San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney took the lead Tuesday night in the special election primary to pick a new state Assembly representative for the east side of San Francisco, with veteran progressive David Campos trailing by just over a thousand votes.
With all 337 precincts reporting, Haney and Campos are set to head to an April 19 runoff election in a traditional San Francisco face-off between establishment and progressive factions.
By 11 P.M. Tuesday, Haney had 24,422 votes for 37.4% of total returns, while Campos, a former supervisor and most recently chief of staff to District Attorney Chesa Boudin, was running in second with 23,177 votes (35.5%). Tech startup founder and first-time candidate Bilal Mahmood was firmly in third with 13,831 votes, good for 21%, while City College trustee Thea Selby was running fourth with 3,914 votes for just under 6% of the vote.
By the end of Tuesday, the total turnout for the election was just 26% of registered voters.
Haney addressed supporters at his election night party at District 6, saying the results are proof of his diverse and committed group of supporters.
“We built an incredibly strong coalition," Haney said. "People are looking for someone who can go up to Sacramento and immediately take on the toughest challenges we have.”
Campos, meanwhile, was holding court at The Eagle on Tuesday night. Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Dean Preston, Rafael Mandelman were all there in support of Campos. Despite the resounding recall of three San Francisco school board members, Campos said his strong support reflects the staying power of progressive campaigns in San Francisco, noting it was especially impressive as he's running a corporate-free campaign when it comes to fundraising.
“We're going to keep watching these numbers, but what these numbers show is there is a clear choice in this race," Campos said, adding that San Francisco voters "want someone who is beholden to the voters and not corporations.”
Tuesday’s election was sparked by a chain of events that began with the Mohammed Nuru corruption scandal that led Mayor London Breed to nominate former City Attorney Dennis Herrera to lead the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. She then named former AD-17 Assemblymember David Chiu to replace Herrera. That opened up a vacancy before the regularly scheduled race this June and November.
With no candidate capturing 50% of the vote, Tuesday's election will send Haney and Campos to a runoff election on April 19.
With Mahmood unable to sneak into the top two despite spending big on his own campaign, April's election looks to follow established political lines with the progressive Campos facing off against Haney, who has received support from super PACs and more business-oriented interests.
The special election will fill the seat through January 2023, the end of the current term, but some of the same candidates could face off again in a June primary and then a November election for the full two-year term, with new district lines in play.
Whoever wins the seat will be in a good position to hold the seat for the legal maximum of 12 years—and they will also be an instant contender to replace House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi when she retires from Congress, which most observers expect will happen before the 2024 election.
Candidates raked in the cash on a tightened timeline with just a few months to campaign. Campos has reported the most individual contributions, but he’s also attracted the most opposition spending. Mahmood, who gave more than a half-million dollars to his own race, had the biggest war chest, with Haney just behind.
Mahmood, Campos and Haney added $50,000 to $100,000 to their campaign coffers just in the last week, according to late campaign finance reporting from the California Secretary of State. On Feb. 10, Mahmood gave his own campaign another $50,000, bringing his total self-funded amount to $553,000.
“Getting 20, 23% of the vote in three months when no one knew what my name was, that’s an actual change,” Mahmood said Tuesday night. He declined to reveal if he'll run again in June.
A super PAC that was formed to support Haney spent over $40,000 on mailers attacking Mahmood for failing to vote regularly and for his lack of political experience, and it also financed $8,000 in mailers criticizing Campos.
Campos leads in endorsements for the race, with support from SF Berniecrats and SF Tenants Union, among others. Haney has also gotten endorsements from several labor unions, including the SF Building & Construction Trades Council and some democratic clubs like the Chinese American Democratic Club.
The local Democratic Party did not make an endorsement.