One of the advantages of ranked-choice voting is that candidates have a disincentive for nasty attacks — after all, you want second-place votes from the other candidates, so you don’t want to piss off their supporters.
But when you have a dominant front-runner, as we appear to have in the San Francisco mayor’s race, all bets are apparently off.
I get this from the reports I’m hearing on recent polls. Sue Hestor, the land-use lawyer, tells me she got two calls from pollsters in the past few days — one apparently from the Michela Alioto-Pier campaign, the other most likely commissioned by Dennis Herrera. Both included plenty of questions about Ed Lee. Hestor’s impression: Both campaigns are digging in to the Ed Lee negative stuff to develop their attack lines. They asked about Mohammed Nuru, about Willie Brown and Rose Pak, and about Lee’s promise not to run. The Alioto-Pier poll also had some negative stuff on Herrera and on Jeff Adachi.
Alioto-Pier’s pollster asked a lot of questions about the schools — should the superintendent be elected? Should the board members be elected by district? Should school selection be based on neighborhoods? And there were questions about Alioto-Pier’s support for increased condo conversion. Oddly, there was a public-power question that made it sound as if Alioto-Pier would be the only candidate opposing public power.
The Herrera poll was more subtle, with a lot of questions about how the voters view him.
But the key element is that both candidates are apparently poll-testing how attacks on Lee would play and what might work. And I’m sure many of the others are doing the same thing. So we may be heading for a gang-up, where candidates from the back of the pack converge on the leader. That could get ugly, fast.