Haney just won a legal ruling to change David Campos’ ballot description from ‘civil rights attorney’ to ‘criminal justice administrator,’ as the two progressive rivals look to gin up differences between them for next month’s runoff election.

We would say the state Assembly race between SF supervisor Matt Haney and former supervisor David Campos is getting ugly, but it’s more that the race is trying to get ugly. The two candidates both finished top two in the primary and therefore will face off again in an April 19 runoff election (and possibly again in the June primary and November election) for the AD-17 state Assembly seat. Both are test-marketing messages they’ll hope to formulate into mud to throw at one another, but frankly, their progressive legislative records are extremely similar, and the mud they’re throwing is just not very muddy.

Campos lodged an early salvo with a Friday tweetstorm (ironically, criticizing Haney for… tweeting) and a TV ad decrying conditions in the Tenderloin. “He tweets, he talks, while people die,” says the ad’s narrator, in an ad whose final frames note that it was “Paid for by David Campos for Assembly 2022,” and not some outside political action committee.

Haney responded in kind Monday, saying “These ugly attacks from my opponent's campaign are not being received well, especially by actual residents of the Tenderloin,” and “We're going to keep running a positive campaign.”

Welp, to whatever degree this is “running a positive campaign,” Haney has gone on sort-of offense, and sued the state to change Campos’ ballot designation for the April 19 election. KPIX reports that Haney “filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court calling on the state to refrain from using ‘civil rights attorney’ to describe his opponent.” (Campos is an attorney, though not currently practicing, and most recently has been DA Chesa Boudin’s chief of staff.)

And in short order, Haney just won this round on Tuesday morning. According to the SF Standard, “Judge Shelleyanne Chang, of Sacramento County Superior Court, said the description is ‘misleading voters.’ Instead, Campos will need to designate himself as ‘criminal justice administrator' in the weeks to come before the Assembly District 17 runoff election with Supervisor Matt Haney.”

Some observers are describing these skirmishes as “ugly and personal,” though honestly, neither candidate seems terribly comfortable going on the attack. Of course Campos is going after conditions in the Tenderloin, any candidate running against Matt Haney would. Haney, meanwhile, is clearly threading the needle of going after Chesa Boudin’s office, without directly criticizing the criminal justice reform for which Boudin advocates, and progressives generally support.

Both candidates have bases that would probably be offended if their guy were to go “full Tucker Carlson” on the very hot-button issues of the Tenderloin and Chesa Boudin. Both candidates also have very low-lying fruit just sitting there vulnerable to attack on these topics. So they’ll be subtle and careful in executing these attacks. Partisans in both campaigns will declare that the gloves are really off now, though in all likelihood, the gloves will be very much visibly on and laced up, and both candidates will punch carefully.

Related: Haney Has Slight Edge, But Assembly Seat Will Go to April Runoff Election [SFist]

Images: Flyers from (Left) Harvest Milk LGBT Democratic Club, (Right) Heny for State Assembly 2022, Photo by Joe Kukura, SFist