda Is Finally, Mercifully Over
Corporate interests have fielded candidates for Congress in, let's see, just about every election in the history of the United States. But since it was tech doing it in the South Bay this time around, the challenge to incumbent Mike Honda from Ro Khanna got big media play (Even us!). But when the overwhelming majority of incumbents win reelection, and without a compelling articulation of why voters should make the change, Ro Khanna never really had a shot—and on election night, he got disrupted. (GET IT?!)

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