San Francisco district attorney candidates tap friends for cash 

Campaign contribution reports filed in the district attorney race show the established office insider being initially out-fundraised by an outsider connected to the Washington, D.C., Beltway.

David Onek tapped contacts in the capital and on the East Coast for cash. Out of a total of $157,148 in contributions to his campaign in 2010, only about one-third — $52,475 — came from San Francisco addresses.

Possible candidate Paul Henderson, the current administrative chief at the District Attorney’s Office, received $63,761 in monetary contributions in 2010. A majority of his donations came from within The City, and almost $12,000 came from 33 current or former colleagues in the District Attorney’s Office.

The two other announced candidates for the position, new District Attorney George Gascón and Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Sharmin Bock — a San Francisco resident — have yet to post any fundraising numbers.

The race was already shaping up as interesting before outgoing Mayor Gavin Newsom tapped former police Chief Gascón for the post. But since that announcement, it has taken on a whole new look.

Gascón has become the favorite to keep the position and has 10 more months to ingrain his name in the minds of voters. Henderson, who was former District Attorney Kamala Harris’ pick to replace her, must now deal with a whole new level of office politics.

“It’s pretty clear that Paul was the clear choice of the folks in the DA’s Office,” said Corey Cook, a University of San Francisco political science professor. “A lot of them had the impression that he was the pick. How he runs against his boss is going to be interesting.”

Reached by phone Tuesday, Henderson was noncommittal about his plans for November, saying it was not the right time to make a call. He referred to a statement he made in January: “I have yet to make a decision on the future of my campaign for district attorney.”

Regardless of the insider’s plans, Onek is the clear leader in fundraising so far. His father, Joseph, is the former senior counsel to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and his father-in-law is Michael Dukakis, a former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate.

The UC Berkeley criminal justice expert said such Washington contacts will only help San Francisco if he is elected.

“We welcome the support from anywhere,” Onek said. “Washington support can help the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office succeed. Going forward, we’re going to be doing a lot of grass-roots campaigning in San Francisco.”

Other candidates are likely to enter the race. While all the current candidates are Democrats — Gascón, a former Republican, reregistered as a Democrat in January — none have the outright support of the far left that rumored candidates such as former Supervisor Matt Gonzalez or Jim Hammer could bring to the race.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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Brent Begin

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