This year's presidential campaign isn't the only one flaunting historical precedent. Right here on the local level, the competition for seats on the Board of Supervisors has drawn in huge amounts of outside money that has the potential to tip the board's balance of power from the progressive camp to the mayor's moderate wing. The Examiner reports that two candidates have been the primary beneficiaries of the cash influx, and that the numbers involved dwarf what is being spent on their competitors.
Almost $700,000 has been spent in support of both District 1 candidate Marjan Philhour and District 11 candidate Ahsha Safai — that's for each of them, not a combined total. For comparison, the Ex reports that one of Philhour's opponents, Sandra Lee Fewer, has benefited from roughly $52,000 in outside spending.
"The question voters should ask is, ‘What are they getting for all this money they are spending in this election and what favors are they getting?’ ” another D1 candidate, David Lee, told the paper. “What is all this money going to buy these people, these companies like Airbnb?”
Lee is perhaps referring to money spent by tech industry-backed group Progress San Francisco, which has spent over a $1 million on local campaigns. Airbnb, Facebook, and LinkedIn are all major contributors to Progress SF. So far, outside spending has topped $1.8 million dollars combined in Supervisors races — surpassing the 2014 record of $1.5 million.
The Chronicle reports that this trend of increased outside spending is not limited to Board of Supervisors races, and has manifested in local propositions with opposition to the soda tax drawing in the most dollars. Proposition V, as the local measure is called, would impose a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (think soda and energy drinks), and that has drawn the ire of the American Beverage Association — a group with represents companies like Coca-Cola and Red Bull. An estimated total of $21.3 million has been spent by the ABA and other groups in opposition to Prop V — a number higher than spending on all other 23 local measures combined.
This concentrated outside spending against Prop V is in some ways mirrored by the money being dumped into the supervisors races — it's lopsided both in the amount given and the limited number of recipients. However, whether it will ultimately be enough to tip the scales is anyone's guess. “[Cash] is rarely enough to win a competitive election," associate professor of political science at San Francisco State University Jason McDaniel told the Examiner. "Endorsements are far more important.”