Unpacking SF Campaign Donations

by on August 8, 2016

Kim v. Wiener race has biggest divisions, highest stakes,

Fundraising totals for San Francisco’s key candidate races were released last week.  Unpacking the numbers, the published figures were not always what they seem. Here are the races I think provoke deeper analysis.

“Wiener Far Outpaces Kim”

Such was the headline of Emily Green’s SF Chronicle story on Scott Wiener outraising Jane Kim by an over 3-1 margin. Wiener has $627,818 left to spend while Kim has $172,889, and he has outspent Kim by roughly $150,000.

Some could see those numbers as reflecting that Wiener is running away in this race. But does Wiener’s spending advantage actually matter? No.

The test in citywide races in San Francisco (the State Senate seat covers all of the city plus part of San Mateo County) is whether a candidate can raise enough money to get name recognition and their message out to voters. Kim, who won the June primary after all votes were finally counted, has already met this test. So as long as she continues to raise money as she has done, the amount of campaign donations will not decide this race.

Wiener’s campaign has been sharper, more focused, and is overall stronger than it was leading up to June. That’s the response Wiener needs after coming in second in a primary his campaign team thought he would win easily.

It’s even likely that when independent expenditures and donations to ballot measures and slate cards are all added up, Wiener will end up with an even greater funding advantage. The question is whether any amount of Wiener spending can defeat Jane Kim, who voters like personally and cast ballots for even if they disagree with her on some issues.

District 5

The most surprising supervisor numbers for me were that of Board President London Breed in D5. Breed has only out-raised challenger Dean Preston by roughly $40,000 (Breed has spent roughly $4000 more than Preston and has about $43,000 more cash on hand).  How could the incumbent Board President not have raised more?

Well, she did. Breed, like other supervisor candidates who also ran for the SFDCCC, raised over $80,000 for that race. So she actually outpaces Preston’s fundraising total by over $125,000. And the major fundraising is only beginning.

The  SF Bay Area Renters Federation (SFBARF) also found the D5 numbers surprising, but for a different reason. They tweeted “how did long shot/SFBARF hater Dean Preston raise almost 200K?” The answer to that is easy but I’ll leave it to SFBARF’s crack investigative team to discover.

District 11

The race between Kimberly Alvarenga and Ahsha Safai was supposed to be close, and the spending numbers reflect this: Safai has around $2000 more on hand and has outspent Alvarenga by $23,000.

What’s interesting about these numbers is how they contradict the narrative that big developers and realtors are pouring money into Safai’s campaign.  The candidates’ fundraising numbers are close and Safai didn’t run for the SFDCCC, so no additional donations are stored away there.

District 9

The race to replace David Campos has proved the most substantive of all of the districts. That’s likely because of all the issues surrounding the Mission, particularly around development. Josh Arce recently proposed a 30th and Mission BART station, while Hillary Ronen felt a greater priority should be 24-hour BART service.

I support both ideas. It’s good to see a supervisor’s race that is raising such big issues.

On the money side, as with D5 the numbers are misleading. Ronen has about $60, 000 more on hand and has outspent Arce by over $50,000. But these numbers do not include the over $75,000 that Arce raised for his SFDCCC race.

Contrary to popular wisdom, as with Wiener-Kim and the other November races money will not decide the D9 race. Voters will either want to stay the course of former D9 Supes Tom Ammiano and David Campos (Ronen is a Campos aide) or try a new approach.

Because the D9 race has two progressives who must raise campaign donations to win, we have already seen finger pointing about where that money is coming from. For example, labor backers of Arce recently sent an email highlighting contributions to Ronen’s campaign from Mission developers and even notorious Ellis eviction attorney, Andrew Zacks (Ronen has informed me that this is an absolute lie and she has not gotten money from Zacks).  I’ve seen Ronen supporters make similar attacks against Arce over his donors.

Perhaps these mutual attacks will get voters and particularly the city’s progressives to stop overplaying particular donations to campaigns. Ronen, like Arce, has a solid pro-tenant history. She is endorsed by the San Francisco Tenants Union.

Isolated contributions to candidates is weak evidence of their “loyalty” to corporate, landlord or development interests. The cost of winning election as a supervisor or state legislative candidate in San Francisco is so high that it requires people to raise money from people who they may disagree on many if not most issues.

Are some candidates defined by their donor base? Absolutely. But voters should look at the whole contribution record as well as organizational endorsements in evaluating where candidates stand.

We’ll have more on the key San Francisco races after Labor Day.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron. His latest book is The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco



Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw's latest book is Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America. He is the author of four prior books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. He is also the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

More Posts

Filed under: San Francisco News

Translate »