Clearing the Smoke-Filled Room

David Latterman Headshot
Local political consultant and data expert David Latterman

A column from local political consultant and data expert David Latterman explaining the technical side of San Francisco politics.

The buzz around town builds with the beginning of each new campaign cycle. In the fall of an odd-numbered year, the rumors swirl, the teams form, and some candidate starts his or her campaign early and is proclaimed the “frontrunner” just because that person is first. We hear the whispers of dozens of ballot measures being hatched in smoke-filled rooms, and potential candidates size up their chances not just for next year’s races, but all the offices they dream of years down the road.

What may seem like chaos at the beginning of each election cycle is often planned years in advance. The different San Francisco political factions – with their respective slates of candidates and menu of ballot measures – have gamed the system to push their champions and their measures to whatever cycle they feel gives them the best chance of winning.

To the average voter, all the posturing is just noise, if it even reaches their ears. The voter sees the same people time and time again battling over issues that despite decades of debate, never seem to change. Ranked choice voting has brought even more candidates into the fray, and money had flooded the city from many directions to fund any and all ballot measures that proponents wish to concoct.

Meanwhile, knowledgeable insiders are already lining up support or opposition based on tried and true metrics of campaign success.

This column will explore how insiders see the choreographed dance of San Francisco factionalism and campaign skill. Some races of course break down as easily as, “that’s the progressive candidate, and that one isn’t” (District 9, 2016). But with millions of dollars at stake, or one of the few coveted elected offices in San Francisco, insiders and everyday voters alike must carefully consider whom to support, lest a minor misstep backfires on them years later. Political teams race to gain new volunteers and supporters through campaign efforts, but they risk…


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