Analysis of the unofficial results in at the Department of Elections (11/11/06) reveals a startling new development that likely propelled Chris Daly to victory in the District 6 Supervisor race. Higher than normal turnout among the population of 10,000 or so tenants living in District 6’s SRO residential hotels, traditionally neglected by election campaigning, proved to be a decisive factor in securing the progressive supervisor’s reelection. Although a definitive analysis awaits the final voter file, preliminary analysis of the rate of registrants who voted in the Civic Center/Downtown and of a sampling of SRO heavy precincts strongly indicate that support from SRO tenants was critical to Daly’s victory.
Over the past 10 elections, spanning from the March 5th, 2002 consolidated primary to last Tuesday’s national/state/municipal election, voter turnout in the Civic Center/Downtown neighborhood (essentially the Tenderloin and some downtown apartments) has come in anywhere from 4.5% to 9.6% lower than the City as a whole. (See accompanying chart.)
Last Tuesday, however, the Civic Center/Downtown voted at a 44.41% clip, while the city as a whole voted at a 45.47% rate, or a difference of only 1.06%.
Comparing SRO heavy precincts in the November 4, 2003 mayoral election (which had a similar citywide turnout rate (45.7% in ’03) to last Tuesday’s election (45.47%) we find:
Precinct number 3601 which contains the 144 unit Hartland Hotel, the 100 unit President Hotel, the 90 unit Senator among others:
11/7/06: 40.71% (276 votes, 149 for Daly vs. 70 for Black in first ranking.)
Precinct number 3614 at Boeddeker Park which contains the 105 unit Franciscan Towers, Drake Hotel, 80 unit Windsor Hotel, 90 unit Ritz, among others:
11/7/06: 42.11% (363 votes, 185 for Daly vs. 86 for Black in first ranking.)
Precinct number 3617 at Hampton Court which contains the 110 unit Vincent Hotel, the 80 unit McAllister Hotel, the Crescent Manor, Madonna Residence among others:
11/7/06: 46.45% (301 votes, 124 for Daly vs. 94 for Black in first ranking.)
Precinct number 3625 which contains the 204 unit Seneca Hotel and the 180 unit Bayanihan House, the 190 unit Baldwin House, among many others:
11/7/06: 36.41% (245 votes, 144 for Daly, 41 for Black in first ranking.)
That Chris Daly stood for reelection was probably the single biggest factor in pushing the voter turnout rate higher than normal in the Tenderloin. The neighborhood is made up of many SRO Hotels and middle to low-income apartment buildings. Daly was a strong advocate for these tenants throughout his past 6 years in office. He passed a number of laws that directly improved the quality of life for SRO tenants. He also was, without question, the most active local politician on the affordable housing front. He fought to preserve the rent-controlled units at the Trinity Plaza and Civic Center Hotel and forced developers to build higher rates of affordable housing while simultaneously working to lower the floor for income qualification.
The second major factor in pushing up turnout was the massive get out the vote effort
coordinated by SEIU local 790 and UNITE HERE local 2 in Tenderloin residential hotels. This population is made up primarily of low-income workers, retirees, formerly homeless people, and the disabled, and contains high rates of minorities and immigrants. Traditionally, it has been all but ignored by political campaigns. SEIU organizers and affordable housing advocates working on their spare time from a variety of organizations bucked conventional wisdom and took the campaign straight to SRO tenants, recruiting building captains who were Daly supporters and helping them carry out one-on-one outreach and visibility efforts. By election day, the number of people volunteering in this effort had ballooned to more than 50, and organizers had ID’d supporters in some 90 SRO hotels. According to veteran SEIU organizer Robert Haaland, who coordinated the effort on his vacation time, “by the end we were conducting blind turnout rather than just our ID’d voters because SRO tenants said they supported Daly at a 12-1 rate.”
Their efforts paid off as SRO tenants turned out in droves to support Chris Daly. The final RCV margin was just 1236 votes. Ominously, Matt Drake’s 748 votes were not redistributed in the RCV system because Daly had already achieved the 50% +1 needed for victory. Many of the votes that went to Drake (the pick of the Republican Party) would likely have gone to Black as a second choice, meaning the final tally could have been much closer than indicated.
The right-wing San Francisco Examiner published a letter to the editor by Peter Streitz on November 10th claiming that Daly’s reelection proves that district elections should be thrown out. “District elections must be immediately abolished before anyone else with only 1.3 percent of the citywide, registered, vote (sic)” gets elected supervisor. This claim is specious. In fact 16,534 ballots were cast in District 6, or 8.7% of the total cast citywide, very close to the 1/11th per district that we would see in a perfectly functioning system.
In reality, this election is a powerful vindication of district elections. Neighborhood oriented, community based leaders were elected in 4 of the 5 seats at stake. Despite the differences in their politics, Chris Daly, Bevan Dufty, Ed Jew, and Sophie Maxwell all have strong roots in their home districts.
An enormous, expensive, and malicious campaign to boot Daly by attacking him with dozens of pages of glossy hit pieces failed because low-income SRO and apartment tenants saw through them and turned out for Daly. The failure of the anti-Daly campaign shows that district elections lead to the election of neighborhood advocates and that San Francisco voters are not easily swayed by the underhanded tactics these outside interest groups employ.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Earl Brown volunteered for SEIU’s independent effort to get out the vote in SRO Hotels for Chris Daly.