What You Need to Know for Next Tuesday’s Election

While the Democratic primary draws much of the attention, some local races and ballot measures could have a big impact on San Franciscans, too.

For the first time since 2008, California’s presidential primary is once again being held on Super Tuesday — March 3 this year — when 14 states and American Samoa will weigh in on who should appear on the presidential ticket in November. California historically held its primary on Super Tuesday, but it’s moved around over the years to balance concerns over campaign costs vs. California’s influence on the process.

In the presidential race, the Democratic field has narrowed to some six-or-so viable candidates, depending on how you count. And at the local level, voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on several legislative races plus some controversial ballot measures.

So you want to vote in the Democratic Presidential Primary

California has a “half-open” primary, which means if you’re a registered Democrat, or stated No Party Preference when you registered, you can vote for a Democrat running for president. But if you registered as a Republican (or any other political party), no dice. (If you’re a registered Republican, you can vote in the Republican primary — but, uh, long odds there for any candidate other than Trump walking away with the nomination).

Fortunately, if you need to update your party affiliation to vote in the presidential primary of your choice, this year you can change your party registration on Election Day at your polling place right before casting your ballot. If the poll workers hand you a ballot that doesn’t have the presidential primary contest on it that you’re interested in, just let them know you’d like to make a change.

Also new this year, if you aren’t yet registered to vote, you can just show up to your polling place, register right there, and immediately cast a ballot. (Same-day registration was only available at City Hall in previous elections.) If you’re not sure where your voting place is, you can find it at the San Francisco Department of Elections website.

By the time you read this it will be too late to sign up for a vote-by-mail ballot, but not too late to turn yours in. If you have one, fill it out and drop it in the mail posthaste! You can also deliver it to any polling site on Election Day.

Local candidate races

In Congress, Nancy Pelosi is running for her 18th term in the 12th District, which encompasses the majority of the city. She faces two challengers, progressive Democrat Shahid Buttar and Republican John Dennis. Buttar previously challenged Pelosi in the 2018 primary but lost to both Pelosi and a Republican challenger, preventing Buttar under the rules of California’s Top Two primary system from advancing to the general election. Buttar got in the race earlier in the election season this year.

Meanwhile, in the 14th District, Jackie Speier is running for her seventh term and has raised nearly half a million dollars for her re-election campaign. She faces three challengers who, together, have raised less than $20,000. The district includes the southernmost slice of the city and most of the Peninsula, from San Francisco to Redwood City.

At the state Senate level, incumbent Scott Wiener is being challenged from the left by Jackie Fielder, who just entered the race in November, when she had no fixed address and was living out of her van while crashing with friends.

Other state legislature races include incumbent Assemblyman David Chiu, running unopposed, and incumbent Assemblyman Phil Ting, running against a Republican candidate who has raised no money as of press time.

There are also six candidates running for three judgeships in San Francisco Superior Court. It’s rare for voters to have the chance to weigh in on a local judicial race. By and large, judges don’t like taking part in the electoral process  and have a tendency to resign in the middle of a term, allowing the governor to appoint their replacement. And when an incumbent runs for re-election, if there is no challenger, the contest doesn’t appear on the ballot. Four public defenders bucked that tradition two years ago when challenging sitting judges, and this year, two judges retired at the end of their term rather than in the middle, allowing voters to select their replacement.

Ballot measures

There’s only a single statewide measure on the ballot this primary, Proposition 13, a $15 billion bond measure to pay for school and college facilities (not to be confused with the infamous 1978 Prop. 13 related to property taxes that people are talking about 99 percent of the time you hear Prop. 13 referenced). If passed, $9 billion would go to K-12 and preschools, $4 billion would go to public universities, and $2 billion to community colleges. Over 35 years, the bonds are expected to cost a total of $25 billion in principal and interest.

There are also five local ballot measures:

Proposition A: City College is requesting $845 million in bonds to pay for long-needed facilities upgrades. The measure requires a 55 percent majority to pass. 

Proposition B: An earthquake safety bond, authorizing the city to borrow up to $629 million for seismic upgrades on emergency response facilities, such as fire stations, police stations, and the 911 call center. It faces no organized opposition.

Proposition C: The San Francisco Housing Authority was absorbed by the city of San Francisco last year after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development decreed that the agency was so poorly managed that the city needed to take a more direct role in its governance. Some of the employees who worked there prior to the city takeover would like their benefits to function as if there were not a few months blip in terms of who was technically employing them. Doing so requires changing the city charter, hence this proposition. It’s estimated to cost San Francisco less than $100,000 and faces no organized opposition.

Proposition D: Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s proposed storefront vacancy tax, to combat (proponents say) greedy landlords who are holding on to empty commercial locations in hopes of attracting tenants who will pay inflated rents. Storefronts which are vacant for at least half a calendar year would be charged $250 per foot of street-facing real estate. If the storefront is still vacant in a second calendar year, the fine jumps to $500 per foot, and finally $1,000 per foot in a third consecutive calendar year. As a new tax, the measure requires a two-thirds majority to pass.

Proposition E: For years, San Francisco has been failing to meet state-mandated affordable housing goals, while at the same time expanding the amount of office space in the city. Prop. E would tie the two together: If the affordable housing goals are not met one year, the number of large office projects allowed would be decreased by the same percentage the following year, tit-for-tat.

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