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Politics & Policy

Joel Engardio captures historic victory in SF Sunset Race

District 4 Supervisor candidate Joel Engardio speaks to a crowd at his election night party at Noriega Teriyaki House on Nov. 8, 2022. | Chris Victorio for The Standard

San Francisco’s Sunset District has a new political leader who stands to make history in a number of ways.

The latest election results show that challenger Joel Engardio should defeat incumbent Supervisor Gordon Mar by a couple hundred votes. Engardio received 51% while Mar garnered 49%.

In a text message, Engardio thanked the Department of Elections for a transparent and trustworthy counting process.

Mar conceded in a tweet Wednesday afternoon.

Engardio’s win represents some significant milestones since San Francisco switched back to district elections in 2000.

He’s the first candidate to unseat an elected incumbent supervisor and will be the first openly gay supervisor representing San Francisco’s westside. He’s also the first supervisor elected in District 4 who is not Chinese American. Man Kit Lam, an organizer in the San Francisco Unified School District board recall, provided the campaign’s outreach to the community along with Engardio’s spouse Lionel Hsu, a Taiwanese immigrant.

Mar, a progressive supervisor elected in 2018, was criticized for losing touch with a majority of Sunset voters—including those of Asian descent—over education and public safety issues. Mar’s ambiguous positions on the successful recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin and three school board members made him vulnerable to criticism by Engardio’s campaign.

Supervisor Gordon Mar holds a press conference in the Taraval Police Station community room to address safety concerns on July 19, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Mar responded to public safety concerns of his constituents by introducing legislation to fund community policing and expand language access to police services. But those efforts apparently failed to motivate enough voters to keep him in office. 

Mar also may have been hurt by gerrymandering. This year’s controversial redistricting process played a role in bringing Engardio’s Lakeshore neighborhood into the district, along with nearby precincts that strongly supported him in past elections. Engardio ran for District 7 supervisor in 2012, 2016 and 2020. 

According to the election map, Engardio led Mar in select precincts throughout the district, with support for Mar being strongest in the district’s northwest corner and along Ocean Beach. 

Engardio’s election also marks a loss for Chinese representation on the Board of Supervisors. In the early 2010s, there were five Asian American supervisors—Eric Mar, David Chiu, Carmen Chu, Jane Kim and Norman Yee. With Mar's loss, District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan will be the only Asian American left on the board.

Mar was first elected to District 4 with a big funding boost from the San Francisco Labor Council’s PAC, Labor Neighbor. In this recent election, the PAC spent even more on mailers and other efforts to support Mar and attack Engardio.

UPDATE: Engardio gave this statement to The Standard after Mar's concession:

"It was a movement of parents and residents who helped me win this historic election. They want a city that works and I look forward to getting to work so we can create our best San Francisco. I want to thank the Department of Elections for a transparent and trustworthy counting process. I also want to thank every District 4 voter for participating in our democracy. "