The most expensive, ugliest, longest and most money-dominated election in my memory is finally winding down, and unless something really weird happens, Obama’s going to win another term. It’s likely the Democrats will control the Senate and the GOP will retain a narrow edge in the house, meaning four more years of gridlock (and possibly the end of Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s career).
But the real message will be the role of big money — not just ordinary big money, but billionaire money — in California and San Francisco elections.
The state ballot has become a billionaire playground, with four of the ten initiatives created, written, put on the ballot and funded by stinking rich individuals who have their own personal and political agendas. In San Francisco, billionaires Ron Conway and Thomas Coates are trying to buy the District 5 election. An Arizona group linked to the Koch brothers is trying to shut down Prop. 30 (and leave the state in fiscal disaster).
And I’ve never seen as much real-estate money go into one supervisorial district.
We know both presidential campaigns are billion-dollar operations, and a lot of the same bad money is going into each of them. But on the local level, it’s a very different situation. There’s a concerted campaign here to drive progressives out of local office and install people more friendly to landlords and developers — at a time when the city’s going to be facing the greatest displacement pressure since the first dot-com boom. You don’t see the Association of Realtors putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into local races very often; there’s an opportunity here and they see it and they want to weaken tenant protections so they can make more money.
One of the best arguments in favor of district elections is that money doesn’t necessarily buy electoral success. In a district with roughly 30,000 voters, it’s possible to practice old-fashioned grassroots retail politics, to win by knocking on doors and going to house parties and meeting people. It’s not all about TV ads. And if that holds up with this election, Sup. Eric Mar — with a far superior field operation — will survive the blistering assault he’s under in District 1. If David Lee — who has taken the Mitt Romney approach and refused to speak to reporters (they might ask him a question or two about his inaccurate campaign dirt) — wins, it will be the greatest blow to democracy in San Francisco that we’ve seen in years.
On the other hand, if the D1 voters reject all that money and sleaze and Mar wins — and if the District 5 voters reject the billionaire money and someone other than London Breed wins — San Francisco will be sending a profound message: We don’t want your dirty money here, and our votes are not for sale.
Polls are open until 8. Vote early and often.