Candidates cash in for City Hall

Winning a seat on the 11-member Board of Supervisors takes about 10,000 votes, but candidates raised six-figure sums — and special-interest groups threw in more than $1 million — to sway voters this November.

San Francisco has a nearly $7 billion annual budget, and tens of millions of development deals are expected in the coming years. This year, candidates lined up before the Nov. 2 election to vie for seats on the Board of Supervisors, collecting funding in hopes of winning a chance to decide the future of The City.

The money piled up the highest in the war chests of two candidates locked in a heated battle in District 2, which includes the Marina and Pacific Heights neighborhoods.

Venture capitalist Mark Farrell ended up besting more progressive front-runner Janet Reilly, a Golden Gate Bridge transit district board member. The outcome happened even though she raised $326,775 to his $240,316, according to the candidates’ most recently filed campaign contributions. That works out to about $25 per first-choice vote for Farrell and $33 for Reilly.

“Those are both big numbers,” said David Latterman, a political consultant who worked on Farrell’s campaign, among others. “There’s a lot at stake.

The race was close, and in the end “the money wasn’t what made the difference,” Latterman said.

In the districts 6 and 8 races, the candidate who hauled in the most political contributions and public finance dollars won decisively.

Jane Kim, the progressive for District 6 supervisor, raked in $186,693, and Scott Wiener, a moderate in District 8, brought in $239,485. Wiener benefited from about $140,000 in public finance dollars after independent expenditures to attack him increased the amount of public financing he could receive under The City’s program.

The 45 candidates running in the five races raised a combined $3.05 million since January in both contributions and public finance dollars, according to each candidate’s most recently filed campaign contribution reports that go to the Ethics Commission. That includes The City’s doling out of $1.4 million in matching public funds to 22 candidates.

Steven Hill, a supporter of public financing, said the program’s “goal is to make sure you have enough money to be competitive,” ensuring voters base their decision on the “other factors.”

“It’s just a great investment in local democracy,” Hill said.

Candidates’ war chests only tell part of the story. More than $1.6 million was injected into the races by groups such as labor unions.

The money, which is spent outside the candidate’s individual campaigns, is known as independent expenditures. These types of funds being spent in the local campaigns were up from the $1.3 million in the seven supervisor races in November 2008.


Largest coffers in board races

Candidates vying for seats on the Board of Supervisors raised six-figure sums. In one race, that meant raising more than $50 for each vote received.

Candidate, district
First-choice votes*
Public financing Contributions** Total Raised per vote
Mark Farrell, 2 9,601 $0 $240,316 $240,316 $25.03
Janet Reilly, 2 9,786 $0 $326,775 $326,775 $33.39
Carmen Chu, 4 16,839 $0 $104,164 $104,164 $6.19
Jane Kim, 6 6,407 $90,817 $95,876 $186,693 $29.14
Theresa Sparks, 6 3,498 $75,777 $75,492 $151,269 $43.24
Scott Wiener, 8 14,694 $140,572 $98,913 $239,485 $16.30
Rebecca Prozan, 8 5,820 $119,346 $81,963 $201,309 $34.59
Malia Cohen, 10 2,053 $64,745 $40,384 $105,129 $51.21
Lynette Sweet, 10 2,103 $54,389 $58,593 $112,982 $53.72

* First-choice votes are from Elections Department tally as of Friday.
** Contributions are based on candidate’s most recent campaign filings.
Winners in bold


Dollar for dollar 

  • 45: Candidates in the five supervisor races
  • $1.4M: Public funds distributed to 22 candidates
  • $1.6M: Amount of independent expenditures in 2010 supervisor races
  • $1.3M: Amount of independent expenditures in 2008 supervisor races
  • $3M: Amount of campaign contributions/public financing raised by candidates in 2010
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