Is it a blessing or a curse when perhaps the most widely loathed and cartoonish CEO in tech vows he’ll spend $100,000 to defeat you in an election? Supervisor Dean Preston will find out, as Elon Musk claimed in a tweet that he’ll pledge a hundred grand to beat the District 5 supervisor.
The San Francisco district supervisor elections are still more than a year away, but may have already been upended by a 5 a.m. PT Friday morning tweet from none other than Elon Musk. As the Chronicle reports, and to whatever degree Musk will actually carry through with this, the Twitter/X CEO claimed he would contribute $100,000 to defeat Supervisor Dean Preston in the November 2024 District 5 election.
The tweets leading up to this are seen above, and may require some unpacking. In advance of the Thursday hearing Preston called on car break-ins, Preston (who has the Twitter competitor Bluesky in his handle, BTW) tweeted, "we need as a City to pound in every way possible the message to visitors: do not leave anything in your car.” Preston’s critics with the tech PAC GrowSF were quick to pounce on this as “victim-blaming,” though the SFPD has long promoted the exact same message with their “If you love it, don’t leave it” campaign. And I have never heard the GrowSF crowd accuse SFPD of victim-blaming.
Vocal Y Combinator CEO Garry Tan critically retweeted the message, saying “Do you understand now why I donated $50,000 to http://dumpdean.org?,” referencing GrowSF’s website against Preston. (If you’re among the many whom Garry Tan has blocked on Twitter, you can still see the message in Musk’s replies.)
And in those replies, Musk responded, “I will double that.”
It’s an open question whether this money will ever show up in GrowSF’s account, or maybe Musk plans to fund some other campaign. And Musk is well-known for bragging that he’s going to do something that he never actually follows through on: see Zuckerberg, Mark, cage fight with.
Musk and Tan’s tweets indicate the money would be donated to the GrowSF’s so-called Dump Dean PAC, whose technical name is "Grow SF PAC Opposing Preston for Supervisor 2024.” Per the Chronicle, GrowSF co-founder Steven Buss says (in the Chronicle's words) that “the PAC already boasts $300,000 from about 300 people, 95% of whom are San Franciscans.”
Yet that PAC’s latest filings with the SF Ethics Commission show just $8,311 in contributions as of June 30. Still, both can be true; since the election in question is not until November 2024, contributions that came after June 30, 2023 are not due to be reported until next year.
Preston has of course responded, both on Twitter, and in a statement to the Chronicle. “The only surprise for me is that one of the richest men alive, given everything the world is facing from climate change to poverty, has nothing better to do than sit around tweeting attacks on a city supervisor,” he told the paper. “What’s not a surprise is that a bunch of billionaires have agreed they don’t like the Democratic Socialist being in office.”
And for Preston’s campaign, it ultimately doesn’t matter if Musk ever coughs up the money. Preston can make the political-gift argument that the world’s richest man is out to get him, and he can use a broad-brush argument, whenever Musk reverts to his signature immature lunacy, that this behavior is representative of Preston’s tech-crowd opposition. And it maybe can’t be overlooked that Preston is Jewish, and Musk has lately been railing against the Anti-Defamation League and fending off claims that Twiter is rife with anti-Semitism since he dropped the site's content moderation rules.
Preston only has one declared opponent right now for the race nearly 13 months away, Tenderloin Merchants and Property Owners Association founder Rene Colorado. Other candidates who better fit GrowSF’s preferred tech background will likely jump in. And one of those candidates may benefit from an unprecedented windfall of tech money (and out-of-town money) for a local supervisor's race, and the gobs of mailers and TV ads GrowSF’s PAC will run against Preston.
But that candidate may also find themselves inadvertently tied at the hip to Elon Musk, who for better or worse, just became the poster boy for opposition to Dean Preston.
Images: (Left) U.S. Air Force photo by Trevor cokley via Wikimedia Commons, (Right) SFBOS.org