San Francisco’s police union and other law enforcement groups have shelled out more than $654,000 as of Thursday morning on a campaign to paint a candidate for district attorney as dangerous.
The massive figure includes $400,000 in television ads paid for by the San Francisco Police Officers Association to oppose top prosecutor hopeful Chesa Boudin.
Another committee largely funded by the SFPOA had spent more than $238,000 on polling and on mailers that describe Boudin as the best choice for “criminals and gang members.”
The SFPOA is now the biggest outside spender in a race that has become the most expensive contest of its kind in San Francisco history, according to political consultant Jon Golinger.
“Never seen anything like it — the police union is literally trying to buy the DA’s office,” said Golinger, who is the co-author of Proposition F, a measure on the November ballot that would increase transparency around outside spending.
“That much late money in TV attack ads is a clear sign of panic that signals to me the POA has poll numbers showing Boudin may win if they don’t flex their muscle to stop him,” Golinger said.
Boudin supporters say the messaging in its mailers stand outs from the rest for being particularly “inflammatory.”
“This is way out there compared to anything that has come out so far in this current race,” said Supervisor Sandra Fewer. “When we use terms such as ‘dangerous for your children,’ when we actually put mugshots on the literature, that somewhat incites fear in people.”
The mailers say Boudin is “putting our families at risk” and that his “reckless policies will cost lives.”
They claim Boudin pledged to not charge drunk drivers involved in crashes that do not injure people and that he will not use gang enhancements against those charged with rape or murder.
At least one of the television ads also attacked Boudin over his stance on gang enhancements.
“When we examined Chesa Boudin’s dangerous policy proposals and how those policies would make neighborhood safety worse, we felt a duty to make sure voters heard the truth,” said SFPOA President Tony Montoya. “That is why we have engaged in our fact-based education effort with voters.”
But Boudin called the mailers “dishonest” and “misleading.”
“The POA mailers are the absolute worst fear mongering, racist, hateful part of this election,” Boudin said. “It’s particularly suspect because it comes from a group that has blindly defended racist, homophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric in the form of text messages for officers.”
Boudin has criticized prosecutors for taking first-time DUI offenders who do not cause injury to trial. Boudin said it was misleading to say he would not add gang enhancements to increase sentences in rape and murder cases that might already result in life in prison.
“They are suggesting to voters that I am unwilling to seek severe punishment in cases of serious crimes,” Boudin said. “In no part have I said that.”
One of the mailers features a baby doctor on the front. “You wouldn’t let this kid operate on you,” the mailer says, “so why would you let Chesa Boudin — someone who has never prosecuted a case in his life — be the district attorney for San Francisco?”
Another mailer features a full page of mug shots and reads, “these criminals know who they’re supporting for district attorney.”
Golinger said the ads may be designed to prevent Boudin from getting second-choice votes under the ranked-choice voting system, where voters can list multiple candidates for one office by preference.
“It looks like police officers are trying to scare voters from putting Boudin on the ballot in any way,” Golinger said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Golinger said campaign finance records showed nearly $2.3 million had been spent in the race, including $1.5 million by candidates and roughly $778,000 by independent expenditure committees.
Those numbers do not include the newly discovered $416,000 paid by the SFPOA for TV ads, polling and consulting.
Boudin is running alongside candidates Suzy Loftus, Nancy Tung and Leif Dautch. All four candidates have independent expenditure committees supporting their candidacies.
Unlike candidates, committees do not have limits on the contributions they can accept.
One committee largely funded by the Service Employee International Union Local 1021 had spent just over $200,000 in support of Boudin.
The SEIU committee paid for a mailer opposing Loftus that claimed Mayor London Breed’s decision to appoint Loftus as interim district attorney earlier this month was a “backdoor deal.”
Before this election, Golinger said the most that had been spent on a San Francisco district attorney’s race was $1.85 million in 2011, when former District Attorney George Gascon was first elected.
This story has been updated to reflect additional spending in the race by the SFPOA and to include additional comments.