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State Assembly: David Vs. David 

Tuesday, Oct 21 2014
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Who's Behind Them: David Campos: Nurses, Teachers, and Service Employees unions. David Chiu: Building trades and other unions; Airbnb investors Reid Hoffman and Ron Conway.

At the outset of the Assembly race between Supervisors David Chiu and David Campos, all too many observers couldn't help but point out the similarities between the two 44-year-old Harvard-educated lawyers named David. Familiarity breeds contempt, and a nasty race was predicted.

Well, that certainly happened.

Aside from disturbing, ad hominem attacks and the continuing spectacle of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi being redeployed as San Francisco's political bogeyman, the hallmark of this race is the vast amount of money being used to fund those disturbing ad hominem attacks and ongoing Mirkarimi bogeyman salvos.

Both candidates have raised prodigious amounts of cash in their pursuit of the District 17 seat; Chiu has amassed around $1.5 million, Campos nearly $1 million. A preponderance of developers donating to Campos has sparked chatter of shakedowns and city projects held hostage. But development interests SF Weekly spoke with say that's an oversimplification.

People who want things tend to be hit up by politicians who need money. Developers always want things. Both candidates have not been shy to ask. Developers have given. To both. "You can't get within a half a mile of these guys without being asked for money," says one developer. He hedged his bets: "I will be there to pick up whoever loses. And I'll go to the victory party of whoever wins."

The utility of buying a relationship with our next assemblyman, who stands to spend the next dozen years in Sacramento, is easy to figure. More counterintuitive is that the strongest backers of each David will, in the short term, lose by winning. The builders fervently pushing the more development-friendly Chiu would do better to keep him around — and watch development-friendly Mayor Ed Lee appoint Campos' probably-development-friendly successor. The Mission progressives backing Campos endure a similar scenario.

Serious money has poured in for, and against, both Davids via independent expenditure committees. A trio of IEs backed by the building trades, public safety unions, retail worker unions, and others have dropped upwards of $225,000 into bolstering Chiu. A committee called Families for an Affordable San Francisco largely backed by the city's biggest public sector union, the SEIU 1021, has put $143,250 behind Campos.

Public sector unions backing a left-leaning Democrat at the statewide level is no surprise. Nor is the building trades' steadfast support for the more pragmatic Chiu.

From here on, it gets nasty.

The nurses and teachers unions (and SEIU) have amassed at least $260,000 to portray Chiu as a shifty Republican collaborator with no ideals. And tech moguls Reid Hoffman and Ron Conway (more on him later) have put $735,000 (so far) into San Franciscans to Hold Campos Accountable. Both of these men were early Airbnb investors, and stand to gain stupendously from Chiu's legislation legalizing the tech platform in this city.

Their gambit reconstitutes the political weaponization of Mirkarimi, who pleaded guilty to false imprisonment in 2012 following an incident in which he grabbed his wife by the arm. On glossy mailers inundating San Franciscans, domestic violence survivors lambaste Campos for his vote against axing the sheriff from his position.

Of course, one could argue that Mayor Lee's suspension of Mirkarimi was a calculated political masterstroke, dropping his progressive antagonists into a no-win scenario. Either they pushed Mirkarimi under the bus (and enraged the progressive base while knuckling under to contrived mayoral pressure) or voted to retain the sheriff (and found themselves politically radioactive and potentially hounded from office, like former Supervisor Christina Olague, drowned in torrents of cash unleashed by connected tech barons). It remains to be seen if this script can, once again, be successful. But Conway and Hoffman do seem to consistently earn significant returns on their investments.


About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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