Dog Bites

You know, there's an election -- hey! -- we said there's a local election coming up

The Silly Season

We just can't focus on anything. There's way too much going on this week; even if we didn't already suffer from what we think must be a mild case of attention deficit disorder we would be overwhelmed with it all. Two new newspapers! A slew of new court rulings in Florida! Maybe, though probably not, a new president! The official departure, however temporary, of El Niño and La Niña! All Chris Matthews, all the time! Plus, the holiday that in our opinion is the very best of the year, enjoying a solid 8 percent lead over Christmas in the Dog Bites popular vote!

We, like many San Franciscans, are, quite naturally, a little giddy at the prospect of a bulked-up Hearst-owned Chronicle* and the debut of the Fangxaminer, on top of such seasonal treats as turkey, touch football, the pecan pie we've undertaken to contribute to the festivities, and Billy Dee Williams in a cravat hosting the Star Wars marathon while everyone recites, If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine. We can't wait we can't wait we can't wait!

However. Though the traffic jam outside Trader Joe's is enough to make a Range Rover-driving Sea Cliff soccer mom fling one of her Nokias at someone, and though the annual zinfandel-vs.-Beaujolais-nouveau question of turkey-accompaniment is indeed vexing, and though the lampposts are still bristling with campaign signs from the last election -- "No on N!" -- and we're already struggling to remember: Which one was N again? Dog Bites must ask: Uh, aren't we supposed to be having a runoff around here?

Because, abruptly, everyone seems to have lost interest in the local electoral process. Certainly, the topic of missing Palm Beach chads is a compelling one -- you'll get no argument from us there! -- but we're a little disconcerted that it has so thoroughly eclipsed the fact that nine of 11 seats on our Board of Supervisors are still up for grabs. And after all the initial excitement over district elections, too!

"It's a problem," says District 11 candidate Gerardo Sandoval, who got 29.3 percent of his district's vote, compared with incumbent Supervisor Amos Brown's 26.6. "People do not even know there's a runoff."

Sandoval thinks the local media has "dropped the ball" on covering city elections; in his district, he says, lack of awareness of the upcoming runoff "is multiplied in the non-English-speaking communities."

Over in North Beach, many voters also seem to be assuming the election was decided last time around. "The worst thing that happens to me is when I walk down the street and people say, "Congratulations, Mr. Supervisor,'" says high-profile District 3 candidate Aaron Peskin. "I say, "Whoa, I got 38 percent of the vote, but I didn't win.'"

Our theory is that most people can only think about politics so much during the average day, especially when they're also trying to schedule time to refrigerate the pastry dough before rolling it out; the combination of a heavy meal and a heavy application of eye shadow by the Florida secretary of state is enough to make many otherwise conscientious participants in democracy bury themselves in InStyle's special entertaining issue.

At this point, though, you have to wonder whether anyone at all is going to be able to overcome election fatigue and drag him- or herself to the polls on Dec. 12. "In my district, it could be as low as 4,000 or 5,000 voters deciding who the next supervisor is going to be," comments District 6 hopeful Chris Daly. "Unfortunately, a lower turnout will benefit my competitor."

Chris Hayashi, the city Department of Elections' media rep, says the city does expect a lower turnout for the runoff, but that more exact forecasting is not her purview. "If it's raining, it'll be less. That's my prediction," she says. Meanwhile, work from the last election drags on. "All we do around here is count ballots," says Hayashi.

According to Sandoval, that's part of the problem. "The Department of Elections has taken way too long to release the vote counts," he says. "That's having a trickle-down effect in getting out voter information, absentee ballots, and so on."

Hayashi says the process has been held up by the close result in District 8, where Mark Leno will likely face a runoff with Eileen Hansen, but voter information pamphlets are now at the printer and will begin trickling into the mail probably by the end of the week. "You can't put half a million pieces in the mail all at once," she says. "And yes, the absentee ballots are going forward."

Meanwhile, it must be discouraging to be a candidate. Daly, who recently held a press conference to announce that he'd picked up endorsements from John Burton, Gavin Newsom, and Tom Ammiano, among others, says he got no media coverage of the event at all.

Then again, maybe we're looking at this the wrong way. Maybe we should, at Thanksgiving, be grateful for this respite from campaign fliers and negative advertising. Realistically, it's likely to be a brief one. "After Thanksgiving, as soon as everyone's down at the Macy's sale, that's when it will start again," Peskin predicts. "Everybody'll come back and find a stack of mail."

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