Winners and Losers in the November 2022 Election
By Julie Pitta
The November 2022 election is over. Now comes the easy part – analyzing the results. I’ll add my voice to the chorus of those trying to make sense of voter sentiment in the last contest of an election-filled year.
The election’s biggest winner was District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston. Preston, an indefatigable campaigner, pushed through two propositions overcoming formidable opposition from Mayor London Breed and big-money business interests. Proposition M, a measure that taxes corporate landlords who keep units off the market to jack up rent prices, passed with a comfortable margin. Proceeds will fund affordable housing and rental subsidies. The measure will go a long way toward easing San Francisco’s housing shortage.
Preston’s other measure, Proposition H, moves San Francisco elections to even-numbered years to coincide with state contests. It won big, also against formidable opposition. Voters could not ignore its clear advantages: Not only will it save money, but it could also as much as double voter turnout. Preston won both races by mobilizing the City’s progressives, demonstrating that well-organized grassroots campaigns can take on big money and win.
Prop. H is a game changer, one that will benefit progressive measures and candidates. In fact, the prospect of future progressive wins was enough to rouse Breed, who in a fit of hyperbole, called it a socialist takeover. (Preston is a member of the Democratic Socialist Party.)
The biggest loser in the November 2022 election was none other than Breed. Much has been made over the victories of Breed’s appointees, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, Supervisor Matt Dorsey, and School Board Commissioners Lainie Motamedi and Lisa Weissman-Ward. The news, however, isn’t as good as it might seem. Jenkins comes into office under a heavy cloud, having lied about payments she received from groups connected to the recall of her former boss, then-District Attorney Chesa Boudin. Days before the election saw Jenkins’s reputation was further sullied when it was revealed that she stole criminal case files that were eventually used in the Boudin recall. This may be why John Hamasaki, a former Police Commissioner and successful criminal defense attorney who launched an 11-hour challenge to the Breed appointee, came within 10 percentage points of beating her.
Jenkins made her job harder by promising a quick solution to the misery on San Francisco streets, a problem rooted in economic disparity. A cranky electorate will soon find itself unhappy with the new DA’s performance, rendering her a political liability for a mayor facing re-election in 2024.
In the school board race, Breed appointee Ann Hsu was beaten by Alida Fisher, a candidate heartily supported by progressives. Hsu’s ouster – the result of racially insensitive comments about Black school children and their families – means Breed loses control of the board.
Finally, Breed threw down hard against Prop. H, campaigned against Prop. M, and supported Prop. D, the housing measure bankrolled the City’s real estate interests. Called “Affordable Homes Now,” Prop. D proffered a peculiar idea of affordability: The income needed to qualify for a so-called affordable home was a staggering 140% of the Bay Area’s median income. The real estate industry and its allies poured a whopping $2.4 million into the Prop. D campaign only to watch it go down to defeat, serving up another loss for Breed and her moneyed friends.
Breed’s appointee Dorsey benefited from a corrupt redistricting process. The final map, passed by the City’s redistricting task force, dramatically altered District 6, making it all but impossible for a progressive to be elected. The same was true for District 4 where conservative Joel Engardio defeated Supervisor Gordon Mar. Breed’s big win – turning out a Progressive supervisor in D4 and electing her appointee in D6 – are the direct result of her meddling with redistricting, a process that should have been exempt from mayoral influence.
Breed, whose armor once seemed impenetrable, emerges from the November 2022 election much diminished.
Other losers were San Francisco YIMBYS, a coalition of moneyed tech and real estate moguls. They watched Prop. D, central to their agenda, go down to defeat. Redistricting, it turns out, was the peak YIMBY moment. They drew the map, forced through by the mayor, that elected Dorsey and Engardio. It’s unclear how loyal the new supervisors will be to their YIMBY allies. Engardio, who took YIMBY money in his quest to oust Mar, will represent a district that has shown a long and storied resistance to new housing. How long will it be before he betrays his new YIMBY friends? My prediction is not long.
The implosion of sketchy investment schemes and a continued economic downturn will drain YIMBY coffers. As the tech industry struggles, many who lean YIMBY will leave in search of greener pastures, weakening this nascent political movement.
A final thought: Progressive ideas are still popular in San Francisco, as evidenced by the elections of Mano Raju, Shamann Walton, Anita Martinez, Susan Solomon and Vick Chung, and Fisher.
I’ll allow Supervisor Preston to have the final word: “Ignore the latest false ‘death of progressives’ narrative. We remain a progressive city, where the only route to power for conservatives is to pretend to be progressive, win patronage appointments, and/or gerrymander districts.”
Julie Pitta, a former journalist at The Los Angeles Times and Forbes Magazine, is a neighborhood activist. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @juliepitta