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Politics & Policy

Special Election Day, again! Haney vs. Campos showdown could test progressives’ strength

Illustration by Leo Coopeband

San Franciscans would be forgiven for failing to have the April 19 election marked on their calendars—after all, it’s only one of four being held this year. 

On the ballot on Tuesday’s special election is only one question: Who will fill the Assembly District 17 seat vacated by now-City Attorney David Chiu? But what voters decide could have significant implications for the city’s representation in the state legislature, as well as downstream effects on city government.

A February primary narrowed the pool to two candidates vying to represent Assembly District 17, which represents much of San Francisco’s east side. District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney is up against former District 9 Supervisor David Campos, who is currently on leave from his job as chief of staff for District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

Early voting for the election began on March 21. As of April 18, vote by mail turnout was around 19.7%. Ballot drop boxes around the city can be viewed on this map, and polling places open for both in-person voting and ballot drop-off can be found here.

In the primary, Haney received 34,174 votes and Campos received 33,448 votes, representing 36.4% and 35.7% of the total votes cast, respectively.

Housing emerged as a key issue in what has been a chippy campaign between the two former political allies. Haney has pledged to end exclusionary zoning policies and to build 100,000 new housing units in San Francisco. Campos also considers housing a priority but has emphasized limiting displacement and prioritizing affordable housing construction. 

One point of contention between the two campaigns was over how Campos’ occupation would be described on the ballot. After Haney’s team filed a lawsuit, a Sacramento judge ruled that ballots should list Campos as a “criminal justice administrator” rather than as a “civil rights attorney.”

Meanwhile, Campos hit Haney for taking corporate contributions—particularly from real estate developers—and tied him to worsening conditions in the Tenderloin neighborhood, which Haney represents.  

Campos has won endorsements from Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, AD 19 Assemblymember Phil Ting and a majority of the current members of the Board of Supervisors. 

Haney’s endorsements include former AD 17 candidate Bilal Mahmood, YIMBY Action, the Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club and Mayor London Breed. Breed will choose Haney’s replacement on the Board of Supervisors if he wins the election. 

Both candidates also spent time working with the San Francisco Unified School District. Campos worked as the district’s general counsel investigating corruption; Haney spent five years on the school board, where he helped kickstart reform of the school assignment system as well as a controversial initiative to rename schools. 

This also isn’t the last time voters will be deciding on an AD 17 seat in 2022.

Tuesday’s election will decide who will serve the remainder of Chiu’s term, which expires this year. On June 7, another primary will decide two top candidates for a November 8 general election; the winner of that race will serve a full two-year term. That election will also feature different district lines, which were redrawn as part of the state’s redistricting process.

That all means it’s very possible that November’s election will feature a rematch between Campos and Haney competing to represent the city in Sacramento. Assemblymembers can serve a lifetime maximum of 12 years in the legislature.