Preliminary winners chosen in San Francisco election

Sixteen mayoral candidates have finally been narrowed down and current Interim Mayor Ed Lee is projected to be the first Chinese-American mayor of San Francisco with 31.38 percent of first-choice votes with 100 percent of precincts reporting.

“I think we have something to celebrate here,” said Mayor Ed Lee at his campaign party at Tres Agaves Restaurant. “I want to respect the ranked choice system that we have as well…(but) I think the voters here in San Francisco have said they want to continue the way we’ve been running it.”

Lee was one of six Asian-American candidates in the race.

“It’s one thing to be appointed first Asian mayor, but it’s another thing to be confirmed,” Lee said.

Lee was appointed interim mayor of San Francisco in January after former Mayor Gavin Newsom was elected lieutenant governor last November. Lee has never before been elected for a government position and was the subject of much controversy when he announced his candidacy in August, contradicting previous statements that he would not run for mayor.

“He’s very popular, all about the positive press and he decided to run and he (was) easily the front-runner,” said SF State assistant professor of urban politics and power Jason McDaniel.

Mayoral candidate and current President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors David Chiu said he is used to working hard for the board, but the race was a different experience.

“It has been exhilarating, challenging and affirming all at the same time,” Chiu said. He received nearly 9 percent of first-choice votes.

It appears as if current District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi will be the next sheriff of San Francisco, a position held for more than 30 years by Michael Hennessey. Mirkarimi had more than 38 percent of first-choice votes with all precincts reporting.

San Francisco’s new district attorney is projected to be interim District Attorney George Gascón. The position was vacant after former District Attorney Kamala Harris was elected California attorney general. Gascón had slightly more than 42 percent of first-choice votes with all precincts reporting.

This year’s winners were elected using the ranked-choice voting system, which allows voters to list up to three choices, eliminating candidates with the fewest votes and transferring second and third-choice votes until one candidate has a majority and is declared the winner.

“It’s often the case in contests where somebody doesn’t get the majority in the first count… we have to go into these ranked choice voting rounds where the candidates are eliminated,” said SF State assistant professor of political science Francis Neely, who has conducted multiple studies on ranked-choice voting.

Some people were unfamiliar with the system.

“I guess it’s been done previously and I didn’t know that, but it just seemed odd,” said voter and mother Wendy Chisholm at her local polling place Temple Baptist Church on 19th Avenue. “It almost seemed like a grade school mentality, like here’s my first choice, my second choice and my third choice.”

Ranked-choice voting, also known as instant runoff, takes longer to count than the traditional voting system and it could take up to several days for final results. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was elected after eight days of waiting for the results of her narrow win against front-runner Don Perata last year.

This alternative voting system has been used once in a San Francisco mayoral race, in 2007 when Gavin Newsom won with 70 percent of first-choice votes. This year’s election was the first competitive mayoral ranked-choice voting race.