The closest race in state Assembly District 17 in a dozen years is between two San Francisco supervisors this November who are so alike in some respects that the race could come down to voter turnout and independent expenditures.
David Campos and David Chiu, both 44-year-old Harvard Law School graduates, finished neck and neck in the June primary, with Chiu holding a 5 percentage-point victory.
Both candidates are considered progressives who have voted similarly on the Board of Supervisors and many pundits say either would represent the eastern half of The City well.
Republican candidate David Carlos Salaverry garnered only 8 percent of the vote in the primary.
Chiu, who would be the first Asian-American to represent the district, needs the strong support of Chinese voters and homeowners whereas Campos, who would be the first Latino but not the first gay assemblyman on the seat, needs votes from Hispanics and renters, political consultant Jim Ross said.
“I think that fairly or unfairly, in the primary, David Campos was able to position David Chiu as kind of the homeowner, Realtor-type of candidate,” said Ross, who is not working on either campaign. “So David Chiu has been doing things around Airbnb and other issues to try to get off that or change that framing of his record and background.”
Chiu, who before becoming board president served as a civil-rights attorney, criminal prosecutor and chairman for the housing nonprofit Chinatown Community Development Center, touted his housing legislation — including allowing condo conversions for new homeowners, legalizing in-law units and prioritizing Ellis Act evictees for below-market-rate housing units.
Chiu also took issue with Campos' campaign claims that Chiu is in the pocket of developers, has Republican party ties and that his online political technology company was involved in anti-gay activities.
“From the beginning, my opponent's campaign has been purely negative and divisive, and because he has a scant record of what he has done at City Hall, they have chosen to attack me,” Chiu said. “David Campos has been all talk because he has been unable to build consensus to get things done in San Francisco.”
But Campos, who vowed to be the champion for the “little guy,” said the legislation he has passed has been about quality, not quantity. The immigrant from Guatemala authored legislation tacking larger relocation payments to tenants evicted through the Ellis Act, a program providing free Muni rides to low- and middle-income youths and various pieces strengthening health care coverage.
“It's not the number of pieces of legislation but the substance,” Campos said. “I think David Chiu passed a lot of legislation with low hanging fruit, and that I passed legislation that deals with complicated, important issues facing San Francisco.”
Chiu has raised more than $1.4 million as of Sept. 30 and has $543,000 left to spend, whereas Campos has raised $891,492 and has $230,625 on hand.
Chiu in May benefited from a $200,000 donation from LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and $49,000 from Gayle Conway, the wife of billionaire and tech venture capitalist Ron Conway. In mid-September, Hoffman and Ron Conway contributed an additional $300,000 and $49,900, respectively.