Leanna Louie, a candidate for District 4 Supervisor who was struck from the November ballot for not being able to prove residency in the district she hoped to represent, is asking for a court order to be reinstated on the ballot.
Louie held a press conference on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday morning at which she claimed that the city violated procedure in examining her residency. The Department of Elections struck Louie from the November ballot after the City Attorney’s Office determined that she could not prove residency at a District 4 address in an Aug. 26 report.
An attorney for Louie, Stanley Shen, said that they filed a writ of mandate at SF Superior Court demanding that the city reverse its decision, alleging that the city violated procedure by failing to challenge Louie's qualifications by a June 27 deadline. Louie and her attorneys also claimed that the move to strike her from the ballot shuts out the district's monolingual Chinese-speaking community.
Louie claimed residency in District 4 based on her renting a room in a house in the Parkside neighborhood beginning on March 1, for $500 per month. But in interviews with the city attorney, Louie admitted to subsequently sleeping in three different homes outside of District 4 on a regular basis, as well as other issues that placed her residency in doubt.
Those issues include casting a ballot for the April 19 assembly special election—weeks after she claimed to have moved to District 4—from her address in District 10, which opened her up to criminal prosecution for voter fraud.
In their report, the city attorney differentiated Louie’s residency issues from previous residency controversies involving members of the Board of Supervisors. The city attorney wrote that in contrast to those past cases, Louie did not produce sufficient evidence of her residency by a key deadline.
“While it is Ms. Louie’s right to take this matter to court, we stand by our facts and conclusions," said Jen Kwart, a spokesperson for the City Attorney's Office. "We will respond to the lawsuit in court and look forward to seeing this matter resolved by the September 7 deadline to finalize the November ballot.”
Louie’s case has also been compared by her supporters to allegations over the residency of Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton, who owns real property in Vallejo. Walton reacted to the allegations on his Facebook account by saying that he cannot afford a home in the city and purchased the Vallejo property for use by his family. The city attorney confirmed advising Walton that there was no issue with him owning real property outside of San Francisco so long as he maintains residency inside the city, according to a report in Mission Local.
During her candidacy, Louie attracted negative attention for a brusque campaign style and questionable social media posts. She reacted to coverage of her residency issues with an anti-semitic swipe against Mission Local reporter Joe Eskenazi, who is Jewish, and also implied that his sources may have connections to a terrorist group.
Reaction to Louie’s offensive post about Eskenazi was quick and furious in the city’s political sphere. Elected officials, political clubs, and candidates all denounced Louie’s behavior; some, including the Examiner in an editorial, demanded that Louie, who issued a facile apology for some of her remarks, bow out of the race.
It’s unclear how Louie’s forced exit may affect the District 4 race, which is among the most closely-watched races in the Nov. 8 election.
The District 4 race began with speculation that Louie and candidate Joel Engardio could leverage ranked choice voting by mutually endorsing each other, and encouraging supporters to vote accordingly. Both Engardio and Louie discussed the possibility of adopting such a strategy in general terms, but nothing concrete materialized before the controversies about Louie emerged, according to sources.
Supporters of District 4 incumbent Supervisor Gordon Mar may be more concerned about the campaign war chest Engardio, a public safety advocate, has assembled.
According to the most recent campaign finance filings, Engardio has raised over $350,000 in contributions, while incumbent Mar has raised over $160,000. Louie had raised a little over $20,000 before being removed from the ballot.
Mike Ege can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org