Some odd (and vaguely racist) political ads are shaking up the races, as all six odd-numbered supervisor districts are on the November ballot.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ progressive majority was cemented a year ago with Dean Preston’s District 5 win. But that advantage can be blown up on the November 3 election, as six seats on the board are on the ballot this coming election day. And an unholy alliance of real estate money, Republican money, and dark money have joined forces to ensure that the attack ads are as nasty as possible, in hopes of getting more moderates into those seats.
Technically, every odd-numbered district supervisor seat is up for election. District 9 supervisor Hillary Ronen is running unopposed, however, so that is the last of mention of her you will see in this in this preview of the five otherwise competitive races happening next Tuesday.
Share this photo far and wide. It will break down the dark money pacs spending hard against progressives. pic.twitter.com/5agaL9Z0LB— SF Berniecrats 🌁 (@sfberniecrats) October 27, 2020
The above image is making the rounds on several Twitter accounts, graphing the local Super PACs — they prefer to be called “independent expenditure committees” — and their funding of hit pieces that Photoshop the prog-socialist candidates into meanies or racist caricatures. (We’ll get to each of these below, they’re insane.)
But it’s not entirely accurate to call them “dark money pacs,” as the SF Berniecrats do above. The PAC finances of the moderate-backing Neighbors for a Better San Francisco and SF Workforce Housing Alliance PAC 2020 are all publicly detailed on the SF Ethics Department, they’re just a lot of work to go through. Jacobin’s recent piece The San Francisco Ruling Class Is United in Their Hatred of the City’s Socialists did that work and identified the donors, and 48 Hills describes the ads as “GOP-linked big money attacks.” This is technically true, though Ripple chair and big bucks contributor Chris Larsen has also been a reliable Jackie Speier and ACT BLUE donor, and Hyatt hotel heir John Pritzker earlier this month gave $500,000 to “Republicans Against Trump.”
You want to see “dark money?” Go through the eight pounds of glossy election mailers coming in your mailbox every day, and you’ll notice some from a group called “San Francisco Women for Common Sense Government.” That group has no record of existence in Ethics Dept. filings, and their literature does not contain the obligatory “Financial disclosures are available at SFEthics.org” language. There is frankly no proof that this group even has any women!
A similar organization calling themselves “FedUp SF” is sending similar mailers, all supporting pro-business moderates and attacking progressives. Both have no local financial filings, and both list their address as “1800 Taraval Street.” People, that is a goddamned post office.
With this all in mind, here are the contested supervisor races, and the big money hit jobs against the candidates.
This is a classic “Breed pick vs. Progressives’ pick” race. Marjan Philhour is London Breed’s former legislative aide; Connie Chan is a former Peskin aide who’s endorsed by the district’s current outgoing progressive supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer. So you can guess how each would vote, if elected.
Philhour has made some hay over attack ads showing her in front of a stack of money, which she’s called out as “sexist, insulting and degrading.” This argument may have fallen flat, given that her opponent is also an Asian-American woman.
Loquacious veteran pol Aaron Peskin is getting a challenge from YIMBY-endorsed Danny Sauter. Peskin has a big advantage in terms of cash and name recognition, so a Sauter win would be a real upset.
This is the exact same District 5 race as last November, but now Dean Preston is the incumbent and Vallie Brown is the challenger — a reverse after Brown first had to run to keep the seat that was given her by mayoral appointment, when Breed gave it up to become mayor. So, many District 5 residents probably have their minds made up, though more will be voting since it's a general election. Brown was tripped up last year with an old eviction scandal reported by SF Weekly, but this year outside PAC donors are trying to pin the same on Preston, in what 48 Hills calls a "bizarre attack" that "defies facts, logic, and reality." And some Upper Haight residents have been making noise about Preston's handling of the homelessness crisis during the pandemic and his support for the sanctioned tent encampment at Stanyan and Haight, which may end up impacting the election.
YIKES. With the election a week away, Big Money is reverting to racist tropes to attack candidates who don't have the mayor's backing. Our report from D7: https://t.co/TyJSwAmxMj— 48 Hills (@48hills) October 27, 2020
D7 has a three-way barnburner, and a fresh scandal just this week! The previously mentioned PAC SF Workforce Housing Alliance put out the above ad depicting candidate Vilaska Nguyen as a “Lion King” character. 48 Hills notes that “racists for years” have “depicted immigrants and people of color as animals,” and his main opponents Joel Engardio and Myrna Melgar have both condemned the ad.
This is the only race where three candidates have all raised more than $300,000 and have very credible campaigns. Nguyen is deputy public defender with endorsements from Tom Ammiano and David Campos, Engardio is a big Stop Crime guy, Melgar is a longtime Planning Commissioner whose crossover support could come in useful in a ranked-choice situation.
You’re accusing me of promoting 20 market rate (we actually won in the pipeline over 100 deeply affordable units) while you sought to build over 250 market rate units next door and segregate the Excelsior? The D11 voters see your lies and are voting with the truth in mind. https://t.co/035wJfDOua— John Avalos 艾華樂 M.S.W. (@AvalosSF) October 14, 2020
Nobody argues on Twitter like the District 11 campaigns of incumbent Ahsha Safai and the former supe in the district John Avalos — who, like Peskin did a few years back, is attempting a return to the board after previously being termed out. Both have great name recognition and built-in constituent followings, and both have raised an impressive $350,000+. Add in Avalos’ eccentric personality, and this is the city’s most entertaining race.
Avalos too has been on the business end of an aggressive attack mailer campaign from both SF Workforce Housing Alliance and San Francisco Women for Common Sense Government (one of them cites our work!), over an affair Avalos had with an aide back in 2014, and an unflattering 2011 mayoral race audit. Avalos’ own mailers have all been pretty positive, but hey, there are always his Twitter interactions if you want the tea.
Many other candidates who had not crossed the $300,000 contribution threshold are not mentioned in this post, but we do wish them luck in this and future elections.
Related: Yes, The 2020 Election Will Have Drag Queens at Polling Places — And You Can Be One of Them [SFist]
Images: 2020 campaign mailers