Two dozen supporters gathered one recent Thursday evening at 780 Cafe on Valencia Street for a fundraiser for District 9 Supervisor David Campos. Amid speeches and live music, drinks and Mexican food, the campaign staff collected donations.
Campos is running for reelection unopposed, but that hasn’t stopped him from campaigning and fundraising as if he has challengers. He’s already raised $79,823 in monetary contributions as of Sept. 30. That’s more than double the $28,330 he raised in the same period of 2008, when he faced six challengers.
In 2008, Campos received $73,331 in public funding over the course of his campaign, in addition to what he raised, as part of a city program that provides partial public financing to candidates to help offset campaign costs.
This time, because he’s unopposed, he’s on his own.
“I made a commitment to myself that I would run a strong campaign irrespective of whether I had competitors or not. So we have been running as if we do have opposition,” Campos said of his campaign strategy. “We have been trying to get the message out.”
“Getting the message out” has involved a tango lesson fundraiser, a sign-distributing party and a neighborhood walk, among other events. Campos’ campaign headquarters is on 22nd Street, complete with staff, volunteers and stacks of printed signs. He’s also hired firms to work on strategy and fundraising.
Campos supporter Erick Arguello, president of the Lower 24th Street Merchants and Neighbors Association, said that 2008 was a more difficult contest, but that the incumbent is not resting on his laurels.
“There were strong candidates running last time that had a lot of folks behind them. It was a much harder race,” Arguello said. “But he is not taking this campaign for granted. He is going to talk to people and find out what their concerns are for the next four years.”
The election is one avenue for Campos to reconnect with District 9 constituents. “Just because he doesn’t have a challenger doesn’t mean that residents don’t deserve a chance to really have a voice,” said the campaign’s communications director, Tom Temprano. A large part of Temprano’s role in the campaign is to make sure there is an open line of communication between Campos and the community.
A strong campaign is also a way for Campos to promote himself and his accomplishments. “He wants to communicate some of the things he’s got done and some of the things he wants to do,” says Jim Stearns, Campos’ consultant on both campaigns and president of Stearns Consulting.
Inspiring and organizing volunteers has been one of Campos’ strengths as a politician from the first campaign, says Stearns. A large part of the fundraising effort is an attempt to “expand his base” throughout the Mission and the city at large, especially given the recent addition of part of the Portola neighborhood to the district.
“He is running unopposed but these things are expensive,” said Larry Del Carlo, president and CEO of Mission Housing Development Corporation, pointing to an “I’m for David Campos” sign at the fundraiser.
Del Carlo didn’t vote for Campos the first time around, but became a backer after working with him on affordable housing issues in the neighborhood. Campos’ work to secure Del Carlo an audience with then-Mayor Gavin Newsom helped win his support.
“[Campos] has to go out and get everything [and] he is spending a considerable amount of time doing that,” Stearns said of Campos’ fundraising efforts. “Everyone believes grassroots is an old-fashioned, volunteer-driven thing, but you still need a headquarters, a campaign manager, an organizer [and] to produce literature. It’s an expensive way to go.”