Spending in support of Board of Supervisors District 3 incumbent Julie Christensen has surged beyond $1 million in the past few days — outpacing spending by supporters of progressive challenger Aaron Peskin for the first time since the race began.
The spending surge in the final stretch comes as suspense has built up for months over who will prevail in a race, which could change the balance of the Board of Supervisors from a moderate majority to a progressive majority, should Peskin win.
Whatever the case may be, it’s the most expensive district supervisor race in history.
It’s no secret Christensen, who was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee in January, has deep-pocketed wealthy technology and real estate backing. But Peskin has had the support of tenant groups, among others, outpacing Christensen and her supporters’ spending until only within the past few days, according to the Ethics Commission.
Those contributing to Christensen’s spending surge are apparently leaving no stone unturned, even courting Republican voters.
As part of the spending surge, a recent mailer claimed Christensen agrees with the Republican Party “on 67 percent of all the races appearing on the November ballot” whereas “in sharp contrast going back to 2000, Mr. Peskin has opposed our party 82 percent of the time.”
The mailer is a message from Christine Hughes, head of the local Republican Party, which hasn’t endorsed either candidate in the District 3 race. It was paid for by the Alliance For Jobs, a political group receiving funding from groups like the Police Officers Association and individuals like tech investor Ron Conway and real estate investor Thomas Coates.
Of the district’s 34,558 registered voters, 3,308 are registered Republicans. Christensen is endorsed by the local Democratic Party.
Peskin noted he has a strong record of fiscal prudence that registered Republicans would likely support. But as for other issues, Peskin said, “It doesn’t bother me at all that the party who is anti-choice and anti-gun control is supporting the mayor’s incumbent.”
Maggie Muir, a political consultant speaking for Christensen, said of the mailer: “I have no comment. I haven’t seen it.” She then directed attention to what she said was “the flood of developer, real estate, land use attorney money that’s gone into the Peskin campaign.”
It won’t be clear until the votes are counted whether the spending surge will help Christensen prevail. There’s also expected to be more campaign spending coming. Polls close today at 8 p.m.
A large portion of funding backing Peskin comes from the third-party group San Francisco Tenants and Families, funded largely by labor unions representing teachers, nurses and hotel workers.
One big name who has stepped up for Peskin’s campaign is Clint Reilly, the well-known political consultant, who spent $57,000 supporting Peskin with television spots linking Peskin to Mayor Ed Lee in an apparent effort to win over Asian voters in Chinatown, a voting bloc seen instrumental to any victory.
Christensen’s own campaign spending and the spending of third-party backers totaled $1,060,752 as of Monday, the Ethics Commission reported. That includes nearly $300,000 from Airbnb investors like Conway. Candidates and third party backers must report spending within 24 hours this close to Election Day.
Meanwhile, total spending supporting Peskin and opposing Christensen totaled $904,914.
Until only recently, spending supporting Peskin was staying ahead of Christensen and her supporters’ spending by about $100,000.
But on Oct. 26, reported political spending amounts showed Christensen had caught up, though still trailed Peskin’s support of $866,770 compared to her $847,157. The next day, reported spending backing Christensen surpassed Peskin’s at $883,401 and she has remained out front ever since.
Muir said that “there is always a surge” of money in elections toward the end. “I don’t think it has any significant impact in the last few days.”
Peskin said his campaign has remained financially competitive and has been able to get its message out, which he said can compete with the recent surge of third-party spending.
“I’d love to get rid of the influence of money in politics,” Peskin said. But acknowledging the reality of the third-party spending, Peskin said, “We’ve held our own since day one.”