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Ed Lee is San Francisco’s first Asian-American mayor

/ 07:01 PM November 12, 2011

San Francisco voters may have largely avoided the polls Tuesday, November 8, but incumbent Ed Lee received enough booth support to earn the victory and become the city’s first elected Asian mayor.

In being elected the city’s first mayor of Chinese descent, Lee not only overcame allegations of improper campaign funding, but also survived the surprisingly low voter turnout across the board in all precincts.

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Only 30 percent of closely 144,000 out of 464,300 registered voters in San Francisco cast their ballots. The indifference worked against most of the 16 candidates for the mayor’s office — including Lee himself, who failed to get 51 percent of the vote, thus putting to work the ranked choice voting system.

Lee said the ranked choice voting confused many voters, alluding to it as one possible reason for the low voter turnout.  Last week, a charter to end the city’s experiment with ranked choice voting was proposed at San Francisco City Hall.

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Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Mark Farrell (who both proposed the repeal) offered as evidence some candidates (including Elsbernd himself) elected without a majority vote.

Curiously, Oakland experimented with the ranked choice voting system in November last year. This year, the Occupy protesters, notably in Oakland, disrupted (and is still disrupting as of this writing) city operations.  Critics cite embattled Oakland Mayor Jean Quan as a risk example of ranked choice voting. Some who did not vote ultimately pointed out to their loss of faith in government, as Greek protesters did in Europe this month.

Lee took 31.5 per cent of the votes against John Avalos’ 18.29 percent and Dennis Herrera’s 11.28 percent, according to the Department of Elections Consolidated Municipal Election summary results.

State Senator Leland Yee, the candidate closest to the Filipino community, garnered only 7.59 percent, about 2,000 votes behind David Chiu’s 9.04 percent.

Some pundits are speculating if the battle could have been closer if more Filipino-Americans cast their votes. Déjà vu Milpitas Mayor Joe Esteves’ run for Supervisor for the Santa Clara County Board in 2008?

Fil-Am candidates gave a better account of themselves in the Consolidated Districts Election in Solano County.

Again, despite a low voter turnout (only about 41,000 voted out of a total registered of about 194,000), retired pastor Tony Ubalde made it as School Board member of the Vallejo City Unified School District, and retired police sergeant Bob Sampayan became a member of the Vallejo City Council.

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Ubalde won 55.42 percent of the votes, outpacing Robert Da Prato’s 42.74 percent , according to the Solano County Consolidated Districts Election summary results.

Ubalde has been a public educator for 40 years. He co-chaired the development of bilingual education and advocated integration in San Francisco public schools in the 1970s. He is serving as a Citizens Oversight Bond commissioner since 1998 in Solano County.

Ubalde will finish the remaining two-year term of School Board member Cris Villanueva, who passed away June this year.

Ubalde campaigned “to provide effective leadership to mitigate the high drop-out rate in the school district, ensuring that every student has equal access to the highest quality education and support collaboration and open communication between students, staff, parents and community.”

Bob Sampayan came close to within striking range of Erin Hannigan’s bid for Vallejo City Council member.  Sampayan had 20 per cent of the vote while Hannigan had 20.04 per cent –a mere 14 votes. He beat third-placed Robert McConnell by about 600 votes.

Fil-Am ex-U.S. Navy and realtor Jesus Malgapo lost by 300 votes to McConnell. With three seats open, Sampayan is a strong second.

Sampayan was born in Ft. Belvoir, Virginia and lived in various parts of the world because of his father’s military postings. He studied at Hartnell Community College in Salinas, then earned his degree at San Jose State University.

His career spans 30 years in law enforcement, not the least of it being 21 years working in every division of the Vallejo PD.  Long-time Vallejo resident and Democratic Party member Eloise Escano Scott explained to FilAm Star why, she thinks, Sampayan won.

“I think that Vallejo voters see that the number one problem, among others, is crime ….  burglaries and the deterioration of peace and order. They need somebody with hands-on experience walking the unsafe streets and dealing with criminal elements.”

A strong proponent for community-based policing, Sampayan did not stop serving the City of Vallejo after his retirement. He continued as  volunteer coordinator for the city’s non-profit Fighting Back Partnership.

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TAGS: America, Asia, California, Ed Lee, San Francisco
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