Commission lifts spending caps in three supervisorial contests

The $83,000 voluntary spending-limit in three city supervisor races was lifted for the Nov. 7 election.

The City’s Ethics Commission, the agency that oversees campaign finance rules, lifted the spending limit for the races in districts 2, 4 and 10. The spending limit remains in place for the two other city supervisor races in districts 6 and 8.

District 4 is considered the “dog-fight,” as incumbent Fiona Ma bowed out to run for the state Assembly’s 12th District, leaving the field open for a newcomer.

Most political insiders expect less of a contest in District 2, where incumbent Michela Alioto-Pier faces just one challenger. Incumbent Sophie Maxwell appears to be safe in the District 10 race, having built up strong community support.

Candidates had until Aug. 11 to decide whether to adhere to the voluntary spending limit for the Nov. 7 election. The deadline for District 4 candidates was extended to Wednesday.

Alioto-Pier, Maxwell and District 4 candidate Doug Chan triggered lifting of the spending limit when all three filed with the Ethics Commission last week, saying they would not adhere to the spending limit and have already exceeded it. District 4 candidate Jaynry Mak has also gone over the spending limit, having raised at least $100,695.

By law, the Ethics Commission must then automatically lift the voluntary spending limit for that race.

The spending limit was established following voter approval of Proposition O six years ago. The spending cap is intended to decrease the potential for candidates to become “beholden to donors” once elected, according to John St. Croix, executive director of the Ethics Commission. The spending limit also ensures that candidates focus more on the issues than on fundraising, he said.

Candidates who chose to adhere to the voluntary campaign spending limits in these three races will be acknowledged in the voter guidebook, but they could break the cap and suffer no penalty.

Not all candidates in the district 6 and 8 races have agreed to the spending limits, but so long as they do not raise more than $83,000, the spending limit will remain in effect.

Few believe the candidates’ decision whether to adhere to the spending limits will play a role in the outcome of the Nov. 7 election.

“I don’t think that voters care all that much about spending limits,” San Francisco political analyst David Latterman said. Voters might only take notice of the campaign spending if the amount was extremely high, like a quarter of a million dollars, he added.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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