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News + PoliticsRacist attacks on Campos begin, setting stage for ugly Assembly campaign

Racist attacks on Campos begin, setting stage for ugly Assembly campaign

A so-far secretive group has commissioned a 'push poll' seeking to discredit the only gay Latino in the race.


The Assembly District 17 race is already starting to get nasty.

Some organization, and at this point we don’t know who, has commissioned what’s known as a “push poll” putting out negative, and inaccurate, information about David Campos in an apparent effort to undermine his candidacy.

Push polls are different from traditional polls that seek the measure where the electorate stands on candidates and issues. Instead, callers, saying they are taking a survey, flood listeners with a series of attacks on a candidate. The idea is to plant seeds of doubt and in some cases to figure out which lines of attack will work best in the future.

In this case, the push poll was not only telling lies; it contained, Campos supporters say, a series of racist tropes and buzzwords.

Campos is the only gay, Latino candidate in the race.

David Campos: ‘Don’t lie about my record.’

A Campos supporter was among those called, and he recorded the call. Here, according to a transcription provided by the Campos campaign, is how it began:

I’m gonna read you some statements from people who oppose David Campos for State Assembly, after I read each one please tell me if [each statement] raises serious doubt, some doubts, or no real doubts about Campos as a candidate for state Assembly.

In other words: Here are all the reasons not to vote for him.

It degenerates from there. One question:

Even as [a] violent crime and break-ins are on the rise in San Francisco and residents feel increasingly unsafe, David Campos favors defunding and abolishing the Police Department.

That’s just wrong. There are plenty of people in San Francisco who want to defund or abolish the police, and I am generally on their side. But Campos is not one of them.

When he served on the Police Commission, Campos was a reformer, and at a rally Tuesday he said that he thinks most cops are doing a good job—but some bad apples are damaging the department. That’s not a terribly controversial position.

In fact, Campos worked with two Mission District cops ten years ago, when he was a supervisor, and helped them start a successful gang-prevention program.


Campos is not known as a collaborative or professional. He is impulsive.

Those words, Campos said, are not surprising to people of color. “We are used to it,” he said.

Campos, who arrived in this country at 14 as an undocumented immigrant who spoke no English, graduated from Stanford and Harvard Law School. He’s actually a generally soft-spoken guy who, in my experience, is far from “impulsive.” He thinks things through pretty carefully before he does them.

But as BART Board Member Bevan Dufty said at the rally, Campos has pissed a lot of people off—especially powerful people. “You don’t make change if you don’t piss people off,” he said. “I’m proud of what he’s done.”

We knew this one was coming:

Campos was chief of staff to District Attorney Chesa Boudin. The D.A.’s office [is] known for being chaotic and disorganized and has a reputation of mishandling cases [and] not prioritizing the victims of crimes in San Francisco. Dysfunction has led to multiple deaths and allowed violent criminals to walk free.

Again: This is simply untrue. The DA’s Office has not “led to multiple deaths and allowed violent criminals to walk free.” That’s what the San Francisco Police Officers Association and its allies say, but it’s utterly at odds with the facts.

Sup. Matt Haney, who is by most accounts the leading contender to Campos, told me his campaign had nothing to do with the poll. “Absolutely not,” he texted me.

Community College Board Member Thea Selby, the other major candidate, told me her campaign didn’t commission the poll either.

That means there’s an independent expenditure committee out there somewhere raising money (a poll like this costs at least $20,000) and gearing up for a campaign of attacks on Campos.

“I’ve always been willing to have a substantive discussion on issues,” Campos said. “Whoever is behind this poll should come forward. Don’t lie about my record and use racist sterotypes.”

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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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