Well-Educated Candidates Vie for Assembly Seat

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Last fall, Mayor London Breed appointed then State Assemblymember David Chiu to be San Francisco City Attorney, filling the seat vacated by Dennis Herrera, who Breed selected to head the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, a position which’d been made available by the resignation of Harlan Kelly in the face of corruption allegations. The political musical chairs triggered the need to hold a special election, scheduled for April 19, for the District 17 spot. 

Four candidates are running in an election primary, to be held on February 15, to determine which two will advance to the April vote. Among the leading contenders is District 6 – encompassing the Tenderloin, Civic Center, Mid-Market, South-of-Market, Yerba Buena, Rincon Hill, South Beach, Mission Bay, Treasure Island – Supervisor Matt Haney. The head of the San Francisco Democratic Party, Honey Mahogany, serves as his legislative assistant. 

Haney’s campaign focuses on rebalancing housing availability to match employment growth, expanding services for those without permanent shelter, and adding mental health treatment beds. Elected in 2018, he co-authored ‘Mental Health SF’ with Supervisor Hillary Ronen, co-sponsored by Mayor London Breed, which emphasized centralized access to behavioral health services. 

Haney cofounded #cut50 with activists Van Jones and Jessica Jackson. The Oakland-based nonprofit focuses on ending incarceration of nonviolent offenders. It advocated for The First Step Act, signed into law in 2018, which served to reduce the federal prison population and established alternatives to imprisonment, such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation, mental health access and counseling.

 In 2020 Haney authored Proposition L, the ‘Overpaid CEO Tax,’ which assesses a 0.1 percent surcharge on annual business taxes of San Francisco companies if top executives earn more than 100 times “typical local workers”. That same year he was a lead advocate for Proposition B, to reorganize the Department of Public Works and increase oversight of its operations. Both initiatives were approved by more than 60 percent of voters. 

Haney received a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 2005 from the University of California, Berkeley, followed by a Master of Laws in human rights from the National University of Ireland, a Master of Arts from the Stanford Graduate School of Education, and a Doctor of Law (LL.M) from Stanford in 2010. He served on the San Francisco Board of Education from 2012 to 2018, including a term as president.

Haney’s chief rival is David Campos, a former District 9 Supervisor and chief of staff to San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. This is Campos’ second time running for the assembly seat, losing narrowly to Chui in 2014. Recently elected vice chair of the California Democratic party, Campos has strong ties with the Latino and LGBQT communities. 

Campos entered the United States as an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala when he was a teenager. If elected he’d be the second Latino to represent San Francisco in the State Legislature; the last one was A.D. Spivalo, 1871 to 1872, who was born in Chile. 

Campos is campaigning on universal health care, job creation, making college affordable and increasing housing density while fending off gentrification. 

Campos earned scholarships to Stanford and Harvard universities, graduating with a BA in Political Science from Stanford in 1993, receiving his LL.M from Harvard Law School in 1996. After three years in private practice, Campos joined the City Attorney’s office in 1999. He was appointed to District 9 Supervisor, representing Mission, Portola, and Bernal Heights, by then-mayor Gavin Newsom to replace Tom Ammiano, who had won his State Assembly race. He was elected to the position in 2008, terming-out in 2017. 

While supervisor Campos supported proposals to fund legal representation for undocumented immigrants and reverse the policy of reporting undocumented youth to immigration if they’re arrested. He backed People Organized to Win Empowerment Rights’ and the Chinatown Community Development Center’s call to provide free Muni for youth. He introduced the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, passed by the Board, which created a 25-foot “harassment free zone” around free-standing clinics, with violators subject to a $1,000 fine or up to three months in jail, though the legislation’s effectiveness is unclear. He was an early supporter of safe injection sites for drug users.

Haney supports development of a 495-unit apartment complex on a Nordstrom parking lot, which the Board of Supervisor’s rejected last year. Campos opposes the project, though not housing on the site, asserting that it’d displace nearby residents through gentrification.

Also in the race is San Francisco Community College Board trustee Thea Selby, who ran for District 5 Supervisor in 2013 against future mayor London Breed. Considering herself a “practical progressive”, she’s one of 14 California Democratic Party delegates who help shape policies for Assembly District 17. She’s been a member of the College Board since 2002.

Selby hopes to champion small businesses, with other focuses being education, transportation, and the environment. Like Haney, she advocates for increased funding for mental health services, and wants to expedite the building of affordable housing. Similar to Campos, she supports safe injection sites. She’d like to see the City take over fiber internet services as a means to increase access, and wants more local control over 5G towers.

Selby owns Next Steps Marketing Inc., an advertising business. She’s co-founder and president of the Lower Haight Merchant and Neighbor Association, and chair and co-founder of WIPP, a leadership conference for women in media. She has a BA from UC Berkeley in Soviet Studies, and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Oregon.

Scientist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Bilal Mahmood is running for office for the first time. Born in the Bay Area to Pakistani immigrants. He graduated from high school in Lahore where he and his family relocated after facing islamophobia post-9/11.

Mahmood’s main concerns are the need for more affordable housing, proper care of those without permanent shelter, and climate change. He supports a guaranteed income and is worried about Muni’s deficit, projected at roughly $134 million in 2022. He wants to be a voice for people of color and introduce “bold new ideas. Remaining a beacon for the middle class.”

Mahmood attended Stanford at the same time as Haney, received a Bachelor of Sciences in Biology and Economics in 2009, and a Master of Philosophy in bioscience enterprise from the University of Cambridge in 2010.

His dissertation title was Strategic Implications of US Health Reform on Pharmaceutical Market Access

In 2020 Mahmood launched The Oakland Workers Fund, pledging $100,000 to provide basic income to laid off restaurant workers. He’s planning to provide grants to address Anti-Asian violence and support local journalism.