By Zach Drucker
The abnormally busy election season continues in San Francisco as the City holds its third election of the year on Tuesday, June 7. With so much going on in San Francisco politics lately, from the drama-filled redistricting process to the District 17 Assembly race, the upcoming June election might have appeared as an afterthought to the media and public. That should change quickly, however, as ballots are mailed out on May 9 and San Francisco voters gear up to make some tough decisions.
WHAT’S AT STAKE IN THE SAN FRANCISCO JUNE 2022 ELECTION?
The upcoming statewide primary election will offer San Francisco voters no shortage of choices that will significantly impact the City and state. The topic that will most certainly take center stage over the next couple of months, however, will center on the recall election of District Attorney Chesa Boudin. As the recall election turns into a contentious referendum on the state of public safety in San Francisco, it has also become a litmus test for cities around the country regarding the ways voters view progressive district attorneys. Needless to say, the results of the recall could have widespread ramifications.
Shifting to candidate races, the only position up for grabs is for the next San FranciscoCity Attorney, where the recently-appointed City Attorney David Chiu is running unopposed. If—and when— he wins, David Chiu will carry out the rest of his predecessor’s term and face reelection in November 2023. The rest of the candidate races in San Francisco will be primaries for the House of Representatives, California State Senate, California State Assembly (yes, even for Assembly District 17), and Board of Equalization. For statewide races, San Francisco voters will join other Californians in weighing in on primaries for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Controller, Treasurer, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, and State Superintendent.
As a reminder (or if you are new to California), California has a top-two primary, meaning the top two vote-getters in the primary will be on the ballot in the November general election, even if they are both from the same party.
San Francisco voters will also decide on seven local ballot measures alongside the recall—the question of whether to recall District Attorney Boudin will appear as Proposition H—on the June 2022 ballot. While these measures cover a wide range of issues, from a bond that funds MUNI repairs and improvements to an ordinance that reigns in Recology’s rates-setting process, sf.citi wanted to highlight two measures that focus on the way the City government operates: Proposition C: Recall Timelines and Vacancy Process and Proposition E: Behested Payments. If these two measures pass and their intended goals are met, they could help curb government corruption and abuses of power in City Hall.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PROPOSITION C: RECALL TIMELINES AND VACANCY PROCESS?
What is the purpose of the measure? After only one successful recall reached San Francisco voters in the past 100 years (Mayor Dianne Feinstein in 1983), voters will see two recall elections on the ballot in 2022. This sudden success of recall campaigns in San Francisco has concerned some city officials. In response, Supervisor Aaron Peskin authored Proposition C to add more oversight and guardrails to the recall process.
What will the measure do? Proposition C is a charter amendment that would change the rules for recall elections in San Francisco. The measure would make elected officials eligible to be recalled after their first 12 months in office, an increase from the current six months. It would also ban recalls from taking place if the official’s term ends within 12 months, whether they are eligible for reelection or not. Effectively, this measure creates a two-year window in which an elected official in San Francisco can be recalled. For example, under this measure, the recall election of three Board of Education members in February of this year would have been barred since the members would have been up for reelection in November 2022.
The other main change from Proposition C involves reforming the mayoral appointees. While the mayor would still appoint replacements after a successful recall under this measure, those replacements would not be permitted to run for that office in the next scheduled election—thus creating a lame duck official from day one. And if the mayor happens to be recalled, the President of the Board of Supervisors would become acting mayor until the full Board of Supervisors chooses an interim.
This measure applies to all elected citywide positions: mayor, assessor-recorder, city attorney, district attorney, public defender, sheriff, treasurer, Board of Education, Board of Supervisors, and Community College District Board of Trustees.
Talk to me about the $$$. This measure does not involve a monetary component. but according to Supervisor Peskin, it could help the City save money. This year’s recall elections have already cost taxpayers $3.25 million. However, it’s hard to say how much money this will save the City since the only recent recall election before this year was in 1983.
How will it affect me? As a change to the City’s electoral process, the effect on San Francisco residents is hard to nail down. Proponents of the measure see these changes as a way to protect against outsized and out-of-town spending, while opponents of the measure think these changes will weaken the people’s voice in local government.
How many votes does the measure need? This charter amendment only requires a simple majority of 50 percent plus one to pass. It would go into effect immediately and any interim official appointed to fill a vacancy created by a recall election held on or after June 7, 2022, cannot run in the subsequent vacancy election—which means, that if this measure passes and District Attorney Boudin is recalled, Mayor Breed’s appointee could not run in the following election for district attorney.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PROPOSITION E: BEHESTED PAYMENTS?
What is the purpose of the measure? After the arrest of former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru in January 2020, federal prosecutors uncovered a deeply entrenched pay-to-play culture in City Hall. The ongoing federal probe has led to eight-high ranking officials resigning and several executives and politicos being charged with corruption.
Proposition E is a direct response to this recent wave of corruption in San Francisco. By cracking down on loopholes in local fundraising laws, the measure hopes to end quid pro quo behavior and fix public trust in City Hall.
What will the measure do? Hailed as anti-corruption legislation, Proposition E would expand the prohibition on soliciting behested payments—a payment made at the behest of an official for a legislative, governmental, or charitable purpose.
As the law currently stands, San Francisco elected and appointed officials are barred from directly receiving donations and gifts. City officials, however, can solicit donations from individuals as long as the payment is made on their behalf to a third-party organization such as a nonprofit, otherwise known as a behested payment.
State and local laws require elected officials to report behested payments, but only if the amount exceeds $5,000. Appointed officials, on the other hand, are completely exempt from reporting a behested payment. This means that city officials can legally solicit donations from individuals who have business with city officials or registered lobbyists as long as it’s to a third party.
Proposition E would completely overhaul the current behested payments system by banning appointed or elected officials from soliciting donations to nonprofits from interested parties, including registered lobbyists, city contractors, and other individuals who seek to influence them.
The measure also requires future amendments to local behested payment restrictions to receive approval by the Ethics Commission and a super-majority approval by the Board of Supervisors.
Talk to me about the $$$. While Proposition E focuses on payments to City officials, this measure does not involve a monetary component.
How will it affect me? Unless you work directly with government officials, this measure is unlikely to have a direct impact on your day-to-day life. But according to the measure’s proponents, if the measure passes, it could help restore public trust and confidence in City Hall.
How many votes does the measure need? As a city ordinance, this measure only requires a simple majority —50 percent plus one — to pass and would go into effect ten days after the vote is certified.
WHAT TO EXPECT NEXT BEFORE JUNE 2022 IN SAN FRANCISCO?
As the onslaught of campaign coverage continues with the third election of the year, we understand how difficult it is to keep up with the new wave of races on the ballot. To make it as easy as possible for you to get prepared for the San Francisco June 2022 election, sf.citi will release our usual voter guide with insights and detailed explanations about each of the seven ballot measures. Stay tuned as we launch it in the coming weeks to help you make well-informed decisions on local issues. You can also read up on San Francisco elections in our SF Politics 101 guide to San Francisco government—now free to view for everyone!
Voting is the easiest way to participate in local democracy. Make sure to register to vote.