April 19 Election Prediction: Campos v. Haney

by on April 18, 2022

Housing, Boudin and Corporate Influence

The San Francisco Assembly race between David Campos and Matt Haney finally ends on April 19. The contest has been eclipsed by hotly contested battles over redistricting and the JFK street closure; only in recent days has attention returned to this special Assembly election.

Here’s my analysis and prediction.

A Very Negative Campaign

I wrote in October when the campaign began (“Who Wins SF Assembly Race?”) that Haney had an edge because he “draws votes from across the city and from moderates and progressives alike.” Campos has sought to combat this through an extremely negative campaign designed to limit Haney’s progressive support.

Campos has tried to do link Haney to landlords and Big Pharma. He also accused Haney of promoting gentrification and displacement by supporting the 495 unit, 24% affordable project at 469 Stevenson. The Board of Supervisors voted 8-3  to reject that project, which would be built on a parking lot (I wrote a story disputing the “gentrification” and “displacement” arguments soon after the vote).

Last week Campos ran an ad comparing Haney to Ronald Reagan. He falsely charges Haney—who has backed every affordable project that came to the Board—with believing that “building luxury housing is the solution to our affordable housing shortage.”

The challenge with Campos’ strategy is that Haney has voted for every tenant protection measure. He’s done so without hesitation. Haney has also been endorsed by Assemblymember Ash Kalra, the chief sponsor of the Medicare for All bill that Haney supports.

Haney has been a reliable progressive vote at the Board; his progressive credentials were little questioned until this race. Campos’ false attacks on Haney’s progressive record intensified as Election Day approached.

It didn’t have to be this way. Campos could have argued that he would be more effective in Sacramento. He could have stressed his support from most supervisors as evidence that he can work better with colleagues than Haney.

Campos’ attacks are a sign of political desperation. A candidate who believes they are on track for victory does not have to repeatedly take the low road.

The Defining Issues

Housing For All?

Three issues have defined this race: support for new housing, Campos’ position as Chief of Staff for Chesa Boudin, and effectiveness at combating corporate and landlord interests.

Haney has gone all in on supporting building new housing for all income levels. This puts him in the David Chiu, Phil Ting and Scott Wiener camp. It is also the position of Assembly Housing Chair Buffy Wicks, who has endorsed Haney.

Campos backed a housing moratorium in the Mission (which he now says he would oppose) and opposed the housing at 469 Stevenson. He has been aligned with the “progressive” stance that deems all new market rate housing as “luxury.”

It’s “luxury” regardless of the number of on-site affordable housing units or location in a non-luxury neighborhood. Nor does it matter that its sale price per unit is less than charged for existing housing. I describe in Generation Priced Out how San Francisco’s gentrification was more fueled by not building housing to meet the city’s explosive job growth.

I think most voters favor Haney’s position.

Boudin’s Unpopularity

Polls show DA Chesa Boudin to be San Francisco’s least popular elected official. As Boudin’s Chief of Staff (on leave for the campaign), Campos is identified with Boudin.

That alone kills him with moderate to conservative voters. Many have never liked Haney due to his support for Boudin’s campaign; but these voters cannot resist voting to defeat Boudin’s Chief of Staff.

Last week the Harvey Milk Democratic Club attacked Haney for not challenging supporters who oppose Boudin—but that line of attack is not going to shift votes to Campos.

Challenging Big Pharma/Landlord Power

Campos has used pro-Haney independent expenditure campaigns by opponents of Medicare for All and by Big Real Estate to accuse Haney of aligning with these interests. As he tweeted last Thursday, “This race is not the first time I have come head to head w/ the for-profit insurance companies & healthcare lobby funding my opponent & trying to stop the reform we so desperately need.”

But the chief sponsor of Medicare for All not only backs Haney but campaigned with him last Saturday. Nor has Haney ever cast a vote for landlords against tenants.

Voters who believe Campos will more effectively fight corporate and landlord interests have long been in his camp. These arguments do not expand his base.

Why Haney Wins

I wrote before the February primary, “I’ve always thought Haney would easily win an April runoff but he’s going to have to get voters excited enough to cast ballots to win.” I thought voters weren’t excited because they saw little difference between the candidates.

But Campos’s campaign has addressed that concern. Campos likely reduced his chances to win in a low turnout election by highlighting what he believes are major differences with Haney. He’s inspired moderate to conservative voters to vote for Haney.

Backers of the Boudin recall are passionate about defeating Campos. Many of these voters would have sat out the race but for Campos’ Boudin connection.

The redistricting controversy has also raised the profile of local politics. The lengthy process has likely diverted some progressives from working on Campos’ campaign. I think some progressives are also dedicating more time to stop the recall than they are to an Assembly race whose winner instantly becomes one of the Assembly’s most progressive members.

The primary was close between these two. But third place finisher Bilal Mahmood’s roughly 20% will go overwhelmingly to Haney (Mahmood endorsed Haney).

I see Haney winning by at least a 53%-47% margin and possibly more.

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

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