It’s not officially election season until you see campaigns hitting below the belt.
Sunset District voters are getting mailers depicting Joel Engardio, a candidate hoping to unseat incumbent Gordon Mar in the District 4 supervisor seat, as “funded by Trump Republicans”—complete with a Photoshopped image of Engardio holding a Donald Trump fundraiser invitation.
The mailers come courtesy of the San Francisco Labor Council’s Super PAC, which has spent nearly $60,000 opposing Engardio, according to the SF Ethics Commission dashboard. Apart from the latest Trump-flavored attack, the Labor Council has also run ads accusing Engardio of opposing rent control and of only living in the district for a month, and saying that he wants to create a “Paris in the Sunset.”
Engardio said the attacks are baseless. “I’m currently a leader in two of the largest Democratic clubs in SF, and I’m a lifelong Democrat,” he said.
“I’m endorsed by multiple Democratic clubs and Scott Wiener. There’s no way they would endorse a non-Democrat,” Engardio added, saying he had no idea who the Trump-supporting donor was when she contributed to him.
It’s a classic attack in one of the bluest cities in America, where less than 7% of registered voters are Republican.
As for the other accusations, Engardio said that he supports rent control, that he supports building more housing in transit corridors and that he’s lived in the Sunset for many years. (His home was recently redistricted into District 4, but was formerly in District 7).
The Labor Council—an umbrella group for many of the city’s unions—has also spent over $130,000 on ads supporting Mar, Engardio’s opponent, according to the SF Ethics Commission dashboard.
The group has spent money in other races this campaign cycle, but said it’s attacking Engardio because he doesn’t support San Francisco’s working class.
“He does not hold the values of Democrats; he supports corporations and big money,” said Kim Tavaglione, executive director of the Labor Council.
Political analyst David Latterman doubts that the attack ads will do what they’re intended to, citing the successful recall of former District Attorney Chesa Boudin in June. Boudin characterized the pro-recall group as Republican-funded, an attack that ultimately failed.
“Voters usually don't care about where the money comes from,” Latterman said.
“This line of attack, which I've used and had it used against us, is usually too far removed. People assume political money is dirty, so this isn't a big deal.”
Attack ads targeting Mar may be next.
GrowSF, a moderate political group with a Super PAC arm, has already spent over $90,000 on advertisements supporting Engardio. The ads, some of which have been aimed at the Chinese-speaking population, emphasize Engardio’s leadership role in both the school board and district attorney recalls earlier this year.
As for the attacks on Engardio, campaign finance filings show that the Labor Council’s Super PAC had $231,245.55 in cash at the end of last month, so they may be close to out of money.
However, Tavaglione said they might re-up the Super PAC’s coffers depending on “how the unions are feeling and what else is going on in the city.”
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