The race to replace outgoing Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee has shaped up to be the most competitive contest on the November ballot so far, newly released campaign finance records show.
Five candidates seeking to represent neighborhoods like West Portal in District 7 had raised nearly $358,000 in campaign contributions as of June 30, according to records filed Friday with the Ethics Commission.
Candidates Vilaska Nguyen and Joel Engardio were neck-and-neck with around $103,000 and $101,000 in contributions respectively as of the filing deadline, while Myrna Melgar was not far off with $73,452. Trailing behind were Emily Murase with $50,107 and Ben Matranga with $30,126.
The race is one of five contested supervisor seats on the Nov. 3 ballot and has brought in the most contributions thus far. The figures offer an early look at how the candidates are stacking up but do not include other forms of financial support like public financing, which some candidates have begun to receive.
Political consultant Jim Ross said there is still time for candidates who have fallen behind in fundraising to catch up. With outside expenditures included, it is not unprecedented for spending on a supervisor race to exceed $1 million for a single candidate. And Ross said voters have only recently started paying attention.
“This election is going to be a very high turnout race where you’re going to have a lot of low information [voters], people who don’t pay a lot of attention to politics,” said Ross, who is not currently working on any supervisor races.
Ross added that name recognition will be a big factor for those driven to the polls by the presidential election.
Jim Stearns, a progressive political consultant who is running Jackie Fielder’s campaign against state Sen. Scott Wiener, called the District 7 contest “highly competitive.”
“I do think that Vilaska has really put himself on the map in terms of being a top-rate contender in that race. Being able to out-raise an established member of the ‘city family’ like Myrna Melgar is quite an accomplishment,” he said.
Nguyen has a background as a deputy public defender and the endorsements of progressives like former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and local Democratic leader David Campos.
Melgar, a former planning commissioner, has support from both sides of the aisle, with endorsements from progressive supervisors like Sandra Fewer and Hillary Ronen as well as moderates like Assemblymember David Chiu and Supervisor Catherine Stefani. She is also endorsed by Yee, the incumbent.
Engardio, meanwhile, is a repeat candidate who has written a guest column for the San Francisco Examiner and is the vice president of a group called Stop Crime SF. He has support from Stefani as well as Sheriff Paul Miyamoto.
Stearns cast doubt on Engardio being a real contender in the race.
“I don’t think with all the money in the world Engardio stands a sitting chance in getting elected in District 7,” Stearns said.
Ross called Engardio a “viable candidate” with name recognition. But he said Melgar could have an advantage as a candidate with a broad base of endorsements in a ranked-choice voting contest.
In another competitive race over the District 11 seat, incumbent Supervisor Ahsha Safai pulled in $210,508, mostly raised in 2019, compared to $86,400 contributed to his challenger, former Supervisor John Avalos.
Safai is a moderate with funding from the real-estate industry and the support of Wiener, Chiu and unions like Unite Here Local 2. Avalos is a progressive who worked for the National Union of Healthcare Workers after terming out in 2017 and is endorsed by the San Francisco Tenants Union, Ronen and Ammiano.
Ross said Safai has the incumbent advantage, but noted that Avalos has maintained strong voter recognition.
While Avalos was successful in a recent bid for a seat on the San Francisco Democratic Party committee, Safai was not.
“You’ve got a lot of different forces at play,” Ross said. “Either could win or lose at this stage.”
BY THE NUMBERS:
Vilaska Nguyen: $103,168.49
Joel Engardio: $100,779.20
Myrna Melgar: $73,451.59
Emily Murase: $50,107.25
Ben Matranga: $30,125.77
Stephen Martin-Pinto: $700.00
Ahsha Safai: $210,508.27
John Avalos: $86,400.99
Aaron Peskin: $158,360.99
Daniel Sauter: $53,873.80
Spencer Simonsen: $13,805.98
Charles Belle: $9333.03
Dean Preston: $127,373.95
Vallie Brown: $75,319.87
Stevon Cook: $26,315.00
Marjan Philhour: $75,700.20
Connie Chan: $60,143.88
David Lee: $25,463.88
Veronica Shinzato: $7,805
Source: San Francisco Examiner review of filings with the Ethics Commission. Figures reflect individual contributions between 2019 and June 30, 2020 and may include candidates no longer in the running.