Election 2010: Labor and progressives dodge a bullet

Pub date November 3, 2010
SectionPolitics Blog

Bucking a national conservative, anti-government political trend, San Franciscans stayed with some fairly progressive politics on election night, rejecting a measure to demonize public employees (Prop. B), giving progressive John Rizzo far more votes than his City College of San Francisco board rivals, and taking far more liberal positions in state ballot measures and candidates than California voters, who were already far to the left of national voters.
“We are really happy that Prop. B is going down because it was such a misguided measure. It was not well thought through,” San Francisco Labor Council President Tim Paulson told the Guardian at the party labor threw with the San Francisco Democratic Party at Great American Music Hall. “San Francisco voters are the smartest in America.”
Paulson was also happy to see those voters approve Prop. N, taxing the transfer of properties worth more than $5 million, “because San Franciscans know that everyone has to pay their fair share.”
Another labor priority, Prop. J, the temporary hotel tax increase, lost by a narrow margin after Mayor Gavin Newsom and his downtown allies opposed it, and the online travel company spent millions of dollars to bury Prop. K – a Newsom-created rival measure that would have closed a loophole that lets the company avoid paying the hotel tax.
Rizzo said he was happy to far outpoll Lawrence Wong and Anita Grier as the three incumbents ran uncontested for their City College board seats, which should put him in a leadership position in the troubled district. “There is a tradition at City College that the highest vote getter gets the presidency, so I’m pretty happy,” Rizzo told us on election night.
There were some conservative victories in San Francisco, including approval of Prop. L, which criminalizes sitting or lying on sidewalks, and Prop. G, which will reduce Muni operator wages and change work rules after getting the approval of about 63 percent of voters.
“Ultimately, downtown did well,” progressive political consultant Jim Stearns said, noting how aggressive spending by downtown business and real estate interests ended a string of progressive victories in the last several election cycles, including the likely election of Scott Wiener in D8 and the strong challenge in D2 by Mark Farrell to perceived frontrunner Janet Reilly, who had progressive endorsements.
Stearns said national polls have shown that people are more afraid of big government than big corporations, whereas progressives tend to hold the opposite view. “That national atmosphere definitely had an impact on even races locally,” Stearns said.
But in San Francisco, the progressives retain a strong position in the political debates to come.