San Francisco Mayor’s race: David Chiu’s candidacy no surprise; he’s readymade for Rank Choice Voting


I’m not surprised that David Chiu, despite the short resume, has announced his run  for mayor of San Francisco.

I’ve called David Obamaesque in the past. He may not be a rock star yet. But I know he’s Ivy smart and ambitious and likes to work both sides of the street.  That said, his opportunity is really defined by the new rules of the game.

Democracy has become more horse race than ever with Rank Choice voting.

Now it’s like picking a trifecta at Golden Gate Fields,  creating  totally new strategies  for winning. 

Throw mud? Not anymore. Now it’s  time to cozy up and go tandem.  By trading 2nd and 3rd votes, in a non-majority race, an underdog can rise to the top and even win.

It seems like you’d want to be No.1 with your base. But if you can also be No.2 or No.3 with others in alliance, you end up campaigning at others’ events for the subvotes.  It happened to Oakland’s Jean Quan, the first Asian American woman mayor last year.

Running against the big Democratic political operative Don Perata, Quan actually lost the first round of voting by 11 percentage points.

But with no majority, the second ballots were counted. Quan who campaigned with the third place candidate Rebecca Kaplan, surged ahead of Perata simply by being named on more votes as No.2.

The new rules rule. Perata the pernniel Big Dog machine politician was out. Quan, the city councilwoman was in.

The Quan blueprint will be the Chiu strategy across the Bay in San Francisco. And I thought it was the waxed eyebrows.

For Asian Americans in San Francisco, the list now includes David Chiu and two other Asian American candidates: State Senator Leland Yee and City Assessor Phil Ting.  (Interim Mayor Ed Lee may still announce a run as the incumbent, but he  may be odd man out).

It used to be that one Asian American would split the vote. But with rank choice, you want lots of candidates to create a for sure non-majority. And then you want it to go to the 2nd and 3rd ballot. A free-for-all? Could be. Unless strategists are thinking about the new rules.

So the question will be who teams up with whom?

 Will there be an all-Asian 1-2-3? (Unlikely).

Or will there be an effort to leave any Asian Ameican off the top 3?

Hey, politics is interesting again. The big money can’t control it any longer. But that doesn’t mean someone won’t be out there trying to manipulate things with the new election math.

With new rules come new deal making.  Expect to see it in November.

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