San Francisco’s 2011 Municipal Elections
It is a strange year indeed when a marquee mayoral election is overshadowed by a pending ballot question. But this may be the case in San Francisco in November when, despite the 6 (and growing) candidate field for the top municipal job, the controversy over a proposed ban of male circumcision, with no exception for religious practices, will garner the most publicity.
The as of yet unnumbered circumcision ballot question (called the Male Genital Mutilation bill by supporters) asks voters to ban the practice for minors and would fine those who perform the cutting of the foreskin $1,000. This has enraged Jewish and Muslim community leaders who perceive it as an attack on one of their religion’s important tenets. There would be a certain legal challenge that would test whether the ban is unconstitutional on freedom of religion grounds. Yet the passage of this city ordinance faces long odds for success. 80% of American males are circumcised and many leading health organizations promote the practice as beneficial to preventing the transmission of AIDS.
The open race for Mayor to replace acting incumbent Ed Lee has reached 10 candidates and is shaping up to be an election based in the minutia of turning out small voting blocs and in the nuances of the newly passed Instant Runoff Voting system in the city. Since there will be no primary or runoff for the race, all ten (and counting) will appear on the ballot together. Voters get to choose their top 3 choices and, through the Instant system, the candidate who reaches the majority plateau through a series of redistributions of votes wins.
Let me explain – it’s a bit complicated. I rank candidates A, C and K as my top three choices. If no one candidate receives more than 50% + 1 of the first preference votes, the candidate that received the fewest votes is eliminated and all that candidates 1st preference votes are distributed to whomever the individual voter chose 2nd. So, if candidate A is eliminated, my vote is given to candidate C. This continues until one candidate has 50% + 1 of the votes.
Ok, now about the candidates – there are 9 of them:
Michela Alioto-Pier, former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from District 2
John Avalos, member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from District 11
David Chiu, member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from District 3
Bevan Dufty, former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from District 8
Tony Hall, former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from District 7
Dennis Herrera, City Attorney of San Francisco
Joanna Rees, venture capitalist
Phil Ting, Assessor-Recorder of San Francisco
Leland Yee, California State Senator from California’s 8th State Senate district
Well, actually, I’ve lied a little bit here – there are actually 30(!!) people that have filed to run for mayor. As the August deadline gets closer and the ballot starts to finalize, I will add names. If you have any candidates that I have left out – please share.
As for details on the candidates themselves, I will also leave this up to visitors for now – as well as some blog and news articles.
San Francisco’s powerful District Attorney seat is open also because its previous holder, Kamala Harris, was elected Attorney General of California. It has opened up a clash between three well-known names and six months before the election, the race has already turned bitter.
George Gasçon served as police chief before being named interim DA by the outgoing mayor. A Cuban-American, he had served as Chief of Police for two years before being named to the post. He has been criticized for previously identifying as a Republican, a party largely relegated to the sidelines in San Francisco, but is seen as a centrist with a strong background in both legal practice and law enforcement.
David Onek also has ties to the police department, serving on the city Police Commission and currently works as a Senior Fellow at a Berkeley center focusing on Criminal Justice, which he helped found. He also worked in Mayor Newsom’s Office of Criminal Justice and has written books and studies on community-based violence prevention.
Sharmin Bock is an assistant district attorney in Alameda County who has 22 years of prosecutorial experience under her belt. Noted especially for her fight against child trafficking in San Francisco and Oakland, Bock leads the Human Exploitation and Trafficking (HEAT) Unit for the county.
After 31 years of service and 8 consecutive election victories, incumbent Sheriff Mike Hennessey will retire, one of the most well-known and well-liked politicians in the area.
Seven candidates are running for the post, led by the man Hennessey has endorsed, City Supervisor for District 5 Ross Mirkarimi. A graduate of the city police academy, he was an investigator for the DA’s office for many years.
Many current law enforcement officers are also running. This includes Matt Haskell, a 13 year veteran of the Sheriff’s department, William Angel, a retired senior deputy sheriff, Michael Evans, a police officer with the SFPD, David Wong, a deputy sheriff and Paul Miyamoto, a sheriff’s captain. Running from the outside is Jon Gray, a security consultant.