10/11/2011 03:33 pm ET Updated Dec 10, 2011

San Francisco Mayoral Race: Everything You Wanted To Know, In The Candidates' Own Words

Former mayor Gavin Newsom recently called San Francisco's current mayoral race "a quiet one," and he had a point.

With so many candidates in the running (16 will officially appear on the November ballot), there's a tendency for all of them to drown each out, each one's message lost in babble amidst the other 15.

It certainly doesn't help that the race's highest profile candidate, Interim Mayor Ed Lee, is about as mild mannered as a politician can get, meaning that there aren't even a host of outsize personalities for voters perplexed by the issues.

Add to that the ranked-choice voting system's effect of discouraging candidates from attacking each other, and it leads to the perfect storm of confusion for the average voter just trying to figure which of the candidates best represents their views.

Parsing those differences is crucial because each and every candidate is presenting a fundamentally different vision of how the city should be run; however, that breakdown rarely seems to happen on a simple left-to-right partisan scale (Candidate A is more liberal than Candidate B, who more conservative than another Candidate C, etc). Instead, the participating bevvy of San Francisco political heavyweights, combined with a light smattering of insurgent outsiders, differ on an issue-to-issue basis.

The Huffington Post San Francisco sent questionnaires to all of the mayoral candidates asking them where they stand on a variety of issues ranging from pensions to gentrification to the America's Cup. In response, we received in-depth policy proposals that very often went beyond standard talking points and delved into the nitty-gritty of what parts of Francisco work, which parts don't and a whole litany of ways to transform the latter into the former.

Between now and Election Day, we encourage you to visit our candidate questionnaire Big News page to read more about each contender's platform, experience and personality.

Early voting began Tuesday morning and continues until the election -- residents can visit City Hall's Department of Elections between 8am and 5pm on weekdays. Click here for more information.

Then check out our candidate Q&As, make an informed decision, and help shape San Francisco's future.