Unlike Kelly, 51, who announced his campaign in February, Tran admits that her "very late entry" into the race was a "quick decision". At least for now, she seems less prepared to make a run than she did four years ago, but given her strong third place finish in 2010, the 67 year-old Tran could become a viable candidate if she applies herself over the next six months. A recent 2:30AM email from her indicates she knows that she has to "work extra hard now."
Interestingly, in posting her message to Nextdoor announcing her withdrawal from the race, Diane Wesley-Smith also announced the creation of what she calls a "United Front" of Marlene Tran, Ed Donaldson, and Tony Kelly against Malia Cohen. Although perfectly fine to do, if they truly wanted to show a united front, wouldn't rallying behind the most viable candidate be the best way to do that? Wesley-Smith's action of pulling out makes the most sense, while Tran and Donaldson appear to be spending time, energy, and possibly public money running campaigns they must know are at best long-shots to win. Why not endorse Kelly and energize their respective bases to raise money and vote for him in the #1 slot? Although it'll get their respective issues out in front of voters, instead of showing unity, this strategy may come across as fractious and even vain on their part. On the other hand, this "united front" may be their way to help Kelly engage communities where he has a perceived or real racial and/or linguistic barrier in connecting with voters who look up to Tran and Donaldson and whose appeal could help get voters to the polls. The collective wisdom of the candidates may be that Kelly has a better shot at getting a #2 vote on a Tran or Donaldson ballot than he would getting a #1 vote if it were just him up against Cohen.
Playing a purely hypothetical numbers game, in 2010 20550 voters cast ballots in the Supervisor race (I'll keep Ed Donaldson out of my calculations, as he garnered less than 1% of the total vote in 2010 and his influence on the race this year seems limited). Of those, 3330 voted Tran in the #1, 2, or 3 slot. If we assume a similar vote total in 2014, and if votes follow the same pattern as the second-to-last round of RCV in 2010, with just three main candidates we'd have Cohen 7850, Kelly 6658, and Tran 6206. If a similar proportion of Tran's votes were to go to Kelly and Cohen as they did in 2010, then Kelly would pick up about 60% and Cohen 40%. This would put them neck-and-neck, with only 50 votes between the two.
But 2010 was a race in which there was no incumbent, and everyone was, to a degree, and unknown entity. Today we have to ask, what is Cohen's incumbency advantage? The fact that she is addressed as "District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen" at every event she attends should give her an advantage. Successes such as the new Grocery Outlet store and a preliminary agreement to put 1700 affordable homes at Schlage Lock in Visitacion Valley should help her. But if opponents are to be believed, Cohen negatives outweigh her positives, and she may be so unpopular as to not have an advantage at all. Issues like her support for redistricting Potrero Hill out of D10, Fresh & Easy closing down its Bayview store, and lack of support from many city leaders regarding a homeless shelter at Mother Brown's in Bayview are seen by opponents as a tarnish on her advantage that makes her weak.
Despite these things, a strong possibility remains that voters could ignore the tarnish and give Cohen the benefit of the doubt in November as they often do incumbents. Similarly, Tran voters could ignore or be totally unaware of her endorsement of Kelly and choose the known over the unknown in their #2 vote. Cohen's opponents are going to have to sow and grow an awful lot of doubt and discontent in the minds of a sizable chunk of voters to get them to make the leap of faith and call for a change. Doing so without sounding mean and nasty is a political knife edge they'll have to walk. Not impossible, but challenging to be sure.
Should be interesting to see what the next six months brings.
Note: I was appointed by Supervisor Cohen in 2012 to the SFCTA-CAC. I will do all I can to keep my personal opinions about the race to myself, but if anything (including the above article) appear biased toward Supervisor Cohen in any way, please call me out, point out where you see the bias, and I'll endeavor to do better in the future.