In the days since Matt Haney breezed to a state Assembly election victory over David Campos, the San Francisco supervisor has been on a tour to pay homage and thanks to his supporters. On Thursday, Haney spoke with The Standard by phone for a post-election interview on how he won by such a huge margin and what he expects to do in Sacramento.
What was the primary driver for Haney’s election victory?
Housing discussions dominated the race, and YIMBY Action’s endorsement of Haney—after the group supported Bilal Mahmood in the primary—has received a lot of attention. Many in San Francisco believe this race should serve as a wake-up call for progressives to more strongly support housing.
Haney ran against a YIMBY, Sonja Trauss, during his 2018 supervisor race, and his evolving stance on building more homes over the last year or so—some political observers called it a calculated shift—played a huge role in differentiating himself from Campos.
But the groups Haney credited most for his success in Tuesday’s election were unions. He pointed specifically to support he received from American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Service Employees International Union, calling the latter’s endorsement “the most pivotal moment in this campaign.”
“I think that was a much bigger part of our win than people realize and are giving credit to,” Haney said. “A winning progressive campaign needs working people and a massive labor coalition behind it, and that was the foundation and backbone of our campaign from the beginning.”
What does Haney have to say about criticism of his shifting stance on housing?
Well, San Francisco, all he has to do is point to the returns and yell “scoreboard,” because it clearly didn’t hurt him. But does Haney like being called a political code-switcher who will gladly bend with the political winds? No. He really doesn’t like that.
In Thursday’s interview, Haney doubled down on being a real pro-housing guy. He said his previous agnosticism on building more housing outside of District 6—as well as his temporary opposition to Scott Wiener’s aggressive housing bills in the state Senate—should be viewed as part of the legislative process.
“A narrative catches and it holds, but the reality is I’ve been pro-housing, and I will continue to be in a different role,” Haney said. “My version of progressivism has always been rooted in listening to people and responding to the real concerns that they have, and not governing in a way that dismisses the concerns and experience of my constituents.”
What will Haney do once he’s sworn in to the state Assembly?
Eh, not much in the immediate. That’s not a knock on Haney as much as an acknowledgment that he’s starting a new job at an inopportune time. The state Legislature is in the second year of a two-year session, and all bills up for consideration this year have already been introduced. Haney will have the chance to potentially serve on a committee, and he’ll take votes on the budget.
Haney’s time to shine as a full participant in the Assembly will come next year—he’s pretty much guaranteed to win the June primary and November runoff. “I will get up there in the very middle of things and I’ll be drinking from a firehose,” Haney said. “For the rest of the year, I can really develop my policy agenda for the next year.” He added that Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) “wants to position me well to be an impactful, influential legislator.”
In the meantime, his stint in former state Sen. Joe Simitian’s office should help him at least understand legislative procedure and know where to find the cafe in the bowels of the Capitol building.
What does Haney think of any shade about Mayor London Breed’s endorsement?
So, there’s been a lot of chatter about Mayor Breed endorsing Haney, mainly because his victory opens the door to her appointing his successor on the Board of Supervisors. A lot of political observers thought Haney wanted to run for mayor at some point, but David Chiu’s resignation from the AD 17 seat to become city attorney—also a Breed appointment—sparked Haney’s interest in moving on to the Legislature.
Honey Mahogany, a Black trans woman who is an activist, performer and staffer to Haney, is being seen as a strong option to step into the D6 supervisor role. But activists have a way of not always going with the flow, so her appointment is no lock.
Sources have told The Standard that Mayor Breed’s endorsement of Haney said less about her opinion of him than it did about her drive to install a stronger ally in the position to advance her agenda. Yeah, that’s cynical. But this is politics, and some of the board’s more progressive supervisors have been calling BS.
“I think it’s nonsense,” Haney said. “You know, [Supervisor] Hillary [Ronen] supported David Campos when he ran for Assembly [in 2014], and [late Mayor] Ed Lee would have appointed the District 9 supervisor. Nobody said anything. Nobody said anything when [Lee] backed Jane Kim for state Senate and would have left this [District 6] seat open. It’s just twisting a narrative to suit their purposes. And even more so, we have an incredibly strong candidate in Honey Mahogany, who will win if she’s not appointed.”
He added, “San Francisco had the first gay supervisor [in Harvey Milk], and now has the opportunity to have the first openly trans supervisor in California—this is a remarkable opportunity.”
How much did likeability play into Tuesday’s results?
Some of Haney’s colleagues have said he is a little shifty when supporting policy, but he’s ultimately likable. In contrast, many political observers see Campos, and by extension his campaign, as more divisive and even a little irritating. Campos often casts himself as an underdog for the poor and working class, playing up an “us vs. them” narrative that is perceived as a turn-off to a broader base of moderates.
“When you’re choosing leaders, personalities matter, because you gotta bring people together and influence people,” Haney said. “And a lot of the time in Sacramento, things get done because of relationships. I have a lot of respect for David. I hope we can come back and work together.”Josh Koehn can be reached at [email protected].