“You have a hard line to hoe here, because you have criminal perjury,” Ulmer said. “Everyone knows that, not just lawyers.”
Ulmer spent much of the hearing debating arguments from Louie’s attorneys Stanley Shen and Christine Linnenbach. Some of their arguments have not been summarized in court documentation as required, he said, while other claims – such as that the current rental crisis and homelessness epidemic are making conditions lives of outdated candidates – were met with open disbelief by the judge.
“Now, in 2022, the 30-day residency requirement (for applicants) does not reflect the reality of San Francisco, where there are thousands of homeless populations who do not have a home,” argued Shen to the judge.
“You’re not saying your client is homeless?” said Judge Ulmer.
At another point, Shen attempted to claim that previous court rulings set a precedent that the judge had no authority to strike Louie off the ballot.
To this, Ulmer said: “I just withdrew a proposal from the ballot the other day, proposal K. They asked me to do it and there was no opposition. Was that a mistake? ?”
The judge’s frustration was palpable enough that when Louie’s other attorney, Linnenbach, attempted to make a point near the end of the hearing, Judge Ulmer simply walked out as she spoke.
“I’ll get that Labor Day back one day,” he told no one in particular, lamenting his wasted time working extra work on this case as he left the bench with his back to the court.
In her ruling, Ulmer wrote that Louie’s April vote under penalty of perjury, among other evidence, showed she had “failed to bear her burden” by demonstrating a change of domicile.
“I am pleased that the Court took our investigative findings seriously and accepted our legal conclusions,” San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu said in a statement following the ruling. “Removing a candidate from the ballot is not a decision we took lightly, and we advised our client to do so only after a thorough investigation that revealed shifting accounts and inconsistencies in the explanations of Mrs. Louie regarding her residence.”
Louie reportedly faced incumbent Supervisor Gordon Mar, a progressive Democrat, and security advocate Joel Engardio, a more moderate Democrat.
Louie’s candidacy was seen as part of the recent backlash against San Francisco’s progressivism. Charismatic Brandon who co-founded an Asian American community empowerment group in the city, Louie cultivated a following as she rallied for recalls of city school board commissioners and former district attorney Chesa Black pudding. She became known for her often volatile and pugnacious rhetoric, including verbal criticism of reformist policies. Notably, Louie drew public ire for calling a Jewish journalist a Nazi.
This tactic also placed Louie in stark contrast to Mar, who opposed recalls. She viewed the split as a political opening and previously told KQED that she believed she could galvanize unilingual Chinese voters in particular, and recall supporters more broadly, to unseat Mar.
Louie’s failure to make it onto the ballot doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the political movement that the recalls have galvanized, said David Lee, a political science professor at San Francisco State University.
Recalls usually fail in San Francisco. So the fact that two recalls not only made it onto the ballot, but succeeded?
This “puts us in uncharted territory,” Lee said.
At least three San Francisco election candidates are linked to recent recall efforts: Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who has openly advocated for Boudin’s recall, Supervisor candidate Joel Engardio, and candidate for the City College board of trustees. San Francisco Marie Hurabiell.
However, the success of their campaigns may not be as closely tied to recall as Louie’s. Dorsey has been a known quantity in local politics for years, Engardio has run several campaigns before, and Hurabiell’s run for the college board may have little to do with K-12 school politics or a district attorney race.
Louie, on the other hand, played a particularly important role in galvanizing the Chinese San Franciscans to oppose the school board commissioners and Boudin.
But her campaign began to unravel last month during an investigative interview with the city attorney’s office, when she sought to present evidence that her primary residence was in the Sunset District. Instead, she repeatedly shot herself in the foot, said Ann Ravel, a former Federal Election Commission chairwoman who now teaches at Berkeley Law.
“It was all a farce of bizarre statements that did nothing to support his position, because there is a clear definition of what a ‘home’ is,” Ravel said.
These “bizarre” statements include Louie inviting investigators from the city attorney’s office to drink champagne. But there were also more substantial statements that ultimately prompted Judge Ulmer to rule against her.
In the 70-page transcript of the interview, Louie admitted to investigators that she slept in the house that suited her best, based on where she worked in the city. She said she was waiting for her mattress to be delivered to her 35th Avenue Sunset District apartment, so she hadn’t slept there regularly in the 30 days before she applied. And while she hosted a housewarming party in this apartment – which she rents out for $500 a month – she also recently bought a house with her fiancé in the city’s Ingleside neighborhood.
“People can have a lot of different residences, and a lot of people do — maybe they’ll have one in Tahoe or somewhere else,” Ravel said. “But the importance when you run for office is that you actually have a home and you intend to stay in that area.”
And one statement from that transcript, in particular, drew Ulmer’s attention to Louie’s feelings about where she ultimately calls home.
“This transcript of this interview with Ms. Louie, people didn’t seem to be too focused, but I found it eye-opening,” Ulmer said. In this transcript, Louie said, “Bridgeview Drive is ‘the place the mail will always go’.”
This is exactly what previously settled law of the courts means when it defines a domicile as “a place with which a person is considered to have the most established and permanent connection,” Ulmer told the lawyers in court. .