SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Supervisor London Breed emerged victorious a week after Election Day to become the city’s first African-American woman elected mayor, narrowly defeating a rival who was seeking to become the first openly gay man in the position.
Former state Sen. Mark Leno called Breed earlier Wednesday to congratulate her on the victory.
The elections office continues to tally roughly 7,000 ballots, but there is no way Leno can make up the difference. On Wednesday, Breed was leading Leno by fewer than 2,200 votes of nearly 250,000 counted and had 50.49 percent of the vote.
In a brief appearance before reporters and cheering supporters on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday, an exuberant Breed said she was humbled, honored and looking forward to serving as mayor.
In particular, she relished the message her election sends to San Francisco’s youth, especially kids like herself who grew up poor.
“No matter where you come from, no matter what you decide to do in life, you can do anything you want to do,” she said. “Never let your circumstances determine your outcome in life.”
Breed vowed to be mayor for all of San Francisco, a message she repeated throughout her bid to lead a city that is economically thriving but mired in homelessness, congestion and unaffordable homes. She has vowed to rid the sidewalks of homeless tent camps within a year of taking office.
Turnout exceeded 50 percent— unusually high for recent mayoral elections— in a contest that was placed on the June 5 ballot after the unexpected death of Mayor Ed Lee in December.
Breed will fill the rest of Lee’s term, which ends in early 2020, and will need to run in November 2019 for a full four-year term.
Breed consistently maintained her lead in first-place votes, but San Francisco uses a unique ranked-choice voting system that allows voters to pick their top three for mayor.
Leno and Supervisor Jane Kim asked their supporters to pick the other as their No.2, saying that Breed represented the status quo that had made San Francisco so inequitable. All three are Democrats.
Breed was the favorite of the business and political establishment communities going into the contest. She raised the most money of the candidates with the help of contributions from big backers.
Earlier in the day, Leno told reporters crammed into his tiny print shop that he had a positive conversation with Breed and that “she is going to do a very fine job. Her success is San Francisco’s success.”
Leno, 66, did not rule out a future run for office and thanked voters for exceeding low turnout expectations.
“This was a campaign about change, a campaign about the betterment of the great city of San Francisco,” he said.
The portrayals of her as a lackey of big business bugged Breed, who first won a supervisor’s seat in 2012.
“I ask people to not attribute what I’ve done —my success and how hard I’ve worked— to not reduce that or attribute that to someone else,” Breed told the AP in a pre-election interview.
The former executive director of the African American Art & Culture Complex grew up in the historically black Western Addition, raised by her grandmother in public housing. They drank powdered milk and ate meat from a can labeled “pork,” she said.
At City Hall, she paid homage to her late grandmother and said she probably had a hand in her win.
“She took care of the community, she took care of me even on days when I didn’t deserve it, and so being here in her honor means so much,” she said.
Associated Press reporter Lorin Eleni Gill contributed to this report.