Latino Voters Are Winners in SF Mayoral Election

Latino Voters Are Winners in SF Mayoral Election

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Editor's Note: San Francisco's mayoral election has garnered national media attention over the possibility that the city could elect its first Asian-American mayor. But Latino voters here are celebrating that two Latino candidates were also in the running.

Chinese-American interim mayor Ed Lee is leading in San Francisco’s mayoral election, but two Latino candidates are close behind, representing a political victory for Latinos in the city.

John Avalos, a member of the Board of Supervisors for San Francisco’s District 11, and Dennis Herrera, former city attorney, are close to potential victory as ballots conintue to be counted in the ranked-choice election.

"We are waiting until every vote is counted, but we are optimistic about the upward trend we're seeing with our numbers," Avalos told EFE. Avalos is currently in second place, 13 points behind Lee, who leads the count with 31 percent of the vote. Dennis Herrera is in third place.

"We are happy to have defied expectations and finished higher than anyone expected," Avalos said.

Lee took office in January on an interim basis when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom became the lieutenant governor of California.

"It is very important for Hispanics to see other Latinos as their representatives," said Avalos, who added that he is waiting to see the Latino turnout numbers in Tuesday’s vote and says he will “continue to advocate for the civic participation of Latinos in San Francisco."

One of Avalos’ campaign goals was to convince as many Latinos as he could to get out and vote in San Francisco’s mayoral elections. He and his supporters were able to establish a strong network in the Latino neighborhoods of the Mission and Excelsior.

A total of 16 candidates ran in the mayoral election: 10 Democrats, three Republicans, two Independents and a Green Party candidate.

"It’s very important that the government officials reflect the population of the city they govern," said Cuban American Yvonne Mere, a civil lawyer in San Francisco.

"The Latino vote is important in San Francisco and in all general elections in California, and the fact that we have Dennis Herrera and John Avalos participating in the elections (for mayor) means that Latinos are gaining power," she said.

According to 2010 census data, San Francisco has a population of approximately 805,235 inhabitants. Forty-two percent are white, 33 percent are Asian American, 15 percent are Hispanic, and 6 percent are African American. 

"For Latinos to see one of our own among the possible winners of the mayor's voice means that the Latino voice is part of the government and that sets an example for other Latinos to compete for positions of power," said Mere.

Avalos is a third-generation Mexican American, the son of a port worker and business manager, the first among seven children who was able to go to college.

He has a Masters in social work from San Francisco State University.

Herrera is a lawyer by profession who went to Villanova in Philadelphia and George Washington University in Washington, D.C. His father is a psychiatrist who immigrated from Colombia to Long Island, N.Y., where he met his mother, the daughter of Italian immigrants.

"I voted for Dennis Herrera, but I believe that Hispanic candidates like him and Avalos have the values that I have as a Latina," said Mere.

"I’ve seen both of them fight for the issues that matter to Latinos and I'm sure they will continue to fight."

Read El Mensajero's interview with John Avalos.