Opinion: David Campos’ flailing antics suggest Matt Haney will win S.F. Assembly race

Social media theatrics unlikely to shift Assembly District 17 race in Campos’ favor

By Gil Duran

David Campos and Matt Haney would probably be viewed as San Francisco socialists anywhere east of Berkeley Hills or west of Brooklyn. In the fractally factional lefty politics of The City, however, the progressive allies-turned-opponents must find creative ways to vilify one another in the race for Assembly District 17.

The sharpest attacks on each candidate seem obvious: Campos must hit Haney for the beleaguered state of the Tenderloin without angering Tenderloin residents and progressives who resent the stigmatization. Haney must hope that voters remember Campos’ role as right-hand man to embattled District Attorney Chesa Boudin — without highlighting his own support for Boudin.

Their best lines of attack have the most potential for blowback.

Case in point: A recent attack mailer in support of Campos pointedly referred to Haney as the “Tenderloin supervisor.” Haney responded by posting the ad on Instagram along with a lengthy screed in defense of the Tenderloin.

“You may have seen this attack ad from my opponent,” wrote Haney. “In it, he refers to me as the ‘Tenderloin supervisor,’ a transparently cynical attempt to use the Tenderloin to play on fear and prejudice, as a way to disparage and malign me. My title is Supervisor of D6 – which includes SoMa, South Beach, Mission Bay and TL. As a part of my district, I am proud to represent the Tenderloin — one of the most diverse, resilient, compassionate neighborhoods in the country.”

Campos took the bait.

“@MattHaneysf your privilege is not just showing its screaming,” he tweeted, along with a screenshot of Haney’s post. “Of course voters should hear about your record in the Tenderloin. Governing is not tweeting — it is doing. And what you have done (or not done) should be front and center in this campaign.”

Unfortunately for Campos, his social media missive drew mostly negative replies — and some of them cut deep.

“When you were my supervisor, you did absolutely nothing to connect with me as your constituent,” wrote Paul Valdez. “I used to approach you about some litter issues on Folsom and you had no solutions … Your attack ads are shameful.”

“I’m just here for the ratio,” wrote Stacey Randecker. “You’re a homeowner in The Heights and he’s renting in the Ground Zero grittiness, working to clean it up … And you were chief of staff for a man that has what kind of record on the drug dealers?”

This was, of course, a snide reference to Campos’ day job as chief of staff to DA Boudin. His key position working for a man some blame for all crime in San Francisco makes it hard for him to blame others. The Boudin connection is a potential vulnerability for Campos, who bizarrely took a leave of absence from the DA’s office to run for Assembly as his boss faced an existential recall election.

The question of Campos’ role in Boudin’s office came to a head this week as the dueling Assembly campaigns battled in court over whether Campos could label himself a “civil rights lawyer” on the ballot. Haney’s campaign called the job title “misleading” and sued to prevent Campos from using it.

Campos’ team responded by crying that Haney had dared to sue Shirley Weber, California’s first Black secretary of state, implying that Weber’s racial background somehow had something to do with Haney’s routine campaign lawsuit. Cringe.

On Tuesday, a judge ruled in Haney’s favor.

“The court finds that it is highly unlikely that the tasks that Mr. Campos and Mr. Boudin [have] outlined in their declarations is their principal occupation, versus overseeing the prosecution and making policy decisions involving those accused of a crime or enforcing the criminal laws,” said Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shellyanne W.L. Chang. “So the court finds that it does meet the standard of misleading the voter.”

“We filed this petition because David Campos is not a civil rights attorney and nowhere does he, or anyone else, refer to himself as a civil rights attorney except for on the ballot,” said Haney spokesperson Elizabeth Power. “He is chief of staff to Chesa Boudin, a management position in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office where they prosecute people for violating criminal law.”

And just like that, Campos’ effort to obfuscate his job title provided an opportunity for Haney’s camp to highlight it.

There are some key differences between the two progressives, especially on the issue of housing, where Haney is more rational. For example, Haney supported building 495 new units on the site of a Nordstrom parking lot in SoMa. Campos opposed the project.

Haney also appears to have built a much broader political base, with major support coming from powerful labor unions and corporate interests alike. Campos boasts of being the “corporate-free candidate,” but that’s little more than sour grapes since he’s taken money from capitalists in the past.

Barring unforeseen disaster, it appears the Tenderloin supervisor will soon be riding the Amtrak to Sacramento. A new David Binder Research survey of 500 likely voters shows Haney winning by 17 points, 52% to 35%, with big support from voters who previously supported Bilal Mahmood and Thea Selby.

It’s Haney’s pollster, so feel free to take it with a grain of salt. But Campos’ flailing antics also suggest he’s got a ticket to Loserville. Good thing he didn’t quit the day job.

Gil Duran is Editorial Page Editor of The Examiner. gduran@sfexaminer.com

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