State Assemblyman Leland Yee was the apparent victor in the bitter 8th Senate District Democratic primary race, besting Mike Nevin and Lou Papan in a district that straddles San Francisco and San Mateo counties. With almost all the votes counted, Yee was leading with 50 percent and is likely to take the seat in the November general election against Michael Skipakevich, the winner of the Republican primary.
Nevin garnered 36.4 percent of the vote and Papan 13.6.
Strident bickering marked the contest over who would fill the seat left by outgoing state Sen. Jackie Speier, who was forced out by term limits. There is a history of bad blood between Nevin, a former San Mateo County supervisor, and Papan, a former state Assemblyman.
Locked out of running in the 2002 District 19 Assembly race by a change in borders that excluded his Daly City home, Nevin supported the victorious Gene Mullin against Papan’s daughter, Gina Papan. Nevin’s supporters said Papan ran this year as payback.
Nevin and Yee were favored because of their more recent political careers and their bigger fundraising efforts. Nevin had raised roughly $211,000 and spent $628,000 between March 18 and May 20, and Yee had raised roughly $286,000 and spent $547,000 in the same period. Papan had not broken $100,000 and spent less than $300,000 by May 20.
Nevin’s campaign has accused Yee of taking money from special interests, particularly the plastics industry after he voted against banning certain plastics in children’s toys. Yee’s campaign in turn accused Nevin of acting as a lobbyist while an elected official and brought up a dropped 1975 indictment on voter fraud. But on election night, Yee said he considers Nevin a friend.
Some speculated that, with Nevin and Papan dividing the Peninsula vote, Yee would benefit as the natural choice of The City’s voters; he is well-known former San Francisco supervisor with a strong record on children’s issues. That happened: Yee prevailed strongly in San Francisco but trailed Nevin in San Mateo County, where Papan made a strong minority showing. But Yee won by a wider margin than Papan’s percentage of the votes overall.
Yee’s victory came despite Nevin’s series of powerful endorsements, among them Speier herself, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and several newspapers. The support from high-ranking party members meant the campaign relied on hardcore Democratic voters who turn out for every election, Nevin campaign manager Seamus Murphy said.
In contrast, Yee relied on shoe leather, campaign manager Janelle Beland said.
"For the last year or so, we have developed a strong field operation. I went and spoke to thousands of individuals, talked them personally or by phone," Yee said. "People understand that Leland Yee is known for being an effective leader on children’s issues, mental health, education and the environment."