Momentum: Mandelman

Written by Chris Daly. Posted in Opinion, Politics

Published on June 15, 2010 with 21 Comments

Candidate for District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. Photos by Luke Thomas.

By Chris Daly

June 15, 2010

Last Tuesday was a great day for San Francisco progressives. Months of preparation, fundraising, endorsements, and campaigning culminated in the progressive slate actually picking up a seat on the all-important Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC). Progressives didn’t catch downtown off-guard like we did 2 years earlier. We didn’t have the surge of turnout that we saw when we elected Obama to help down-ticket progressives over the top. Downtown was ready, spinning articles and even endorsements from their newspaper columnists Ken Garcia and CW Nevius. Their candidates raised tens of thousands of dollars from special interests. Nevertheless, we won last Tuesday on both sides of the City with teamwork and a smart, coordinated attack.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of the election was progressive District 8 candidate Rafael Mandelman. Rafi stands as the lone progressive in a 3-way race to claim San Francisco’s 3rd or 4th most progressive district. District 8 is by far the most progressive district that has eluded progressive representation. Eileen Hansen’s narrow losses to Mark Leno and Bevan Dufty stung progressives and ultimately handed Gavin Newsom 4 votes to sustain his vetoes. But with Laura Spanjian now in Houston, a moderate house divided between Scott Wiener and Rebecca Prozan, and an endorsement from the Democratic Party quite likely, Rafael Mandelman stands to be the next District 8 Supervisor and the first true progressive in that position.

In Beyond Chron on Monday, Paul Hogarth tried to paint a different picture. Under the inauspicious heading “Mandelman’s Weakness Exposed,” Hogarth pointed to Wiener’s larger share of District 8 votes for Central Committee. While Hogarth acknowledged the limited usefulness of these numbers (saying that many voters abstain in the DCCC race and many other District 8 voters voted for both Mandelman and Wiener) he decided anyway to argue that the numbers indicate that Wiener has a deeper and wider base within District 8. Hogarth stated that this data should “give progressives pause,” and even called Mandelman the “underdog.”

However, Hogarth left the most important points unsaid. First, DCCC races are slate affairs. In other words, it doesn’t matter who gets the most votes, it only matters how many of your allies cross the finish line. Scott Wiener ran a campaign for DCCC all about Scott Wiener. By May 22nd, Wiener spent over $58,000 of special interest money and sent at least 4 pieces of glossy mail to District 8 voters. By contrast, Mandelman spent $28,000 and sent only 1 mailer to District 8 voters. Instead of saturating his district with “Vote for Rafi,” Mandelman instead focused on the progressive slate program. The strategy worked. In the 13th AD, Mandelman sits in 7th place, 326 votes behind Wiener. But in the process, Mandelman helped 9 progressive colleagues also cross the finish line, including his close ally, Eric Quezada, who is currently 342 votes ahead of Wiener ally, Keith Baraka. Meanwhile, the only fruitful collective effort Wiener participated in was a joint mail piece with longtime incumbent Leslie Katz, but there was never any doubt that Katz was going to win back her seat on the DCCC.

The two-vote swing represented by Quezada edging Baraka could very well be the difference between the Democratic Party endorsement for Rafael Mandelman and no endorsement in the race. The importance of this can not be overstated. Not even by CW Nevius. “If you are running for supervisor in San Francisco and have the DCCC endorsement, you’re in.”

For the sake of argument, let’s concede that Mandelman starts out 1000-1400 votes behind Wiener among the 11,000 or so District 8 Democrats who voted for DCCC last week. Given that over 31,000 District 8 residents voted in the 2006 Supervisor race (in a contest that was not the most competitive,) we can assume that at least 20,000 additional people will vote this November. In a 2-person contest, Mandelman would need to win 53.5% of these votes in order to win. Given that less frequent voters trend significantly more progressive, and with the addition of Democratic Party branding and the weight of its mail program, 53.5% is almost assured.

And this doesn’t even account for the Prozan factor. While Mandelman is locking down nearly every major progressive endorsement with minimal effort, Prozan is giving Wiener a run for his money – both literally and figuratively. Through the end of last year, Prozan had raised $58,000 to Wiener’s $51,000 (Wiener has raised another $25,000 this year. Prozan’s totals won’t be public until next month.) While Rafi was a consensus pick at the Milk Club, Prozan split Alice with Wiener. Mark Leno has gone with Wiener, but Bevan Dufty is with Prozan. And so on. And so on. Any progressive worried about exhausted ballots in District 6 because of multiple progressive candidates can at least take solace in the fact that a large number of more conservative District 8 votes will never be counted against Rafael Mandelman, because they will be bullet votes for either Wiener or Prozan. Also, a certain percentage of Wiener or Prozan votes will rank Mandelman as their second choice – maybe for good reason or for none at all.

A quick look at recent RCV history provides best case and worst case scenarios. In District 1 in 2008, a sophisticated RCV campaign was waged in the Chinese community to ensure that Alicia Wang votes transferred to Sue Lee and vice-versa. It also didn’t hurt that both candidates were Chinese women from the moderate political camp. Sue Lee received 55% of Wang’s votes, 23% exhausted, and 22% went to Mar. In District 11, there was less of an RCV strategy between Julio Ramos and John Avalos, but both ran as progressives and both are Latino men. 30% of Ramos’s votes exhausted, 29% went to Avalos, and 21% went to Safai. Even more disconcerting for progressives (although, wouldn’t it be great to see this in District 8,) 25% of Randy Knox’s votes exhausted, 22% went to Safai, and 21% to Avalos. In other words, any RCV strategy between Wiener and Prozan (or Walker and Kim for that matter) can only slow the bleeding of votes.

But what about all that Wiener/Prozan campaign money? No true progressive will ever be able to raise as much money as our downtown opponents, but Mandelman has already qualified for public financing. With the tightening of the campaign finance laws, Mandelman will be able to match fifty cents for every dollar raised by Wiener or Prozan (even over the expenditure ceiling) in addition to every dollar spent by downtown independent expenditures. If Rafael can keep his grassroots fundraising operation humming, this may be the first big-time political race where money is not a big factor.

Rafael Mandelman is a near consensus progressive candidate for Supervisor. He’s already endorsed by most progressive elected officials, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the Sierra Club, SEIU 1021, the CA Nurses Association, and the SF Labor Council. He will certainly add the Tenants Union and SF Bay Guardian to that mix. Why then would a progressive like Paul Hogarth cast aspersions on the Mandelman campaign? Well, it is no secret that Scott Wiener’s highest profile supporter, Mark Leno, is very close to both Hogarth and Beyond Chron editor Randy Shaw. But Leno’s close relationship with Wiener and Hogarth/Shaw is only half of it. Rafael Mandelman was a very outspoken supporter of Carole Migden when she was primaried by Leno in one of the nastiest political races in recent memory. While PAC Chair of the Milk Club, Rafi artfully helped deliver the endorsement to Migden in a raucous, multi-hour grudge match of a meeting. In doing so, egos were bruised, feelings were hurt, and political baggage was packed. With that said, Rafi is by far the best candidate on all the issues that Paul Hogarth and Randy Shaw care about. They should check their baggage and, like the rest of progressive San Francisco, unite behind the first progressive Supervisor from District 8, Rafael Mandelman.

Chris Daly

Chris Daly

Chris Daly is the Political Director for SEIU Local 1021, a union of over 50,000 public sector and non-profit workers. He served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 2001-2011 and owns and operates The Buck, a bar and grill on Market Street.

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  • http://District5Diary Rob Anderson

    The problem with Mandelman is that he’s a political android, robotically following the prog party line.
    http://district5diary.blogspot.com/2010/01/rafael-mandelman-roboprog.html

  • http://www.fogcityjournal.com/wordpress/author/hbrown/ Harold Brown

    Chris,

    So, you gonna open your primary?

    h.

  • http://www.digitaljournal.com/user/515407/news Ann Garrison

    The house across the street from me put up Wiener signs for a week, then switched to Prozan.

    Wiener recently endorsed SIT/LIE, which even Bevan Dufty refused to support, and, at the end of July, he joined Leno, and Dianne Feinstein and Fiona Ma in opposing a D.C.C.C. resolution calling on Nancy Pelosi to co-sponsor H.R. 2404 requiring the Secretary of Defense to submit to Congress a report outlining the government’s military exit strategy of US forces participating in Operation Enduring Freedom,” (the U.S. War on Afghanistan), http://goo.gl/cpmP.

    Whether a candidate like Wiener can get elected will say a lot about the state of Harvey Milk’s neighborhood today.

  • paulhogarth

    My job as a progressive writer is not to be a cheerleader or propagandist – but instead to report facts and draw sane conclusions. Sometimes, that may regretfully involve reporting inconvenient truths. Our movement should be strong enough to handle such speedbumps and survive. If all we do is believe our spin, we will lose in the long run.

    As for reading too much into my writing and assuming a nefarious agenda, Chris must be unaware of the following:

    (a) I had lunch with Rafael months ago to talk about that infamous Milk Club meeting (where my two favorite lines of the night came from Supervisor Daly: “You’re on the wrong side of history, Hogarth!!” and “Brian Basinger is a Newsom apologist!”) Needless to say, I consider it ancient history and don’t hold a grudge against Rafael for that night.

    (b) I have encouraged friends to help Rafael’s campaign, so obviously I must be doing this to sabotage that effort.

  • marc

    I do not read Beyondchron anymore because it is little more than a political instrument wielded by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic to drum up business for itself by attempting to influence the political discourse.

    While we can boycott the Chronicle, San Francisco’s taxpayers, from the largest recently purchased mansion to the SRO dweller paying sales tax on a pack of gum are all forced to subsidize this self serving propaganda organ.

    I agree with Chris that with the progressive sweep and expansion of DCCC seats, combined with Rafael’s securing the Sierra Club endorsement and the so-called “moderates*” divided amongst themselves, Mandelman has an advantage.

    Progressives always run better when we think we’re the underdogs.

    -marc
    * “moderate” in San Francisco means that one is a Reagan style pro-business trickle-down supply-sider who supports same sex marriage.

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  • http://www.fogcityjournal.com/wordpress/author/hbrown/ Harold Brown

    Well written piece,

    However, with under 47 hours til your ultimatum to Kim, Walker and Meko expires I’d think you’d be addressing that. You got any candidates? Are you considering opening the primary to all?

    h.

  • Richmondman

    Luke: you may be the last person in SF to think Chris Daly is still relevant.

  • mrtroll11

    I agree.

    “Rafael Mandelman is a near consensus progressive candidate for Supervisor. He’s already endorsed by most progressive elected officials, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the Sierra Club, SEIU 1021, the CA Nurses Association, and the SF Labor Council. He will certainly add the Tenants Union and SF Bay Guardian to that mix.”

  • greg kamin

    I read both pieces. Paul Hogarth has a good analysis, but Chris is right that he missed a few things.

    We can start with 48% of the district voting for Weiner, and 37% for Mandleman, as Paul says in his piece. However, several factors will influence the race in November.

    Factors helping Mandleman:
    -Endorsements, including the powerful DCCC endorsement, haven’t really kicked in yet. That alone will be worth 3-5 pts for Mandleman.
    -Higher general turnout in November
    -Higher turnout for supe races than for DCCC
    -A certain amount of vote scattering/bullet voting from Prozan voters
    -Feets on the streets for Mandleman, which haven’t really kicked into high gear yet.

    OTOH… we haven’t seen the full effect of the money advantage for Weiner.

    So yeah, I’d still consider Mandleman a narrow favorite, but it behooves us to work like Paul Hogarth is right, and then some.

  • http://generic1.tumblr.com/ generic

    If Beyond Chron allowed comments, these and many other issues could be taken to task.

    I like to think of Hogarth as an honest broker of information, but people always point to that lack of a comment section and say to take each post with a grain of salt, as THC does not like to be contradicted.

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  • http://www.fogcityjournal.com/wordpress/author/hbrown/ Harold Brown

    Ignored factor?

    Rafael has a penis and many think that not having one cost Eileen Hansen thousands of votes in the female-hating gay male demographic.

    h.

  • mwbsf

    Sometimes Paul’s biases show in strange ways like trying to detract from Debra Walker’s big numbers in the DCCC race by implying that she was riding on the coattails of Prop F. How ridiculous.

  • http://www.digitaljournal.com/user/515407/news Ann Garrison

    Someone told me that Wiener spent a lot more than Mandelman to win his D.C.C.C. race, but Hogarth’s Huff’ Po’ blog post says he spent only $8,000 compared to Mandelman’s $7,140. Anyone know the truth of this?

  • greg kamin

    Ann, are you sure the HuffPo’ Blog didn’t miss a zero there for Weiner? The number I heard was $80,000, but of course I could be wrong. Still, I don’t know how you can do 4 mailers for $8,000.

  • http://www.digitaljournal.com/user/515407/news Ann Garrison

    ‘Scuse me; I reported Hogarth’s Huff’ Po’ blog post incorrectly, failed to note its April 17th date, and, also on a cursory read, failed to note the figures in Chris Daly’s post.

    Paul Hogarth on his April 17th post to his Huff’ Po’ blog:
    “Wiener raised $8,000 for Supervisor – and $12,000 for DCCC. Walker raised $4,000 for Supervisor and $9,354 for DCCC. Mandelman: $3,900 for Supervisor and $7,140 for DCCC.” http://goo.gl/AEIM

    Chris Daly, above, in FCJ:
    “By May 22nd, Wiener spent over $58,000 of special interest money and sent at least 4 pieces of glossy mail to District 8 voters. By contrast, Mandelman spent $28,000 and sent only 1 mailer to District 8 voters.”

    Hogarth’s Huff’ Po’ #s are for the reporting period ending March 17th. Daly’s presumably the election day #s.

    Percentage wise, looks like Wiener more than doubled Mandelman’s D.C.C. $ #s, but still finished only 326 votes ahead of him.

  • marc

    For a moment I read that as “Hogarth’s Puff Ho'”

    -marc

  • http://District5Diary Rob Anderson

    “Rafael Mandelman is a near consensus progressive candidate for Supervisor. He’s already endorsed by most progressive elected officials, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the Sierra Club, SEIU 1021, the CA Nurses Association, and the SF Labor Council. He will certainly add the Tenants Union and SF Bay Guardian to that mix.”

    There’s eight reasons right there to vote against him.

  • w05

    Mandelman alienated some District 8 progressives by taking a duck-and-cover on the Noe Valley Plaza debate. Granted, it’s not the kind of single issue we should be using as a litmus test for supervisor. But it is the most contentious political issue in Noe Valley at the moment, and Mandelman’s on the wrong side of it if he wants to rally progressives.