Commentary: Jenkins Has a Big Lead in SF – Or Does She?

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

San Francisco, CA – Brooke Jenkins rolled out a new poll that shows she’s up by more than 20 points over her nearest opponent, and thus would easily secure a majority of voters if the election were held today.

”We are not taking anything for granted and will keep spreading our message of restoring accountability and safety back to San Francisco to voters in every neighborhood,” said District Attorney Brooke Jenkins in a campaign release.

She added, “I am working every day to help get our city back on the right track by holding drug dealers and those who commit property and violent crime accountable and by ensuring more people feel safe, especially seniors and the AAPI community. On my watch, criminals are facing punishment for their malicious actions and we are advancing smart reforms to make our criminal justice system more fair and equitable.”

While I believe at this point Brooke Jenkins should be considered a clear favorite, I would be a little more hesitant, given this poll and what it actually shows.

I would not consider myself a poll skeptic, however, one must understand what they are reading.

In the release, they note, “The findings in this polling memo come from a mixed mode telephone and email- and text-to web survey conducted August 28 to September 1, 2022, by EMC Research among 400 likely November 2022 voters in San Francisco.”

So let me quickly get into three very important notes of caution.

First and foremost—this is an internal poll.  It was a poll commissioned by the campaign.  EMC Research, by the way, also did a poll for the Recall Campaign (which probably should add to the notion that the two are connected, but that’s a column for another day).

In March, EMC put out a poll that showed the recall would succeed with 68 percent of the voters supporting it.  By the time they cast their ballots, they recalled Chesa Boudin, but by a narrower 55-45 margin.

Is that a polling inaccuracy or did the results tighten considerably over the last three months?  Perhaps a bit of both.

Second, the poll started on August 28 actually came about two to three weeks after John Hamasaki entered the race as a first-time candidate.

Hamasaki tweeted, “Honestly amazing to be at 26% in a poll taken 2-3 weeks after jumping into the race as a first-time candidate.”

He also pointed out, “The other good news in this poll is that 60% of voters were not aware of my candidacy, which means the interim DA is probably tapped out on support, where I have 60% to gain.”

Finally, and perhaps most importantly despite the fact that this was an internal poll, despite the fact that Hamasaki was far less known than the appointed incumbent who had been receiving a ton of media coverage for months, Brooke Jenkins actually polled below 50%—granted it was 49% percent, but, still.

It is always a flashing warning sign when an incumbent early on polls under 50 percent.  That’s all the more the case in San Francisco, where you need 50 percent to avoid instant runoff implications from choice voting.

So while I continue to believe that Brooke Jenkins is the frontrunner, she’s not in nearly as strong a position as the polling results suggest.

What that suggests is that this race is not over and if John Hamasaki, who is second with 26 percent, can get his message out, he has a chance to close that gap.

All of which makes the op-ed put out by Lincoln Mitchell of the San Francisco Examiner even more pertinent.  How serious a scandal is the fact that Jenkins, who claimed to be volunteer, received a huge volume of money from a non-profit that shared the same name as the recall campaign?

Mitchell argues this could have implications for Mayor London Breed as well.

Mitchell writes, “Breed’s decision to appoint a DA more in the political center and less committed to reforming the criminal justice system than Boudin was entirely expected and reasonable. Nonetheless, the current scandal around Jenkins reflects very poorly on the mayor.”

As I have noted and opponent John Hamasaki has as well, had Breed simply appointed someone who was more aligned with her vision of the criminal justice system, everyone would have kind of moved on.  By selecting one of the faces of the recall, Breed threw gas on the fire—or poured salt in the wounds of reformers.

This is not incidental to the problem: the fact that Jenkins “was a paid consultant for Neighbors for a Better San Francisco, an organization closely tied to, and sharing a similar name, address and donor base with Neighbors for a Better San Francisco Advocacy. The latter organization was a strong backer of the Boudin recall” is kind of a huge problem now.

Mitchell notes, “Jenkins has asserted that her consulting work will not influence her views or actions as district attorney. That is probably true, but it’s also not the point.”  More important, “What’s relevant is that Jenkins essentially misled people during the recall effort by claiming to be a volunteer, while being paid by an organization only a few steps removed from the recall effort.”

And that’s actually a charitable reading of the situation.

As Mitchell further notes, “Jenkins’ path to the DA’s Office just seems kind of sketchy—she broke with Boudin, built close relationships with wealthy donors who paid her while she was presenting herself as a volunteer and then got herself appointed by the mayor. Those actions do not scream independence from the mayor or strong ethics.”

The basic problem now is that Breed is really now married to Jenkins.

Writes Mitchell: “The effort to recall Boudin presented Breed with an opportunity to both consolidate her political power and align key parts of San Francisco government with her goals and strategies. Instead, it has backfired.”

When I initially read the column, I thought the idea that the appointment backfired was a bit premature, but, having seen the poll, I think this is going to be a lot more interesting than I originally thought.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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