[Editor’s Note: As of 4pm on 11/16, Engardio has won the race and Mar has conceded.]
On election night, third-year business analytics student Jocelyn Luciani found herself at a crowded election party in the Outer Sunset. After five months of working as a field representative for Joel Engardio’s District Four Supervisor campaign, Luciani spent the night watching television screens, waiting for results that never came.
“I was incredibly nervous,” Luciani said. “On election day, during class, I was like, ‘oh my gosh, all I can think about is going to the campaign party.’ I had envisioned what it would be like if he won. But, we also knew beforehand that on election night, results might not be given, but I hoped.”
In the Outer Sunset, from Golden Gate Park to the San Francisco Zoo, residents of District 4 turned out to vote for their desired supervisor, the person who will represent them in San Francisco’s legislative body. Joel Engardio faced off against incumbent Gordon Mar. Both democratic candidates, Mar and Engardio differed on stances of prosecution and schooling, with Mar being the more progressive of the two.
Votes have been rolling in every day for the past week, since Election Day. The two candidates have been neck and neck, at times with less than 200 votes separating them. As of this story’s publication, no winner has been named, but Engardio has the lead.
As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, since 2002, 90% of incumbent San Francisco supervisors were reelected. No one has unseated an incumbent in two decades.
Luciani has worked 20 hours a week on this campaign since July and has knocked on over 4,000 doors. She is immersed in the world of San Francisco politics and sat down with the Foghorn to discuss her experience working on this highly contested campaign.
“Because Joel was running against an incumbent, it was an extremely difficult battle,” she said. “I initially didn’t know what I was getting into.”
Luciani was hired to the position following a summer internship at Together SF. At the community non-profit organization, she learned about the San Francisco political scene and worked mainly in event planning and management. When they connected her to the Engardio Campaign, she expected to work more on organizational tasks. The reality of canvassing took her by surprise.
“The whole door knocking process was a huge learning curve for me. Initially, my attitude was, ‘Oh my gosh, what did I just sign up for?’ I didn’t realize how scary and vulnerable it was until you’re actually out in the field,” she said.
In the process of canvassing, Luciani noted the stress of being asked questions about San Francisco politics, as she has lived most of her life in St Louis, Missouri. “I was so nervous. There were a few times where people asked me certain questions and since I didn’t know, I had to refer them to Joel’s website. It made me realize I had to do a lot of research and really get comfortable with San Francisco politics.”
After five months of speaking with Sunset residents for 20 hours every week, Luciani found a new confidence and passion for politics in the city. “It was really powerful, hearing people’s stories about how they were personally being affected by policy.”
The cruxes of Engardio’s campaign were safety, prosecution, and resources for schools — all of which were things Luciani found in her conversations with voters.
“Some of the coolest conversations were with people who had lived in the Sunset for like, 40, 50 years. Some people related to me, they were like, ‘Oh, I used to canvas. I know how hard it is,’ and offered me water. They were really sweet,” she said. “Then, there were other good talks that were challenging for me, because they were asking me a lot of questions about my beliefs.”
Luciani used her skills in business analytics to find statistical ways to gain voters. She began to accumulate more responsibilities as the campaign progressed. She said that one of her favorite moments was organizing an ice cream social, where families met Engardio. Speaking with people outside of the Hilltop helped her feel more integrated into the culture of San Francisco, she said.
She also learned more about the campaign from the people she interacted with at these events. “Most of the volunteers on Joel’s campaign were parents, and I think that’s really reflective of what type of campaign he was running. It was an actual representation of who lives in the Sunset and like all the different demographics, so I think it did connect me, but also made me kind of sad, because since I don’t live in the sunset, but I can’t vote for him.”
There were some challenges, she noted, such as the fact that so much of the Sunset’s population is Chinese speaking, and Engardio is not fluent. Because his husband is from Taiwan, the campaign staff were able to speak with the community at events. These are gaps they hope to supplement should Engardio take office.
At the time of writing, it is likely that Engardio will take this election, becoming the first candidate to usurp an incumbent supervisor since 2002. If so, Luciani is thinking about accepting a position on his staff at City Hall. She will also be participating in the McCarthy Fellows in San Francisco program in fall of 2023.
“In my experience with Joel’s campaign, I’ve found what I actually am passionate about doing, at least for now. I’m definitely interested in a career in public service,” she said. “It’s made me appreciate what work politicians are doing. I’ve seen the real work of what people can do if they put their minds together.”
Megan Robertson is the Foghorn’s news editor and a third-year media studies and performing arts and social justice double major. She covers breaking campus news and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.