The D5 Progressive “Coalition” Meltdown

Written by Steven Hill. Posted in Opinion, Politics

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Published on November 07, 2012 with 89 Comments

A failure by the top-tier District 5 progressive candidates to employ a ranked choice strategy made it possible for a well-financed moderate candidate to win. File photo by Luke Thomas.

By Steven Hill

November 7, 2012

A lot of people are wondering what happened in District 5. The story is pretty straightforward. The supporters of the three progressive candidates failed to support each other, and so the progressive vote split allowing London Breed to win. All three progressive candidates had campaigns that for one reason or another had difficulties, but on top of that they failed to unite or at least not to attack each other (though there was a late attempt to do that by the Christina Olague and John Rizzo campaigns).

For example, if you look at the first-round vote totals, you can see that Olague, Rizzo and Julian Davis together have 13,000 votes. Breed has only 7200. Even if you add in Thea Selby’s 3500, the two of them together don’t come close to the Progressive Three.

If those progressive votes had held together – like we see so often with Asian voters, for example, who tend to vote for other Asian candidates even when the Asian candidates are attacking each other – one of those three progressives (most likely Olague) would have prevailed.

Instead, if you look at the round by round vote totals you can see what clearly happened.

When Selby (who is in fifth place) is eliminated in Round 2, Breed picks up 967 votes compared to 913 for Rizzo, 542 for Olague and 533 for Davis. So the progressives together picked up far more of Selby’s voters second rankings than did Breed.

Next round (Round 3), Davis is eliminated: London Breed picks up 1082 votes, Rizzo 1223 votes and Olague 1203 votes. So the two remaining progressives still picked up twice as many votes as Breed, but in addition 1246 Davis voters had their ballots go into the exhausted pile. So a quarter of his voters did not select Rizzo or Olague as a second choice. That was the beginning of the progressive fracture.

Next round (Round 4), Rizzo is eliminated: Breed picks up 1345 votes, Olague picks up 1521 votes. So Breed picked up nearly as many votes from Rizzo supporters as did Olague. In addition, 3712 Rizzo voters – over half of his voters – did not have either Olague or Breed as a lower choice, and so those ballots became exhausted.

A complete crumbling of the progressive vote in District 5.

As a counterexample, in the Jean Quan-Rebecca Kaplan-Don Perata race for mayor in 2010, the candidate elimination and round by round vote totals were fairly similar to this race with the exception of the final round. That’s when Kaplan was eliminated and two out of three of her voters selected Quan as their next choice. If something similar had happened in this race, Olaguewould have picked up approximately 4500 votes instead of 1500 votes from Rizzo. And she would have won District 5.

But given the challenges of the three progressive campaigns, as well as the horrible infighting for reasons we all are aware of, that progressive coalition did not hold together, providing an opening for Breed.

London Breed at her presumed D5 election-victory party last eve.

Steven Hill

Steven Hill

Steven Hill is a writer, columnist and political professional based in the Bay area who is a frequent speaker at academic, government, NGO and business events, speaking on a wide range of topics related to political economy, political reform, climate change, global complexity, geo-strategy and trends. Mr. Hill is the author of several books including "Europe's Promise: Why the European Way Is the Best Hope for an Insecure Age (" and "10 Steps to Repair American Democracy, 2012 Election Edition" ( His articles and interviews have appeared in media around the world, including the New York Times, Washington Post, the BBC, National Public Radio, Fox News, C-Span, Democracy Now, International Herald Tribune, Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, The Nation, Washington Monthly, Salon, Slate, Politico, HuffingtonPost, American Prospect, Die Zeit, International Politik (Germany), Project Syndicate, Le Monde Diplomatique, Hürriyet Daily News (Turkey), Courrier Japon, Taiwan News, Korea Herald, Montreal Review, India Times, Burma Digest, Egypt Daily News, Ms., Sierra and many others. His website is

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