Despite a summer backlash and furor over SF school board member Ann Hsu’s comments that Black and brown students had “unstable family environments," Hsu has racked up nearly twice the campaign contributions of any other school board candidate in the November election.
In last February’s school board recall election, a gusher of political action committee (PAC) donations swamped that election with more than $2 million in contributions. But now that the three post-recall appointed candidates face the voters in the November 8 election to determine if they will keep their seats, there is just a tiny fraction of that amount being contributed.
As seen above in the latest campaign filing information all six candidates have raised a combined total of less than $250,000. (There are three seats up for grabs.) So the election for who will hold the elected seats to replace the recalled candidate has only drawn about one-tenth of the financial interest that the initial February recall attracted.
Mayor Breed’s appointee Ann Hsu is the frontrunner in contributions by a mile, with nearly twice as much in contributions ($90,875) than her closest other candidate Lainie Motamedi ($51,230).
And that is frankly surprising, because Hsu was embattled by a racist comment scandal in late July, answering on a candidate questionnaire that Black and brown students suffered from "unstable family environments" and a "lack of parental encouragement to focus on learning." Hsu quickly apologized, but still faced widespread calls for her resignation and was unanimously admonished in a vote by the other board members.
[1/8] Last week, I submitted my candidate questionnaire to SF Parent Action. After hearing feedback from the community, I revised one of my answers to reflect a deeper understanding of the challenges facing BIPOC students.— Ann Hsu (@AnnforSFboe) July 19, 2022
Could that scandal, and its resulting publicity (and name recognition) for Hsu have paradoxically helped her pull ahead in fundraising? Hsu doesn’t think so, and points to a community support letter signed by nearly 500 community member and leaders.
“I’m thankful and proud of the grassroots financial support my campaign has received,” Hsu tells SFist. “I believe it to be a sign that the priorities that I've communicated — student achievement and academic excellence, safe schools, and fiscal discipline — have resonated with people across the city and beyond.”
All of Hsu’s contributions have been small donations, $100-$500, as has been the case with nearly all contributions for other school board candidates.
“San Franciscans are tired of the theatrics of prior school boards and want a functioning school district,” Hsu adds. “They want their school board members to roll up their sleeves and get to work on the major, important issues at hand and to focus on educating our students.”
This is not to say that Hsu has not in any way benefited from PAC donations. As seen above, she is promoted in a mailer from a new-ish PAC called SF Guardians which was born out of the recall movement. And yes, in the fine print of that ad we see a $602,722 contribution from GOP-leaning contributor William Oberndorf, who largely bankrolled the PAC that paid Brooke Jenkins that secret $153,000 during the recall campaign.
But SF Guardians has been mostly engaged in the No on Measure C opposition to a homeless oversight commission issue, and in this November's election, has done little school board candidate promotion outside that particular flyer.