Editor's Notes

The supervisorial races would be very different without ranked-choice voting
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tredmond@sfbg.com

I was walking down Ocean Avenue the other day, and I stopped for a second to chat with two volunteers who were handing out literature for John Avalos, the leading progressive candidate for supervisor in District 11. Since everyone wants to know about the Guardian endorsements, which don't come out until next week, we got to talking about District 9, where three good candidates are contending to succeed Sup. Tom Ammiano, who is heading to Sacramento and the state Legislature.

One of the Avalos workers was supporting Eric Quezada. The other was supporting Mark Sanchez. "But we're still friends," the Sanchez backer said.

The supervisorial races would be very different without ranked-choice voting.

There are people who like the relatively new system, which allows voters to choose three candidates in ranked order. There are people who think it's too confusing, or leads to the wrong outcome. But I think I can say, as someone who lives in District 9 and is in the epicenter of that very heated campaign, that a race that offers voters a choice between Sanchez, Quezada, and David Campos — any of whom would make an excellent supervisor, and all of whom have different strengths to offer — wouldn't be possible under a traditional electoral system.

Three progressive candidates in an old-fashioned election might very well split the left vote, and leave the door open for someone like Eva Royale — a much less appealing candidate who's backed by the mayor. There would have been a huge power struggle early on, and some of the candidates would have been under immense pressure not to run, and their backers would be running around trying to cut the other folks off at the knees.

In this case, though, one of the three good guys is going to win — and it will probably be the one who gets the most second-place votes. So it's in everyone's interest not to go negative. If Sanchez, say, started to attack Quezada, the Quezada backers would get mad and leave Sanchez off their ballots — and that would hurt Sanchez when the second-place votes are counted.

So everyone has been pretty well behaved in D9; I've heard a few whispers here and there, and a few people have tossed off a few nasty comments, but overall the candidates and their supporters recognize that it's better to stay positive.

So let me shift for a second to District 3.

There's a real threat in Chinatown–North Beach, and his name is Joe Alioto. As the brother of Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier, the nephew of former Sup. Angela Alioto, and the grandson of the late mayor Joe, Alioto has a legendary political name. He also has big downtown backing. And his politics are, if anything, to the right of his sister, who is one of the worst members of the current board.

Based on polls I've heard about, there are two candidates who have a chance to beat him — David Chiu and Denise McCarthy. Chiu, a member of the Small Business Commission, will almost certainly get hammered by downtown. McCarthy, who has run the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center for many years, may get hit, too. And this one, like D9, will come down to the second-place votes.

The last thing McCarthy and Chiu can afford is to attack each other. There's been some of that going on, and it has to stop. If the progressives want to win District 3, Chiu and McCarthy have to realize that, like it or not, they are a team.