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Politics & Policy

Election recap: 3 SF school board members recalled by overwhelming margin; Haney, Campos head to runoff for Assembly

The results are in on the three big decisions San Francisco made Tuesday, with voters resoundingly voting in favor of the recall of three San Francisco Unified School District board members; pitting Supervisors Matt Haney and David Campos against each other in an April runoff election for the Assembly District 17 seat; and keeping Joaquín Torres on as assessor-recorder. See below for a minute-by-minute look at San Francisco’s Feb. 15 special election.

7 AM: A brief glimpse of what mayoral control of schools could look like? With SF’s resounding “yes” vote on the recall of three school board members, Mayor Breed is in charge of picking the replacements—an outcome recall opponents have deemed dangerous. Read our analysis of the short- and long-term impact the mayor’s newfound power over the SFUSD could have.

11 PM: Recalls pass while Haney, Campos come out ahead: With all 337 precincts reporting, the three school board recall elections appear to have passed with Haney and Campos heading to a runoff election on April 19. Joaquín Torres faced only write-in challengers and sailed to victory. Turnout for today’s election was just 26% with 130,302 of 499,771 registered voters casting ballots. Check back in the morning for more news and analysis.

10:58 PM: López indicates she may run in November, but calls the work “abusive”: “Our work is on behalf of the community who have been asking for it for decades. If that is what my community is asking of me in November… given what everyone is seeing what we’ve been dealing with, I can’t imagine anyone else running… With the right amount of support, I’d take that work on. I’d always planned on running for two terms. I do fear who is lining themselves up to be in this role.”

10:15 PM: Bilal Mahmood strikes a positive tone, despite slim chances: “Getting 20% or 23% of the vote in three months when no one knew what my name was,” he said, “that’s an actual change.” He declined to say whether he planned to run again in June.

Photo by Han Li.

10 PM: Political consultant calls school board recall results a ‘knockout’: Jen Snyder, a former aide to Supervisor Dean Preston, reacted to the decisive vote against all three embattled commissioners and speculated on the future of the Campos campaign. “People clearly came out for the recall and that won’t be true in April. Frankly, in a climate where people were so motivated for the recall, I actually think it bodes well for Campos.”

9:55 PM: Campos remains optimistic as he addresses the crowd: Supervisors Ronen, Preston, Mandelman are all here to support Campos, who says his showing reflects the momentum of progressive campaigns, and is especially impressive as he’s running a corporate free campaign. “We’re going to keep watching these numbers, but what these numbers show there is a clear choice in this race. When the votes are counted on April 19, the voters of AD 17 will say we want someone who is beholden to the voters and not corporations.”

Photo by Sarah Wright

9:50 PM: Second round of returns bring in 9,000 more votes: The second set of returns from the Department of Elections shows a count of 9,108 more votes that were cast in person Tuesday. Matt Haney’s lead in the AD 17 race shorted a bit, but he remained 2 percentage points ahead of David Campos. The school board recall election results remain steady, as all three members—Alison Colins, Gabriela López and Faauuga Moliga—appear to be headed out the door.

9:41 PM: Siva Raj reacts to recall results at Manny’s election night party: The co-founder of the recall effort led a raucous crowd to cheering in what looks like a landslide victory based on the first returns.

9:19 PM: Nearly a quarter of registered voters counted in first wave: The total number of votes counted so far in the special election stands at 119,718, which is just under 24% of all registered voters in the city.

9:10 PM: Haney thanks volunteers, staff: With results showing an early lead for Supervisor Matt Haney in the AD 17 race, he addressed the crowd, saying the results are proof of his diverse and committed group of supporters.

9:07 PM: Faauuga Moliga concedes defeat: The embattled school board member—who tried to distance himself from his colleagues on the board while campaigning against the recall—appears to be resigned to his fate after the first returns. Moliga sent out a post on Twitter thanking people for their support.

9:04 PM: No surprise, Assessor-Recorder Joaquin Torres is going to win: The Mayor London Breed appointee and candidate had 99.93% of the vote in first returns, with several dozen voting for Michael Petrelis as a write-in candidate.

8:55 PM: Haney leads early in AD 17 Race: Supervisor Matt Haney took the initial lead in the race for the state Assembly District 17 seat. Haney had 22,753 votes (38%) while former Supervisor David Campos was running in second with 20,985 votes (35%). Tech startup founder Bilal Mahmood was polling in third with 12,488 votes, good for 20.9%. City College trustee Thea Selby was running fourth with 3,610 votes for a little over 6%.

Photo by Sarah Wright.

8:50 PM: First wave of results show school recall looks likely to succeed: The first wave of returns show San Francisco voters overwhelmingly approving of giving Allison Colins, Gabriela López and Faauuga Moliga the boot, as all three San Francisco Unified School District members had more than 70% of voters in support of the recall.

8:08 PM: Election night newsroom traditions: When The Standard’s newsroom ordered pizza—thank you, Little Star!—to fuel us for a long night of reporting, our colleague Han Li, who’s from China, got a crash course in the various American pizza styles. Some strong opinions were shared by people from different regions of the U.S. about what’s the “best” pizza. Li told us that at his former newsroom, their election night tradition was roasted duck and rice! 

6:30 PM: Vote hard, party harder: If elections are your Super Bowl and you want to end the night at a party, we’ve got you covered.

5:25 PM: Now you’re speaking our language: David Campos made a pit stop at the 16th and Mission BART Station to chat with voters—in English and Spanish. The candidate for AD 17 even picked up a little Cantonese during his campaign. “It’s really important to communicate with voters in their language and being able to speak to monolingual speakers in Spanish goes a long way and, quite frankly, even knowing basic things you can say in Cantonese is helpful.”

Photo by Camille Cohen.

4:23 PM: ‘Recall Reform’ heads to June ballot: San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 7-4 to submit Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s “Recall Reform” charter amendment to the Department of Elections for the June ballot. The measure, which had been subject to several amendments in committee, promised to add “common sense guardrails” to the recall process. Supervisors Melgar, Safai, Mandelman and Stefani opposed, and a number of supervisors voiced concerns about accountability, equity and other issues over the measure. It would further constrain timelines for filing recall petitions and would reduce any mayoral appointee to a recalled position to a caretaker who would be barred from seeking election to the position.

3:47 PM: Polling volunteers report sticker shock: If there’s one thing that unites San Franciscans across political lines, it’s animals. SF Redditors showed their election day love by posting pictures of their four-legged friends accompanying them to polling locations and wearing “I Voted” stickers.

3:38 PM: First-time voters drop ballots in Chinatown: Katty Zhang, a first-time immigrant voter after living in the U.S. for 17 years, cast her ballot at Chinatown’s City College campus polling center alongside her mother. Zhang told The Standard that she decided to vote in this election “for the next generation.”

Photo by Han Li

3:35 PM: All signs point to yes … and no: With about five hours to go until results start coming in, both proponents and opponents of the school board recall have said they are feeling good. The No on Recall campaign said in a statement Monday that it was “confident” the effort to oust three school board members would fail. Earlier today, Siva Raj and Autumn Looijen told The Standard that they feel confident all three commissioners would get the boot. Here’s what the No on Recall folks are saying on Twitter:

2:45 PM: Answering the call: Julio Ramos turned up to vote at City Hall after a morning call from David Campos’ campaign reminded him to head to the polls—and he voted for Campos, he said. While there, he also said hello to his daughter, who is volunteering as part of a high school project. Ramos said the school board recall was especially important to him. “I’ve never seen a recall election like this in San Francisco, and I’ve been here for almost 25 years.”

Video by Kevin Truong.

2:35 PM: Working the phones: Siva Raj and Autumn Looijen haven’t had time to even step out of the house today. The pair responsible for getting the school board recall rolling took a call from the New York Times in their Lower Haight home this afternoon as our photographer snapped away. “We have all this nervous energy. We think we’re doing great but we won’t really know until the numbers come in,” said Looijen, who has been cooking non-stop to cope. They joked they need to not forget to pick up Siva’s son from school today.

Photo by Camille Cohen.

2:25 PM: Owning the libs, yet again: The drama at SFUSD always makes for clickable headlines. Never missing an opportunity to mock progressive snafus, Fox News seized on the recall with this take: “‘Woke’ San Francisco school board faces recall as residents blast ‘dumpster fire’ agenda.” Even the Kansas City Star weighed in.

1:44 PM: Supes stick together: David Campos, a former San Francisco supervisor and AD 17 candidate, got a little support Tuesday from current Supervisor Hillary Ronen, as the candidate posted a picture of the two campaigning in Bernal Heights. Campos is one of four candidates competing for the vacant seat in the state Assembly.

1:15 PM: Not going down without a fight: San Francisco Board of Education Commissioner Faauuga Moliga, one of three school board members facing recall, is pounding the pavement and pressing the flesh, urging voters to cast a ballot on Election Day. Moliga has generally engaged in more campaign efforts separate from his embattled colleagues.

12 PM: You’re never too young to care about local politics: Sixteen-year-old Abigail Upton isn’t yet old enough to vote in Tuesday’s election, but she explains what brought her out to volunteer at the polls regardless. She’s stationed at a voting location at 1598 Oakdale Ave in the Bayview.

Video by Kevin Truong.

11:40 AM: Gearing up for a long day: The polling place in Silver Terrace at 1877 Palau Ave. hasn’t been super busy this Tuesday—poll workers estimate they’ve seen about a voter an hour—but volunteer Lloyd Ritchey said physical polling places still provide a critical role in the elections process. He also said that despite it being a “horribly long day,” he volunteers because it’s something he used to do a lot of when he was younger, and wants to start up again.

Video by Kevin Truong.

11:35 AM: AD 17 Candidate Bilal Mahmood gets early start on election day: The candidate said he started his day at 7 a.m., canvassing some local Slow Streets and cafes. Then he headed to his campaign headquarters on 24th Street in the Mission District for phone banking. Mahmood told the SF Standard he was able to get a good night’s sleep, heading to bed before 11 p.m., which is apparently early for him. Mahmood headed to Chinatown next.

Photo by Camille Cohen

10:45 AM: Haney hits the town: San Francisco Supervisor and AD 17 candidate Matt Haney poses in front of a bus decked out with campaign signs early on election day.

Courtesy of the Haney campaign

10:30 AM: Selby votes, keeps campaigning: After casting her vote at 8 a.m. this morning at John Muir Elementary School, AD 17 candidate Thea Selby headed to City Hall to continue campaigning. “There’s still time to vote and still a lot of people who can vote,” Selby told The Standard. “City Hall is open for business, even if you are not yet registered, so come on down.”

Courtesy of Thea Selby

9 AM: A rally for recall in Chinatown: Supporters of the San Francisco school board recall gather in Chinatown to kick off election day and encourage last-minute voters to cast ballots. Get-out-the-vote efforts have been noticeable in SF’s Chinatown, as first-time Chinese American voters have been especially vocal on this particular race.

Courtesy of Ann Hsu

7 AM: Polls are open!  Find your voting location for the Feb. 15 special election in San Francisco. Or use one of the drop boxes available throughout the city. 

6:30 AM: A Brief History of the San Francisco Board of Education Recall: School board elections are seldom the talk of the town, let alone at the center of the national discourse. But as locals vote in today’s recall, they find themselves at the center of a political firestorm with implications far beyond the San Francisco Board of Education.

Each question before voters is a simple “yes” or “no” to remove Board of Education President Gabriela López and commissioners Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga from office. But the issues at stake are just a bit more complex

6:30 AM: State Assembly Race Could Crown New Top Dogs of SF Politics: Voters on the city’s east side are casting their ballots today in the first round of races for State Assembly District 17, with the winner poised to be a force in California politics for many years to come.

The four candidates include veteran progressive standard-bearer David Campos, District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, political newcomer/tech entrepreneur Bilal Mahmood and City College board member Thea Selby. If Tuesday’s winner doesn’t get more than 50% of the vote to take the seat—a result that many find unlikely—the top two candidates will go to a run-off election on April 19.

Josh Koehn, Nick Veronin, Sophie Bearman, Han Li, Sarah Wright, Anna Tong, Ida Mojadad, Jesse Rogala, LaToya Tooles, Michaela Neville, Mike Ege, Mike Kuba, Christina Campodonico and Astrid Kane contributed additional reporting for this story.