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News + PoliticsJenkins faces serious challenge as Hamasaki announces run for DA

Jenkins faces serious challenge as Hamasaki announces run for DA

Former police commissioner with strong community ties says Breed's appointed incumbent is failing the city.

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With District Attorney Brooke Jenkins reeling from the news that she took $100,000 from a big GOP donor’s group while claiming she was a “volunteer” in the recall Chesa Boudin campaign, former Police Commission member John Hamasaki is challenging her in the November election.

Hamasaki, who was an outspoken progressive commissioner, will formally announce his campaign Friday at 12:30 at the Department of Elections at City Hall.

John Hamasaki has extensive experience in criminal law and is former president of the Asian American Bar Association. Photo from Hamasakilaw.com

He will start off with a strong base of support and an immediate boost in the race.

His entry dramatically changes the calculus for the entire November election, giving the voters a chance not just to evaluate the incumbent but once again to weigh in on real criminal-justice reform.

Hamasaki told me that the recent revelations about Jenkins and her office convinced him to take on the campaign.

“I think a lot of us would have sat this out if the mayor had appointed a credible person, even a moderate,” he said. “But there’s nobody in charge in the DA’s Office, it’s all about catering to the mayor, and San Franciscans deserve better.”

Hamasaki had a record on the Police Commission of standing up to the chief and working for police accountability.

Hamasaki was a supporter of Boudin, but never worked for him or was directly involved in any part of the Boudin Administration. He told the Chron that “I am not Chesa Boudin.”

Boudin told me that Hamasaki hasn’t asked for his endorsement, although he said he is “glad that independent candidates not tied to the mayor are running.”

It’s late to get in the race, and he’ll have to move quickly to start raising money. But he is a former president of the Asian American Bar Association, and has a lot of contacts in the legal world.

Jenkins, with the mayor’s backing, will have all the money she needs.

Jenkins will almost certainly benefit from the same independent-expediture group that is linked to the nonprofit that paid her $100,000.

The SF Standard broke that story, and the Chron put it on the front page today. The main issue: She described herself as a “volunteer” for the recall, but was paid more than $100,000 in consulting fees by Neighbors for a Better San Francisco, which is the tax-exempt nonprofit arm of Neighbors for a Better San Francisco Advocacy, which has spent millions trying to keep progressive candidates out of office.

What she did is probably legal, but it comes pretty close to the line: Among other things, state law requires anyone who is featured in a campaign ad to disclose if they are paid. In fact, it says, the ads have to disclose if a person featured is “paid by [a] campaign or its donors.”

Since the same people, by and large, fund the two Neighbors groups, you could certainly make a case that Jenkins, who was featured in anti-Boudin materials, was paid by the campaign’s donors.

The only way anything further will happen is if there’s a complaint to the Ethics Commission, which could investigate. Boudin has called for an investigation.

Either that or somebody running against Jenkins continues to make her integrity and honesty a campaign issue.

Neighbors for a Better San Francisco was only one of the outfits she consulted for; another, which paid her between $10,000 and $100,000, is GlobalSF, a nonprofit funded in part by the city and other governments whose mission, according to its most recent tax filing, is “to bring together stakeholders in the public and private sector to create sustainable economic growth.”

The group’s website is a bit more specific:

Global:SF is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to paving the way for international companies to locate, invest, and grow in the San Francisco Bay Area while helping locally-based companies expand into global markets.

The group’s executive director told the Chron that Jenkins “provided legal advice, analysis, and research regarding public safety issues in San Francisco.”

Providing safety advice for an outfit that represents big companies that want to do business in SF seems perfectly legal. Also: A bit creepy.

Hamasaki, who has had a lively presence on Twitter, took on Jenkins ethical issues this week:

The only other candidate in the race who has any possible name recognition is Joe Alioto Veronese, whose mother, Angela Alioto, was a longtime supervisor and mayoral candidate. Alioto Veronese is running to Jenkin’s right, to the extent that’s even possible in this race and this city.

But he could take some conservative votes from her, leaving an opening for a candidate like Hamasaki.

Breed does not have a good record in appointing people to elected office; Her appointee for D5 supervisor lost, her appointee for DA lost, one of her three appointees to the School Board is in serious political trouble and may well lose in November … and now this.

The mayor is not terribly popular right now, and her connections to Jenkins may not help.

In other words, this is now a real, serious race, and progressives have another reason to turn out in November—which will impact everything else on the ballot.

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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