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Politics & Policy

We got our hands on Aaron Peskin’s campaign haul. (It’s small)

Five people and skyscrapers overlaid on money piles. The central figure gestures openly, while others appear more reserved.
Board President Aaron Peskin shares his fundraising figures with The Standard one month into announcing his candidacy for mayor. | Source: Jesse Rogala

Just over a month after his entrance into the hotly contested mayor’s race, Board President Aaron Peskin has spun up the progressive fundraising wheels.

Will it be enough to compete in a field of moderates backed by big tech and philanthropic moguls? 

Since announcing his campaign in April, Peskin has pulled in about $150,000 in donations, according to figures shared by the campaign with The Standard on Monday.

Peskin's spokesperson Kaitlyn Conway said the money comes from roughly 550 contributors, averaging between $200 and $250. The donation cap is set at $500 for candidate campaigns.

Conway did not share the percentage of donations from San Francisco residents. However, she said the campaign intends to receive public financing, which is partially determined by local contributions. Public financing would allow Peskin to get over $1 million in extra cash. Qualifying mayoral candidates can receive an initial $300,000 in public financing before matching funds kick in based on donations.

A man makes an announcement behind a podium.
Board President Aaron Peskin speaks during his campaign kickoff last month. | Source: Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard

Peskin’s campaign will also likely be buoyed by an independent committee, which isn’t hampered by donation caps, a model that has already pushed big pools of cash toward Peskin’s opponents. 

Conway described the fundraising strategy as a grassroots effort targeting smaller donors. 

“We are just trying to reach out to everyday San Franciscans to make sure their voices are getting heard,” she said. “Whether it is $25 or $50, every dollar helps at this point.” 

The campaign’s fundraising strategy is in many ways reflective of Peskin’s rhetorical arguments for why he should win in a field of moderates at a time when voters are frustrated with the direction of the city. 

Since entering the race, Peskin has cast himself as rejecting the influence of big-money donors, whether it be crypto billionaire Chris Larsen’s support for Mayor London Breed or nonprofit leader and Levi’s heir Daniel Lurie’s wealthy background. Critics, however, have painted Peskin as having crafted policy that has made it more difficult to make progress on issues like housing, thus benefiting the city’s landowners.

A group of people holding protest signs, one reads "SAFETY IS A HUMAN RIGHT".
Former Supervisor Mark Farrell, center, and nonprofit leader Daniel Lurie, up from the right, have both raised considerable sums in their campaigns for mayor. | Source: Han Li/The Standard

Although Peskin’s figures are comparatively smaller than some of his moderate rivals, political experts said it is in line with what they expect from his supporters, who they described as part of a more working- to middle-class coalition of San Franciscans.

Since jumping into the race last year, Lurie saw a quick injection of about $230,000 in under two weeks, according to announcements at the time from his campaign. Sixty-one percent of the 635 donations were from San Francisco residents, the campaign said.

Former Supervisor Mark Farrell, who has carved out a lane as a pro-business, tough-on-crime candidate, was able to haul in over $350,000 within a month of his candidacy being announced in February. The money came from about 1,000 donors, 70% of whom were San Franciscans. 

While no week-to-week or month-to-month figures were immediately available for Breed’s campaign, the sitting mayor brought in about $200,000 in the second half of 2023, according to the latest campaign filings. 

Breed’s official campaign kickoff will be held on May 18, and campaign spokesperson Joe Arellano said he expects the mayor’s donations to ramp up then. The mayor is already set to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in public matching, according to the Ethics Commission.

A smiling woman in blue foreground with people in a sunny, bustling street background.
Mayor London Breed's campaign kickoff is scheduled for May 18 and is expected to come with a bump in donations. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Supervisor Ahsha Safaí raised about $184,000 between July and December 2023.

“When you have Lurie and Farrell who are competing against each other for Mayor of the Marina, you would expect them to raise lots of money from people who have lots of money,” said longtime political consultant Jim Ross. “I think that [if] you consider Aaron and his base is much more progressive, … raising that much money in a month is a pretty strong showing. It shows he has a real base of support.”

Jason McDaniel, a political science professor from San Francisco State University, agreed.

“While resources are important, when you add public matching into this and other ways of getting the message out, … I would not have a serious concern about him having the resources necessary to get his message out to voters,” he said. “The only thing to my mind that makes this an issue of concern is if the three other major contenders coordinate against Peskin. As of now, I think that’s not an area of concern.”