Skip to main content
Politics & Policy

Election season kickoff: The race for SF’s Assembly District 17

Politics & Policy

Election season kickoff: The race for SF’s Assembly District 17

Four candidates are vying for a coveted and rarely-available seat in the state assembly representing the east side of San Francisco. With the accelerated special election just around the corner in 2022, we’ve got the details on when it’s taking place and why the race matters. Plus, an in-depth guide to who’s running and what each candidate stands for.

Meet the Candidates

Matt Haney, David Campos, Bilal Mahmood and Thea Selby have each thrown their hat into the ring. We interviewed the candidates over a plate of food at their favorite San Francisco restaurant about key issues such as housing, education, public safety and the economy.

David Campos

A longtime political fixture, Campos was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2008 and has served in a number of government and political roles, including as chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party. He currently vice chairs the California Democratic Party, and was chief of staff to District Attorney Chesa Boudin before taking a leave of absence on Nov. 1.

Matt Haney

Haney has represented District 6, one of the city’s densest districts which includes the Tenderloin neighborhood, for three years at the Board of Supervisors and currently chairs the budget committee. He was president of the San Francisco school board until 2018, in addition to other prior roles in policy, advocacy and at a criminal justice nonprofit.

Bilal Mahmood

A scientist and entrepreneur, Mahmood has spent much of his career in the technology sector and served a stint as a policy analyst at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Most recently, he created a fund that studies and donates money to Bay Area social causes such as combating anti-Asian hate and income support for restaurant workers.

Thea Selby

Selby, an activist and member of the City College Board of Trustees, has a resume that includes advisory roles in transportation, neighborhood advocacy and education. Among other roles, she’s served on a San Francisco bond oversight committee and on a board advising the state’s High-Speed Rail project. She’s also a small business owner and parent.

Review the Timeline

David Chiu’s appointment to City Attorney in September triggered a fast-paced special election to replace him in the California legislature. 

Given the timing of Chiu’s vacancy, candidates for the seat must navigate a sequence of elections that will include up to four races and a redistricting change that takes effect next year.

First up: the special election to replace Chiu, with a primary on Feb. 15 and election on April 19, to fill the rest of Chiu’s term. Next: a regularly scheduled statewide election in November, with a primary in June, to elect a candidate for a full term.

Also on the ballot in February is the special election to recall three members of the San Francisco school board. Another recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin will appear on the June ballot. Political consultant Jim Ross told the SF Standard that the consolidation of the school board and assembly special elections “could change the dynamics of the race.”

“Since it’s a state race, and so much school policy comes out of the state, it could be an election on schools in San Francisco,” Ross said of the special election.

Why The Race Matters

The candidate who wins the assembly race will represent one of two assembly districts in San Francisco, and play a major role in legislating topics as wide-ranging as housing, education, public safety, climate change and transportation at the state level.

In addition, the winner could occupy the assemblymember position for up to 12 years, the maximum allowed under the state constitution, positioning them for a lengthy hold on power—and potentially higher office, with 81-year-old House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s seat in Congress expected to open up in the coming years. 

Compiled by Annie Gaus, Sophie Bearman, Jesse Rogala, Mike Kuba and Joel Aguero.

Joel Aguero contributed additional reporting for this story.
Annie Gaus can be reached at