Janice Li Ahead in Landmark BART Board Race

While results aren't yet final, it appears likely that Li will be the first woman to hold the District 8 BART Board seat, ever.

(Photo: Kevin N. Hume)

Across the nation Wednesday progressives are cheering for the sweeping wins conducted by women of color. Two Native American women, a Somali-American woman, and a first-generation Palestinian immigrant woman will hold seats in Congress. Ayanna Pressley is Massachusetts’ first Black congresswoman, and Jahana Hayes is Connecticut’s. Michelle Lujan Grisham is New Mexico’s first Latina governor, and Marsha Blackburn is Tennessee’s first woman elected to Congress ever. Across the board, women of color are sweeping the polls. 

Here in San Francisco, we’ve generally done a good job at voting in a diverse pool of elected officials — but there are still firsts happening in our city today. Ballots are still being counted, but it appears that candidate Janice Li has a big enough lead that she’s secured the District 8 seat on the BART Board. While the race has received less press than the hotly-contested supervisor races, Li’s win is no small feat: She’s the first woman to hold the seat, and she’s Asian, and queer. As of 1:15 a.m. this morning, the Department of Elections reports that Li has won 22,515 votes, accounting for 29.66 percent of all ballots counted thus far.

“I never thought I was going to run for office, but here I am,” Li said at El Rio Tuesday night, as results rolled in. “All of you out here, if you have ever considered running for office, fucking do it! If you are young, and you are queer, and you are a person of color, and you are doubting yourself, just do it.”

Li has run her platform on progressive policy measures for the massive transportation network. Affordability is a top concern, and she pledges to create a monthly pass for BART — something that’s such a no-brainer it’s shocking it doesn’t already exist. On top of that, she told SF Weekly earlier this year that she plans to tackle the  “absurd and racist” fare evasion fine system which costs BART $62,000 each month. 

And she has a strong background in transportation. She served on the city’s Transportation Task Force, reviewing how to fund the next two decades of transportation infrastructure. She’s also a long-time employee of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, currently holding the position of advocacy director.

In second place behind Li is candidate Eva Chao, who has secured 15,563, or 20.50 percent of the vote. Radically opposite from Li, Chao is a Republican and secured an endorsement from the San Francisco Republican Party for this race. 

Melanie Nutter, who secured the high-profile endorsements of Mayor London Breed, State Senator Scott Wiener, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Assemblymember David Chiu, and Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu, hasn’t done as well. She holds third place, with  13,908, or 18.32 percent of the votes. 

The BART District 8 seat encompasses a piecemeal stretch of San Francisco, including North Beach, Richmond and Sunset, the Marina, Ingleside, and Crocker-Amazon. The seat was previously held by Nick Josefowitz, who surrendered it to run for District 2 supervisor. Based on current polling results, it appears he was unsuccessful. 

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