The San Francisco Mayor’s Race, Filipino Americans and Ranked Choice Voting: Some thoughts after moderating a Filipino American community forum

What a difference Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) makes in San Francisco.

I had the privilege to moderate a San Francisco Mayoral Forum for the Filipino American community of San Francisco on Friday.

Normally, politicians are quick to challenge.  Forums used to be like prize fights. All candidates had  to do was speak and their words would clash.

But RCV has turned everyone into pussycats.  No one flashes a fang nor claw, let alone a bucket of mud.

Now it’s all about consensus and working together.  City politics has turned into the parish council.

Even on seemingly the most volatile issue, the funding of San Francisco’s pension system,  all the candidates seem to be for Prop C. , the city plan that makes workers pay more into the fund.  And they’re all against Prop.D, Jeff Adachi’s plan that’s more realistic and goes even further to  assure the city isn’t caught short in the pension fund. It makes workers pay an even greater share.

Still, no one attacks Adachi for being the pension fund solution that billionaires love. Instead,  candidates acknowledge Jeff being out front before anyone else on the issue.

It’s not a left handed compliment. It’s just  a compliment. RCV does that to candidates.

At a group specific forum, there isn’t much more a candidate needs to do besides assure the audience he won’t forget the (FILL IN THE INTEREST GROUP).

Gay, straight,  Lesbian,  Asian, Filipino, Latino, African American. Or any combination thereof.  In San Francisco, there’s a political club for every persuasion.

These events remind the candidates that diversity matters. But any promise made during these things is right up there with proclamations of love after a first date.

What do promises of working with the community on affordable housing, jobs, education, health care really mean at a forum?

Not much. We just have to wait and see.

So what’s the biggest issue of the evening and the most important fact after all is said and done?

The candidates showed up.

And not all did. Of those the coalition wanted to be there, seven came.

That matters.

Mayor Ed Lee?  Not there.  Dennis Herrera? Not there.

That matters.

And there are no good excuses.  It all boils down to someone or something else is more important than our community. 

If that’s the case, then these are the people who cared enough about Filipino Americans to be there on Friday night:

David Chiu, Leland Yee, John Avalos, Phil Ting, Michaela Alioto-Pier, Jeff Adachi, and Joanna Rees .

From a field of 20 or so, we’ve whittled it down to seven.  

With Ranked Choice voting you need to pick 3.  The first two are the most important.

Of the seven at the Filipino forum, I’d say Chiu, Yee, Avalos and Adachi deserve a real look to be the final three on your ballot. Ting is smart but not just right yet. Same goes for Rees. Alioto-Pier? Al Gore loves her, but she’s not ready for prime-time either.

Chiu is smart and smooth. Yee’s been there. Avalos is a progressive’s progressive. Adachi has the smarts and the heart.

So now we see Friday’s real value.You got to see the candidates in the flesh before you fill out your dance card. It’s not so much what was said, but how it was said, and that they were there to say it.

In the end, it all helps make your decision as you ask. “Do I like this person?”  “Do I trust this person to do my business?” “Do I trust this person to lead?”


The way RCV works is everyone’s first ballot vote is counted. If no one has the majority, then the last place candidate is eliminated and that candidate’s second place votes are distributed.  As candidates are eliminated, the second place vote becomes extremely important.

Right now, polls are said to show Interim Mayor Ed Lee with 30-35 percent of the vote, clearly not a majority.  He’ll need to rely on being on more  2nd place votes to get to 51 percent.

If he doesn’t get those 2nd place votes,  then a candidate in the top four may have a chance to sneak in and overtake him. If all the second  place votes are counted and there’s still no majority winner, then the third place votes are counted and distributed.  By then, someone should have a majority and the city has just saved thousands of dollars in having a runoff election, although they may have confused the electorate about the entire process.

But it explains why candidates are so lovey-dovey.  It’s good to be someone’s No.2.