London Breed appeared on track to become San Francisco’s first African-American female mayor—until a deal struck between her rivals used the city’s unusual election system to put her historic run on hold.
Breed had an early lead in the race until the city’s ranked-choice voting system pushed her top rival Mark Leno into first place early Wednesday morning, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The city uses an election system called ranked-choice voting (RCV) in which voters select their top three choices in a race. It’s an automatic runoff system that’s triggered when a candidate fails to win a majority of the votes. The candidates with the least votes are eliminated in rounds until there’s a winner.
On Tuesday night, Breed led her opponents with 35.6 percent of the vote. Leno had 25.9 percent, and Jane Kim won 22.8 percent. However, during the campaign, Leno and Kim agreed to ask each other’s supporters to list the other as their second-place choice, according to the Chronicle. Consequently, Leno, a former state senator, received 77 percent of Kim’s second-place votes.
By early Wednesday morning, Leno had 50.42 percent of the vote, and Breed found herself in second place with 49.58 percent. Election officials are expected to declare a winner by Friday after counting all outstanding ballots.
San Francisco adopted the RCV voting system in 2004, but this is the first time that it will impact a mayoral race. Municipalities across seven states currently utilize the system, according to Ballotpedia.
To many of Breed’s supporters, it appears that there’s an ongoing scheme to prevent her from becoming mayor.
The winner of Tuesday’s special election will complete former Mayor Ed Lee’s term, which ends in January 2020. Lee died unexpectedly in December, and Breed, as president of the Board of Supervisors, automatically became interim mayor.
However, she was yanked from serving as mayor a few week later when the Board of Supervisors voted 6-3 to remove her from the city government’s executive office. Breed’s colleagues who voted to oust her argued that she had too much power to hold both the mayor’s office and serve as a supervisor.