With Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s endorsement of Joshua Arce on February 12 and SEIU 1021’s endorsement of Hillary Ronen on Wednesday, the race for District 9 supervisor is becoming clearer — though two of the four candidates have yet to file any campaign financing declarations.
Ronen has raised $41,076 and spent half of that by the beginning of January, leaving her with $22,683. Campaign contributions for the District 9 race are capped at $500 each.
Edwin Lindo raised significantly less than Ronen, bringing in $15,497, of which he has spent very little. A spokesperson for his campaign said the rate of donations has increased since the beginning of the year but declined to give a specific figure.
Iswari España has not submitted any filings and declined to say how much money he has raised.
While Arce has not filed a financial declaration for the district supervisor race, he has amassed a $78,224 war chest for his race to return to the Democratic County Central Committee — the local political arm of the Democratic Party. According to public filings from the beginning of the month, he has spent just $5,020.
However, that money must be kept separate from money raised for his campaign for supervisor. Because Arce announced his District 9 candidacy in mid-January and the current filings only cover contributions made before January 1, he declined to say how much he has raised for the supervisor race so far.
Some $70,000 of Arce’s funds come from a dozen labor unions, the largest contribution being $25,000 from the construction union Local 261, where he works as a community liaison.
“I don’t think that’s going to go over well with the district,” said Jim Stearns, a progressive political consultant. “That seems to me an inordinate amount of money, probably more money than I’ve ever heard a non-incumbent raise, and raising it in chunks of $25,000 opens him to very legitimate attacks of being bought and paid for.”
Jason Stewart, Arce’s campaign manager, fought back against that characterization and said his committee money would be completely separate from funds used in the District 9 race.
“Any funds that he raised for the DCCC campaign have to specifically be used for the purpose of DCCC,” Stewart said. “He’s going to be working hard to raise money from the residents of District 9 to show that he can be and will be a great supervisor for the district.”
For his part, Stearns said that because many candidates run for both supervisor and the central committee at the same time, “it’s a judgment call as to whether people are ruthlessly exploiting the loophole or legitimately pursuing two seats at the same time.”
The other currency of politics is weighty endorsements, and Ronen has garnered the support of the progressive half of the Board of Supervisors, including Jane Kim, Aaron Peskin, Eric Mar, John Avalos, and current District 9 Supervisor David Campos. Tom Ammiano, Campos’s predecessor and “grandfather of the progressive Board of Supervisors,” has also declared his support for Ronen.
Most of these supporters attended a Ronen campaign kick-off at the Brava Theater last Friday, where they drew links between Kim’s campaign for State Senate, the female progressive candidates running in Districts 1 and 11, and Ronen’s own race.
“This is the year of the women,” said Supervisor Avalos, who is termed out in November and backing Kimberly Alvarenga as his replacement in the Excelsior.
The mutual support among progressives is material too: Sandra Fewer, who is running in District 1 to replace termed-out Supervisor Mar, is also supporting Ronen financially to the tune of $500 — a gesture Ronen returned with a $250 gift to Fewer’s campaign.
But the union support is no surprise. Ronen has worked as Campos’s chief of staff since 2010 and has gotten to know his colleagues well in that time, and SEIU 1021 has a history of backing progressive candidates in the city.
“It’s an absolutely expected endorsement among progressives in San Francisco,” said David Latterman, a political consultant with a history of working for moderate candidates. “It is important, it does free up money and resources, but when progressives in San Francisco run for office, this goes in the asset column from the beginning.”
Still, the backing is not lightweight. SEIU boasts 6,000 members citywide and is the largest government employee union in the city. Its support could free up hundreds of members in District 9 for flyering and door-to-door campaigning in the district.
“[SEIU] 1021 is the largest single local, or one of the largest single locals in San Francisco, and they have a record of putting a lot of people power and money into their endorsements,” said Stearns. “It’s a big deal for her, and you can say it’s expected, but for 1021 you always have to earn it.”
While Ronen is strong locally, Arce is pulling in statewide actors. Besides Lieutenant Governor Newsom, Arce has the endorsement of two members of the State Assembly: Phil Ting, who represents the western half of the city, and David Chiu, who represents the eastern half and beat out Campos in 2014 for the seat.
“Generally the more statewide you get, they’re regarded as a little more important,” said Latterman. “For a San Francisco local race, [Newsom] is one of the more important endorsements. Arce didn’t have to ask for it, and he did and he got it.”
Stearns, on the other hand, thinks Newsom’s endorsement means little because of the district’s more progressive leanings.
“It’s probably less than zero in this district,” Stearns said. “I mean, no one cares. Even if [Newsom] came in here and actually campaigned for [Arce], it would be a negative.”
Supervisor Scott Wiener from the Castro has also come out for Arce. Both Arce and Ronen also have the support of John Burton, the head of the California Democratic Party, and are also pulling dozens of lesser known politicos, nonprofit heads, and union bosses to their camps.
Lindo and España have not gathered the high-profile endorsements of their opponents, though Lindo does share Supervisor Mar’s endorsement with Ronen. Because both are running as non-establishment candidates — in this year of political outsiders — they have focused more on consolidating grassroots support than going after political heavy-hitters.
Both have attended community meetings in recent weeks to discuss housing and racial justice in the Mission District, though they have stopped short of campaigning and participate as community members, not candidates. Because they are longtime Mission residents — Lindo was born at St. Luke’s, while España moved here from Guatemala when he was child — they may drum up votes by emphasizing their local roots.
District 9 is critical for the balance of power on the Board of Supervisors. Not only are six seats up for grabs — three of which are in the most progressive districts in the city, Districts 1, 9, and 11 — but the Mission has been ground zero for the housing and eviction crisis. A loss here would not only upset the progressive majority, but would be an embarrassment for the San Francisco left.
But despite its importance, campaigning has proceeded slowly. Ronen just had her kick-off last week and Arce is holding his this Saturday, so electioneering may rev up in a more earnest — if expected — way by spring.
“It’s pretty much breaking along normal lines, who’s getting what endorsements, the rhetoric,” said Latterman, the consultant. “It looks like a very standard San Francisco political race.”
Check out our weekly column, 43 Questions, to see how the four candidates for District 9 supervisor respond to questions on homelessness, housing, police reform, and more.
Correction: An earlier version of this article implied that John Burton was solely endorsing Joshua Arce. Burton has endorsed both Arce and Hillary Ronen.