Bay Citizen Poll: The Mayor’s Race is Over, Ed Lee’s Your Next Mayor

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in News, Politics

Published on October 17, 2011 with 76 Comments

Interim Mayor Ed Lee will be your next elected mayor of San Francisco, according to a poll published today by The Bay Citizen online news organization. File photo by Luke Thomas.

By Luke Thomas

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since its initial publication.

October 17, 2011

Mayoral contenders take note.  Close your campaign offices, pay up your outstanding debts, cry and go home.  The race for mayor is over.  Interim Mayor Ed Lee will be crowned San Francisco’s next elected mayor.

That’s the questionable takeaway message one gets a from the latest poll published by the Bay Citizen and the University of San Francisco in the early hours of Monday morning, the results of which has Lee the projected winner after 9 rounds of ranked-choice ballot tabulations.

“Voters across the City continue to give broad and strong support to Mayor Lee because they already know what he has accomplished so far as Mayor this year and agree with his focus on creating jobs for the future,” said Lee campaign manager Bill Barnes. “We’re pleased the poll confirms what our volunteers are hearing on the ground, but we knows polls don’t vote, people do. Our campaign takes nothing for granted and we’re working hard every day to elect Mayor Ed Lee to a full term and keep San Francisco’s economy on the right track.”

New Jersey-based Maximum Research, Inc conducted the poll of 551 likely registered voters between October 7 and October 13. The poll was commissioned and paid for by the Bay Citizen at a cost of $10,000, confirmed newly minted Bay Citizen managing editor Steve Fainaru.

Raw data from the poll, including the questions asked and the respondents’ responses, is expected be made available online later this week, said Bay Citizen political reporter Gerry Shih.

The BayCitizen, a non-profit founded in January 2010, has built a reputation of being one of the most objective and cutting-edge news organizations serving the Bay Area. Billionaire philanthropist Warren Hellman, The Fisher Family, Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, Mimi and Peter Haas Fund, William and Elizabeth Patterson Foundation, Jeff and Laurie Ubben and Diane B. Wilsey, among others, funds it.

Fog City Journal sent emails to the campaigns of the leading mayoral contenders to gauge their responses to the poll and what, if anything, they plan to do to combat what appears to be foregone conclusion. Here’s what they had to say:

Michela Alioto-Pier

“In the span of a couple days, we’ve gotten more hints that Ed Lee is illegally coordinating with an independent expenditure, and news that every major candidate except Michela has violated the city’s campaign finance laws,” said Alioto-Pier campaign spokesperson Sterling Clifford.  “There’s a lot to communicate to voters and enough time to do it. Remember, the poll showed almost a quarter of the electorate undecided. ”

Supervisor John Avalos

“We had hundreds of people on the street on Saturday and all of our phones were full at the same time,” said Supervisor John Avalos.

“We have more people coming in the door every day.

“We are campaigning to build progressive power and an alternative to the establishment which gives tax breaks to $7 billion companies like Twitter, representing the 1%. Ron Conway is a billionaire, a twitter investor and a big donor to Ed Lee’s campaign.

“The last day of the poll was before I was interviewed on national television. That event has made a big difference in my public support, all favorable.”

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu

“Last time I checked, polls and pundits didn’t get to decide this election, voters do,” said Chiu campaign spokesperson Addisu Demissie. “There are 22 days left in this campaign and David is going to keep spending his time talking to with those voters about his record of results, his vision for the future, and his desire to shake things up at City Hall.  The more that voters learn about David Chiu, the more votes he will get – we remain extremely confident about that.”

Bevan Dufty

“When I ran for Supervisor, the polls had me losing by 6% three days before the election,” said former District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty.

“I am working harder and happier than ever.

“I take no offense at the Bay Citizen calling me a Zombie, Walking Dead is one of the biggest hits this season.

“But they are undeniably wrong.  I raised $18,622 this weekend alone.

“Guess what? My commercial aired during the premiere of Walking Dead last night.  This poll was taken right when I started airing and I’ve been bowled over by all the people who stop me to say how they love my ads and positive approach.

“I will not break stride over the next 22 days, this is a marathon and I’m sprinting to the finish.”

Tony Hall

“Another sad example of newspapers trying to cement election outcomes before voters can even vote,” said former District 7 Supervisor Tony Hall.  “They hide the full sample and cross-table detail necessary to critique the methodology, and yet they admit to the using suspect technique of sample-weighting.  We have our strongest materials ahead of us for these closing weeks and we expect they will change voters minds.”

City Attorney Dennis Herrera

“The Bay Citizen poll — like every poll — is a snapshot in time, which largely preceded the arrival of Voter Information Pamphlets and absentee ballots.  It reflects the same uncertainty we’ve seen in the race for weeks,” said Herrera campaign spokesperson Matt Dorsey.

“The poll also shows that the incumbent mayor isn’t improving his standing with voters.  Despite nearly $2 million in combined spending to push Lee’s candidacy, about 7 out of 10 voters aren’t picking him as their first choice for Mayor.

“The Bay Citizen poll also shows that voters remain unsure about their choices.  More than one-fifth of voters are undecided on their first choice, with dramatically more voters undecided about second and third-choices, which will decide the outcome.  So, the race is still wide open.

“Dennis Herrera remains the top challenger to Ed Lee.  Herrera is a proven vote-getter, and he’s the one candidate who has shown he can win as an underdog.  He did it in 2001 as a candidate for City Attorney, and he can do it again.”

Joanna Rees

“With so many voters still undecided, Ed Lee’s support declining amidst a growing web of ethical scandals, and with twenty-two days left, we know the only poll that counts is on November 8th,” said Rees Campaign Manager Nick Panagopoulos. “The fact is that most San Franciscans have only just begun receiving their ballots, evaluating the candidates and learning how to fully participate in the city’s ranked-choice voting system.

“An entrepreneur and educator with a record of results, Joanna Rees offers a real choice and stands apart in a field crowded with city hall insiders. She is waging an aggressive, grassroots campaign that’s focused on creating jobs, strengthening schools, and bringing our city government out of the shadows and into the 21st century. And that’s why every day, more and more San Franciscans are joining our campaign for new leadership and a new approach to city government.”

Senator Leland Yee

“I’m not sure about the polling methodology used by the Bay Citizen, nor have I ever heard of the polling firm they used doing a political poll in San Francisco or elsewhere,” said Yee campaign spokesperson Jim Stearns.

“In my opinion, these numbers simply don’t reflect the reality that every one of the campaigns opposing Lee is experiencing on the ground — lots of undecided, a definite drop in Lee’s support, a wide open race.

“We’re going to continue to run an aggressive, strong, grassroots campaign up through Election Day.”

Responses from the campaigns to elect Public Defender Jeff Adachi and Assessor Phil Ting were not forthcoming at the time of publishing.  Their responses will be added when/if they respond.

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7x7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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  • Who got a call on this poll?

    C’mon there are literally thousands of you who read Fog City and my Bulldog newsletter and the Bay Guardian and other alternative publications.

    Did anyone get a call and answer questions on this poll?



  • This just in from a Fogger who closely watches the political scene in San Francisco:

    I am not sure the race is quite over.

    I don’t think voters are wildly enthusiastic about Lee, it’s just that voters accept him as Mayor and they do not have either much of a passion for local politics now and/or a sense there is a clear path for someone else who could win. Lee is a beneficiary of acceptance and apathy.

    If San Francisco had a runoff election, Lee could be in trouble. Newsom won over 40% of “first” place votes in November 2003. Gonzalez was over 20% points behind that, and the race closed to 5% points. So Lee’s 30% would not be insurmountable at all without RCV.

  • foggers,

    Latest on feedback to me …

    boys and girls,

    This just in from a reader …

    I have been called by three different polls and have yet to hear the name
    Adachi. Bogus polls. Probably a smoke screen to set the stage for some
    massive voter fraud – I’ll bet no reps from the other campaigns are down
    there watching the absentee ballots get processed.”

    Lee consultant ‘Ace’ Smith is an expert at
    rigging absentee ballots.

    Time to bring the feds down on Arntz?

    How many ballots in your inventory?

    How many absentee did you send out?

    Give number sequences of same.

    How many ballots carried home by poll
    workers who are expected to bring them
    to polls next day?

    Number sequence of same.

    All addresses of absentee voters who were
    sent ballots.

    How many ballots in inventory now?

    Number sequence of inventory?

    My suspicions?

    I think the election is already rigged as was
    the 2003 absentee count.

    How we gonna deal with this?

    Herrera, Yee, Avalos … get people down to
    the Department of Elections to gather this
    info or fold your tents.

    Last I saw the City Administrator’s office
    was in charge of the Department of Elections
    and the Department of Elections (Arntz) worked
    for them and was in charge of all ballots.

    Til a few months back the City Administrator
    was Ed Lee.

    People I’d like to see answer some questions?

    Jim Sutton

    Bill Lee

    Jill Lerner

    This time let’s catch em!

    Gary Brown in center field!


    Delete & Prev | Delete & Next

  • Eric Brooks

    This poll (and the report on it) looks weak. It is based on a random phone sample of 551 voters, and makes a big deal of Lee’s Asian voter support without making any distinction whatsoever where those Asian voters were located.

    If few or none of them were from the City’s west side and most were from the Chinatown area, this would easily explain why Yee got comparatively very low support from Asians.

    The poll looks like it has other problems as well.

    Bad methodology. Far too small to scope ranked choice properly.


  • lucretiamott

    Great responses to this phony “poll”. The firm behind it is a “marketing” firm not a polling firm. What they are marketing is “ED LEE”, a defective product of dubious origins.

    Try the IRV tool. You can get just about any candidate with a heart beat to win. In the simulated Ed wins in the 9th inning, he assumes that just about everybody puts him 2nd or third. What arrogance.
    Agree with Eric: bad methology and with h:, there’s something fishy about this poll and how, the Lee team is setting us up for a rigged election.

    Anybody but Lee. We are going to be stuck with a corrupt administration for 8 years.

  • “My kingdom for an honest poll!”

    That quote is not from Joseph Stalin. Let’s see the other candidates sitting on a collective 2 million give us an honest poll and release the instrument with it.

    Gary Brown in center field!


  • Daniele E.

    Ed Lee’s got a lot of explaining to do vis a vis police brutality under his “reign”. Tomorrow he faces the BOS and don’t know about you, but I made sure Avalos, who seems to genuinely care about, ahem, the people, sees this and addresses the situation with Lee:

    Things are just beginning to heat up, in my opinion…

  • greg kamin

    I’d like to see a counter-narrative from some of the other campaigns. They have the money to do it. This poll only cost some 10K. Even Chris Daly managed to do a poll when he ran for supe. The very fact that there is no counter-narrative is not a good sign.

    Yeah, I know I’m going to get no love for saying this, but I call ’em as I see ’em, and we need to be honest with ourselves. I really, really hope this isn’t the case, but it’s entirely possible that people just aren’t tuning in that much, and Ed Lee really is that far ahead.

    The numbers for John Avalos are probably understated. They polled in English and Cantonese, but not Spanish, under the dubious rationale that only 1% of the city’s voters ask for a ballot in Spanish. That alone could put him well into second place, but not nearly enough to come close to Lee.

    The numbers for Yee are probably understated too, for reasons already mentioned. And Yee does have a long record of doing better than pollsters give him credit for. But understated by how much, that’s the question?

    And the numbers for Chiu, Dufty, Adachi, and Alioto-Pier are right about where I figured them to be. It was very unclear whether they normalized (massaged) the data, or not. The story was equivocal on that point. And if they did, what was their formula? Still, this one released more of the “guts” of the poll than any of the campaign polls we’ve seen.

    Again, don’t shoot the messenger. I *really* hope I’m wrong, but I have a sick feeling that this poll just might be close to the mark. But I’d be very happy to see another campaign produce a different narrative. And in any case, we have 3 weeks to drive home the point that the Ed Lee administration is corrupt.

  • lucretiamott

    With IRV and so many candidates, doing polling is difficult if not down right mis-leading. You’re point is right though Greg. I believe Lee is still ahead at 25 to 30 % with a lot, a quarter to a third, still undecided. The fact that Lee is now going negative through surrogates like Assembly Woman and Sarah Palin protege, Kristen Olsen, who tried to twitter a lie about LeLand’s State Senate budget, I think the negative view of Lee by Yee and Herrera is having an effect. Yee went after Sister Sarah’s use of the CSU campus and its funding. Lee is taking money from Republicans who want to gut our BOS of its progressives. if Ross and Lee wins, there goes Ross’s progressive seat to a phony progressive and 8 years of free market privitization begins anew.

    This will come down to a GOTV effort and whoever is the most organized on the ground. Counting anyone out at this point is a huge mistake. Lee is going negative for a reason.

    This poll is an advertising poll to turn off the base of one’s opponent.

  • If the Bay Citizen poll is suspect as several commenters suggest, why doesn’t FCJ conduct its own poll?

  • Folks at Luke’s Corner,

    boys and girls,

    The mud puddle is getting bigger
    and deeper. Here’s some real information
    and I hope a little fun.

    Hellman/Shih phony polls in news

    (Billionaire Hellman pays to slander Adachi)


    The series of ‘Push’ polls being sold by the Bay Citizen’s very talented young writer
    Gerry Shih (shame on you Gerry) were not done by a polling company. They were done
    by a marketing firm which should tell you a lot. The firm chosen by Hellman is
    named, ‘Maximum Research’. They’re out of New Jersey and rumor has it that they are
    owned by Tony Soprano.

    OK, that last line is me kidding you but only a little. Modern polls are as
    dishonest as the Sopranos. They are not designed to measure public opinion
    honestly. They are designed to manipulate and when deemed appropriate to reinforce
    public opinion. Let’s put another link to the honest poll I sent you last night.

    Here’s a sample of the first Gallup Poll conducted in 1939 between Christmas eve and
    December 29th …

    You can’t get much more straightforward than early George Gallup asking about your
    New Year’s resolutions or how you feel about Hitler. Now that, that’s
    classical Americana.

    American Polls at Mid-Life

    A great American writer (Eugene Burdick – 1918 to 1965 – he co-wrote, ‘The Ugly
    American with William Lederer in 1958 – JFK made it required reading in the White House
    – he also wrote, ‘Fail Safe’ in 1962).

    On his death bed in 1965 Burdick penned his masterpiece. It’s called, ‘The 480’ and
    in this work he argues that Americans can be divided into 480 statistically measurable
    categories and if you can get any of them to answer 10 simple demographic questions it
    is possible to assign them to one of these categories.

    This is important because Burdick posited, once you have them in a category you can
    predict not only how they have voted in every major election since they’ve been
    eligible to vote … but, you can also determine how they will vote in coming
    elections on different candidates and issues.

    The next (we’ll call it, ‘The Billionaire Hellman Stage’) in poll development involves
    using polls as tools for indoctrinating through half-truths and often (in the case of
    Hellman’s attacks on Adachi) outright lies.

    Modern polls are plates of spaghetti

    The Hellman/Union/Shih polls are full of what Luke Thomas calls, “triggers”. After
    gathering basic demographics as Burdick dictated, the marketers move to a series of
    question constructed to determine the voter’s mindset.

    If a respondent answers a ‘trigger’ question in one way, the marketer is directed into
    a series of questions designed to either change or reinforce the voter’s opinion of a
    candidate or issue. With so many tendrils possible that’s why I say they are like
    ‘spaghetti’ (plus it’s my breakfast time and I love spaghetti).

    It’s at this point that the lies kick in big time. Local Downtown pollster David
    Binder did a poll in the Gonzalez/Newsom campaign in 2003 in which if a subject said
    they were going to vote for Matt Gonzalez … the next question was, “Would you still
    vote for him if you knew that he had pornography hanging on his bedroom walls?”.

    Of course that was a lie but that didn’t matter to Binder. When I challenged him as
    to why he’d purvey such a lie he told me, “I don’t check the veracity of questions my
    clients want me to ask.”. And, he’s the local business community’s favorite

    Let me close with 3 points

    First of all, you can’t trust polls. Particularly polls put out by lying dogs like
    Warren Hellman and Ed Lee and Willie Brown.

    Second, I’m hungry and headed for the Manor House for a big breakfast and a couple of
    cups of coffee.

    And third (and, perhaps most important) … the Giants should play Gary Brown in
    center field next year. He just turned 23 last month. He played a complete
    season in A ball where he hit .336, blasted 14 homers and stole 53 bases.

    Adachi for Mayor!

    Avalos for Mayor!

    Baum for Mayor!

    Hall for Mayor!

    Miyamoto for Sheriff!

    Gascon for DA!


    Delete & Prev | Delete & Next

  • @el greco, hit the donate button and send $10 grand and we’ll happily commission a poll, though I don’t expect the results tp be that much different. All the polls so far seem to suggest this race is Lee’s to lose.

    That said, there’s still time at chip away at Lee’s numbers, but it’s going to take more than blind denial to achieve a different outcome on Election Day.

  • georgedavis

    I don’t work for the City. My life is not going to change whoever is elected mayor. My horserace handicapping predicts:
    More reliable polls show Ed Lee at 28-30% 1st choice add in another 5-10% in 2nd and 3rd choices. That puts him at 33-40% of the vote.
    The large field of other electable, experienced politicians includes none that will poll over 15% the 1st round and another 10% in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.
    Anyone that wants to make a $100 bet against Ed Lee please contact me. Money upfront to a neutral stakeholder please.

  • Patrick

    All three BC articles regarding their polls — Mayor, Prop C/D, District Attorney — read more like advocacy pieces than reporting to me. Except for the blub about the sheriff’s race in the DA article, the theme seemed to be “it’s a foregone conclusion.”

    It will be interesting to see how polling factors into voter behavior. Do people stay home because they think the result is pre-ordained? Do they vote when they normally wouldn’t have because they don’t want Lee to win?

  • greg kamin

    Thanks for the heads up, Patrick.

    Yes, they’re certainly trying to create a narrative, aren’t they?

    I find it interesting that they call the sheriff’s race “wide open” because 50% of the respondents are undecided, though Ross has a significant lead. But they say Gascon is a sure winner even though 49% of the respondents are undecided in that one. Hmmm…. do I sense a bias here?

    As for C/D, local props are notoriously difficult to poll. With C getting 45% and D getting 36%, what I see is that both could possibly lose. There’s an old (though somewhat faulty) axiom that if a prop is below 50%, it loses. Not always true in reality, but with 2 competing initiatives, and most voters going with an either-or approach, we could see more people breaking “no” than usual. And let’s not forget, everyone thought Prop B was going to pass. Then it failed in a landslide.

    Methinks Adachi needs to dial up for some more dollars. The Moritz money is lagging behind the Conway money. The C folks have done their job well, but Adachi still needs to go for the jugular. If all works out well, the billionaires just might cannibalize each other and we could all win as a result.

    That said, their narrative for the mayor’s race and DA’s race may unfortunately be correct.

  • Ann Garrison

    I think it’s time for all the rest of the candidates to unite behind an Anyone but Ed Lee campaign, like that which put Jean Quan over the top after Don Perata won the first round by a considerable margin in Oakland in 2010.

    Anyone but Perata for Mayor of Oakland

    Also, the other candidates should start endorsing for the #2 and #3 choices behind them.

  • Ann Garrison

    Also, I may have missed something, but, have you reported, in FCJ, on Gascon’s investigation of Ed Lee’s money laundering operation, the minimum wage Lori’s Vans operators making the maximum contribtions?

  • lucretiamott

    SF Examiner is reporting that Mr. Ed is going to be adjusting all city salaries to make them in line with the private sector and cut jobs. Touting his plan to create jobs he is sounding more like The SF version of Scott Walker where hs will lay off and downgrade city salaries except his own.

  • @Anne. Way past time if you ask me, we need more #1’s for Avalos and Adachi, {yeah I know all the arguments against Jeff, my ears are still ringing from the words of some of my union companeros}. But I think we do need to focus, as you said, on 2’s & 3’s. So what’s the ‘strategy’; according to Baycitizen (!!) in my simple mind that means NO 2nd or 3rd votes for Herrera, Yee or Lee. Of course that does open up the possibility of Michaela wheeling in under the wire, but then at least we would get some return on the money we spent on the Million Dollar Ramp to Nowhere