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Monday, September 28, 2020
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Elections Campaign Trail The money—and endorsements—in District Five

The money—and endorsements—in District Five

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One of the most interesting elements of the D5 supervisorial campaign is challenger Vallie Brown’s website. Check out the tab that says “endorsements.”

Most people running for office make a point of listing the prominent supporters they have. Brown’s included a list of roughly 100 people who live in the district and are voting for her.

Most of them are names most voters have never heard of.

Sup. Dean Preston has almost no real-estate money.

Maybe that’s a strategy that says: Vallie Brown (a former supe appointed by Mayor London Breed, and a former City Hall aide to then-Sup. Ross Mirkarimi) is trying to be the political outsider here.

But it’s fascinating that she doesn’t list a single organizational endorsement – nor does she mention Mayor Breed (who lives in the district and used to represent it), State Sen. Scott Wiener, State Assembymember David Chiu, Sup. Catherine Stefani, or any of the other elected officials who are backing her.

I don’t have polling numbers, but I wonder: Has Brown’s campaign decided that running as the candidate of the mayor, Chiu, and Wiener doesn’t help in the district?

The money trail in D5 is similar to what we have seen in some other key races: Both candidates will have enough money for a competitive race. Preston is ahead, which is not surprising since he’s the incumbent, and since many of his donations are in smaller amounts, he’s already received $60,000 in public financing, and will get more. Brown hasn’t reported her public match yet, but in the end, this won’t be determined by who has the most money.

That’s the wonderful thing about public financing: It’s kept a level playing field in most districts.

Challenger Vallie Brown has the support of real-estate — and a former War on Drugs cop.

Except for independent-expenditure money – and if there are districts where, say, the real-estate industry and the friends of the mayor come in big at the end, I suspect it will be in D5 and D1.

For now, though, there are some interesting – although entirely unsurprising — trends in D5.

Brown has pretty much all of the real-estate money in the race. About ten percent of the $75,000 she has raised comes from people in the real-estate industry. Preston, a career tenant lawyer, received exactly one donation from a real-estate agent or developer, and that’s $500 from Simon Snellgrove, the failed force behind the Wall on the Waterfront, who I hear lost a ton of money on that project and is looking for friends anywhere he can find them these days.

Most of Preston’s money, not surprisingly, comes from lawyers, city workers, some tech workers (although nobody in Big Tech management), and people in health-care. He has two $500 PAC donations, one from the California nurses and one from the Brownie Mary Democratic Club.

Preston told me, “I’m not surprised that I am not the real-estate industry’s preferred person in the race. I’ve been fighting for stronger rent-control, eviction protections, and affordable housing my entire career.”

He has the support of Sup. Matt Haney ($500), Sup. Rafael Mandelman ($250) and Sup. Hillary Ronen ($250.)

The only elected official who has donated to Brown is Stefani.

But at a time when police reform is a huge issue, Brown got $500 from Greg Corrales, the combative former narc who racked up a long list of citizen complaints.

That, of course, raises the issue of where the candidates stand on the police funding. Less than a year ago, in the fall 2019 campaign, the issue came up at a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters. You can watch it here.

At that point, Brown was on the board and Preston was challenging her.

A question from the audience: The San Francisco Police Department is understaffed. Do you support full staffing for the department?

Brown: “Yes I do.”

She went on to say that a lot of cops are retiring, and that it’s hard to recruit new officers, and that the city should be spending more money on outreach, particularly to communities of color, so that SFPD could hire more cops with cultural competency.

“They need more funding to be able to recruit,” she said.

Preston at that point said that the SFPD “is one of the most racist departments around,” and asked whether there are jobs that the cops now do that could better be handled “by people who are not armed officers.”

Preston’s position last fall is now widely accepted, including by Mayor Breed, who has agreed to divert $120 million of SFPD and Sheriff’s Department funding to reparations programs in the Black community.

Times change, and people change, and Brown may have changed her position.

But her campaign has not responded to repeated emails seeking comment. Her campaign manager, Leo Wallach, asked me to send questions in writing, which I did Friday. I still haven’t heard back.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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