Rival District 1 candidate David Lee questions Eric Mar backers

District 1 supervisorial candidate David Lee has claimed in ads that incumbent Supervisor Eric Mar is taking questionable funding from super PACs and other special interests. Mar dismissed the ads as “ridiculous lies.”

Mudslinging has started in the fierce head-to-head battle over who will represent the Richmond neighborhood as incumbent Supervisor Eric Mar is being blasted about contributions to his campaign.

Former Recreation and Park Commissioner David Lee is characterizing Mar as the super PACs darling. “Don’t let SuperPACs buy this election,” the ad says.

Progressive Mar being criticized by a moderate for being beholden to money from special interests may sound like a backward script, since progressives have long slammed moderate candidates for their deep-pocketed support from downtown interests, including developers and corporations.

“Eric Mar is the opposite of the candidate of the super PACs,” said Mar’s campaign consultant Nicole Derse, who denounced the political ads as negative campaigning making “ludicrous” accusations.  

But Lee’s political consultant Jim Ross makes no apologies for the ads.

“We’re running an issue-based campaign,” Ross said, adding that campaign finance “is an issue that many voters are concerned about.”

A write-up on Mar’s campaign website titled “The Irony” describes the attacks as “ridiculous lies” and calls it ironic that Lee began the attacks at the same time “Downtown money”-backing Lee busted the public financing spending cap “and the real dirty money hasn’t even started flowing yet!”

Lee’s campaign is not alleging that Mar violated any campaign finance laws. It is only suggesting there is something to be wary of about Mar accepting contributions from those with city contracts; benefiting in his 2008 election from $260,000 in special-interest spending; and receiving a $500 donation from Florence Kong, “who has construction firm contracts with the City and who helped underwrite the ethically questioned ‘Run, Ed Run’ effort.”

That effort was pushed by Chinatown power broker Rose Pak in support of Mayor Ed Lee’s campaign for a four-year term.

Lee, however, is ahead in fundraising. As of Sept. 7, Mar reported having raised $144,035, including matching public funds. As of Sept. 13, Lee reported having raised $254,346, including matching public funds.

Third-party spending in support of Lee broke the initial spending cap last week. Under public-financing laws, spending limits are set at $250,000 but increase in increments of $10,000 if total supportive funds for a candidate exceed the cap. It’s now at $270,000, and expected only to keep rising.

The only third-party spending in District 1 reported so far is a total of $42,558 in support of Lee, including $29,725 from the San Francisco Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth PAC, and $4,667 opposing Mar.

“It’s a very close race,” said political analyst and University of San Francisco lecturer David Latterman.  He said that the Lee campaign “has been doing a pretty decent job.”

Pre-Labor Day, the campaign was “building up who Lee is,” and now as people are starting to pay attention to the upcoming election, “they are going on the attack,” Latterman said.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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