Interim mayor Mark Farrell will remain in office well beyond the June 5 primary when San Francisco picks its next mayor. Farrell will get an extra five weeks as a lame duck mayor, according to Sunday’s Matier & Ross column in the San Francisco Chronicle, which notes that S.F. Department of Elections must certify the vote count, and that takes weeks. “The earliest date the new mayor could assume office…is likely July 10,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a memo obtained by the Chronicle, which also adds that a recount or close vote could delay the transition even further.
But further on in the same column, Matier & Ross have news that’s music to the ears of the London Breed for Mayor campaign. “Board of Supervisors President London Breed [is] leading the pack, with 28 percent of the first-place votes,” their Sunday roundup says of a new poll. “Former state Sen. Mark Leno came in second with 21 percent, Supervisor Jane Kim scored 17 percent, and former Supervisor Angela Alioto got 8 percent.”
Sounds like Breed is in command of this race! At least, that’s what this poll wants you to think. The poll was commissioned by an outside political action committee (PAC) called San Francisco Fire Fighters Local 798 PAC, which has spent more than $300,000 on TV ads, mailers, and polls that somehow always seem to find London Breed in first place.
SF Weekly loves firefighters, and there’s no reason to doubt the integrity of the firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates who conducted the poll. But it’s important to note that this poll was paid for by a Breed-supporting Super PAC that has spent substantially more money than any other Super PAC involved in this race. (And just received another $50,000 on April 30 from Ron Conway’s favorite Super PAC Progress San Francisco.)
You see completely different results in polls paid for by other candidates’ Super PACs. Back in April, Mission Local flagged a poll that showed Mark Leno with a slight lead — but that poll was paid for by Super PACs that support Leno and Jane Kim.
“The media could handle a little introspection about polling and how to report on it,” Mission Local’s Joe Eskenazi wrote at the time. “In the past, polls paid for by partisan groups or campaigns never went to press, and they weren’t allowed to establish media narratives of who’s fading and surging and winning and losing. Without thorough analysis of these outside polls — which isn’t happening — it’s hard to say if the poll’s results say more about the mood of the electorate or the poll’s own methodology.”
We don’t know much about the methodology of this poll showing Breed ahead by seven percentage points, other than it polled 600 “likely voters” between April 20-23. That is a very small sample. For reference, Department of Elections turnout data says that about 415,000 San Franciscans voted in the most recent election (but that all-time record turnout was for the 2016 presidential race) and 265,000 voted in the most recent 2016 June primary (and that was the Hillary-vs.-Bernie California Democratic primary battle royale).
It’s impossible to predict turnout for an off-year primary race with a special mayor’s election thrown into the mix. And Matier & Ross do note in their writeup that “nearly a third of the voters were still undecided, meaning the race remains way up in the air.”
But these polls may be even less reliable than all the 2016 polls that told us how Hillary Clinton was going to demolish Donald Trump. We can’t say which, if any, of these polls are reliable or accurate — but we have to note the pattern that whichever PAC paid for the poll somehow has their preferred candidate in the lead.
So feel free to ignore these polls that come out in the next month. Just don’t ignore the fact that early voting started today, and the election itself is Tuesday, June 5.