Sparks Fly in State Senate Race

by Randy Shaw on February 1, 2006

With four months to go before the June election, the race to replace state Senator Jackie Speier has hit high gear. Yesterday saw the issuance of dueling press releases between the two leading candidates, Leland Yee and Mike Nevin, with each touting the same set of facts but with different spins. Nevin’s campaign claims that he “has outraised his opponents, and has the most cash-on-hand,” while Yee’s campaign insists that he is the one who has outraised his competitors. Add the fact that former Examiner columnist and Treasurer Island bigwig Frank “Mad Dog” Gallagher is now managing the campaign of the third leading candidate, former Assemblymember Lou Papan, and we could have an old fashioned donnybrook on our hands.

The previously sleepy state Senate race has finally gotten interesting. And the contest for a district with a majority of San Mateo County voters, has taken on a distinctly San Francisco flavor.

Let’s begin with Gallagher, who was perturbed that Beyond Chron did not mention Lou Papan a major candidate in Casey Mills’ January 30 story. Gallagher covered City Hall for years before becoming a columnist and then went on to join Tony Hall at Treasure Island. With him involved in the state Senate race, you know that this campaign will have the most colorful press releases, hands down.

Former Art Agnos Assembly and mayoral staffer Ed McGovern is running Nevin’s campaign. McGovern’s family ran the popular Knight’s restaurant on Golden Gate Avenue in the Tenderloin until 1989, when its building was demolished by Hastings Law School in a still controversial action.

Local political consultant and close Aaron Peskin ally Jim Stearns is handling Yee’s campaign. After his experience running the underfunded Sandoval for Assessor effort, Stearns must be happy to have Yee’s fundraising prowess at his disposal.

Here are the facts on the critical issue of who’s got the money.

Former San Mateo County Supervisor Mike Nevin has raised $200,000 more than Yee and has $35,000 more cash-on-hand. As of January 31st, Nevin had raised over $755,000 and reported $435,000 cash-on-hand.

In contrast, Leland Yee has raised $556,000 and has $400,000 in the bank

Advantage Nevin? Not as Yee’s campaign sees it. It believes Yee has “outraised” Nevin and now has the “momentum” in the race because in the latest reporting period he “raised over $23,900 more than Mike Nevin and $94,300 more than Lou Papan.”

Moreover, Yee’s press release notes that if you include his Assembly account, he currently has $540,083.86 on hand, whereas Nevin has $434,853.67 and Papan has $163,475.87. Yee thus maintains he has a 50% edge on Nevin in “true” cash on hand, and boasts that he has “received the most number of small contributions under $1000.”

Confused? That’s the campaign manager’s goal. Neither McGovern nor Stearns want their candidate to be seen as being outspent by their chief opponent, so each fashions a press release claiming victory. Gallagher doesn’t have much to crow about yet for his candidate, but he’ll eventually find an angle that shows Papan heading the leaderboard.

Most people thought the still quiet Ma-Reilly race would be getting most of the attention, but the state Senate race looks like it will be quite a brawl.

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