UPDATE: Preston Leads Insanely Close Supervisor Race, Again

Uncertainty reigns as thousands of votes remain uncounted and ranked-choice calculations have to be made.

UPDATE, 11/7 4:15 p.m.: Dean Preston is narrowly winning the race for District 5 supervisor, with an even smaller lead than Vallie Brown. Thursday’s round of election results show he leads by 35 votes thanks to ranked-choice voting.

“We are hopeful and of course so so so cautiously optimistic,” said Preston campaign manager Jen Snyder in a text. “Sounds like there are still thousands more votes to go through so everybody keep those fingers crossed!”

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As of Wednesday afternoon, incumbent Supervisor Vallie Brown took a narrow lead over challenger Dean Preston, a tenant advocate and democratic socialist. She sits with 50.3 percent of the vote to Preston’s 49.7 percent — a scant 88 votes.

“I’m waiting,” Brown said on Tuesday night. “I always say when you run (for office), you should always run scared.”

The first round of results before 9 p.m. was favorable to Brown, who had 54.4 percent to Preston’s 45.5 percent with ranked-choice voting calculated in. But that was expected for initial results, as early vote-by-mail ballots skew moderate. By the end of the night, Preston held a razor-thin lead of 50.86 percent to 49.14 percent, just 218 votes.

There are 57,000 votes left to count throughout the city and 13,000 are provisional ballots that take more time to verify. It could be several more days until a tally brings enough confidence for one campaign or another.

“Thank you all for fighting this fight with us,” Preston said to supporters last night with a similarly narrow lead. “We don’t know what will come of it, but we do know we’re going to fight, we’re going to fight to make sure that every vote is counted, and at the end of that I am confident and optimistic that we will win.”

If the lead holds, progressives would fall just short of a veto-proof majority on the Board of Supervisors. Voters would also validate Brown’s appointment by Breed, who vacated the seat for the mayor’s office.

Brown is a longtime District 5 community activist who served as a legislative aide to Breed and predecessor Ross Mirkarimi. She received praise for spearheading an RV triage center, informed by her own experience with homelessness, and pressuring the SFMTA to better compensate Muni operators amid a shortage linked to slow service.

Brown was also notably alone in supporting state Sen. Scott Wiener’s Senate Bill 50 targeting housing production while opposing oversight of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. In the final weeks of the election, she faced backlash for evicting tenants 25 years ago in a story first reported by SF Weekly then falsely asserting that they didn’t pay rent.

Preston, on the other hand, ran against Breed in 2016 and narrowly lost. Three years later, he had name recognition and a larger army of volunteers to his advantage in a district he feels is ready for big, bold change. He’s known for founding Tenants Together and writing last year’s Proposition F to city-funded legal counsel for tenants facing eviction.

Supervisors Hillary Ronen, who also identifies as a democratic socialist supported Preston over Brown for his approach to legislating.

“The question is do you want big, bold, radical change or do you want the slow, incremental change?” Ronen asked at Preston’s election night party.

As of Wednesday afternoon, District 5 is sticking with the latter.

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