Hillary Ronen, the chief of staff to Supervisor David Campos, and Joshua Arce, a liaison for the labor union Local 261, have raised significantly more money than the other two candidates vying to replace Campos as supervisor for District 9, according to campaign finance filings released this week.
And while Ronen is the only candidate to receive money from lobbyists, a third-party committee funded by the Police Officers Association and various labor unions has raised $180,000 and is spending thousands on promoting Arce, alongside other candidates.
Ronen has received $272,469 from individual donors and public financing compared to $156,229 for Arce. She goes into the final months before the election with $135,896 still on-hand, while Arce has $79,926 left.
Melissa San Miguel, an education advocate, has raised $15,398 and has $7,427 left, while Iswari España, a training officer with the Human Services Agency, raised $2,610 and has $1,410 left.
Both Ronen and Arce have received funds from the city through public financing, which matches money fundraised from San Francisco residents by both campaigns. Of Ronen’s total, $168,838 was fundraised and $103,631 was from public financing, while Arce fundraised $95,680 and got $60,548 from the city.
For all candidates, the money fundraised comes from donations of $500 or less, the maximum allowed per individual for supervisorial races.
The amount of money in play far surpasses what was raised in 2008, the last time the District 9 seat was up for grabs. When former supervisor Tom Ammiano was termed out of office, Campos had fundraised and received $65,205 at this point in his bid to replace him. The two next highest vote-getters, Mark Sanchez and Eric Quezada, had gotten $19,822 and $13,535, respectively.
Police Officer’s Association Spends for Arce
Spending for Arce isn’t just coming from his own campaign, however. A third-party committee, San Franciscans for a City That Works, has spent $10,396 to support Arce so far this year and has another $62,000 on hand for future spending.
That committee has already spent some $18,300 on other candidates and measures, including Marjan Philhour, running for supervisor in District 1, and Ashai Safai, running in District 11. It has raised $179,500 total this year.
The biggest backer of the committee is the Police Officers Association, which has given $82,500 to San Franciscans for a City That Works this year. The police union, which represents San Francisco police officers, has come under increasing scrutiny for its defense of officers in the wake of fatal shootings and a racist and homophobic text messaging scandal.
The police union is particularly contentious in the Mission District and Bernal Heights, where three of the five controversial police shootings of the last two years have occurred. Hunger strikers who set out to oust the former police chief galvanized local activists and led a march to City Hall earlier this year calling for reform of the department and police union.
A report commissioned by the district attorney earlier this year found that the police union has an undue influence on the Police Department and helped create a “good old boys’ club” that made discipline difficult. The president of the union has blasted the report, saying it was biased and illegitimate.
The second-biggest donor to the committee is Local 261, the union where Arce works as a community liaison, which gave $57,500 to San Franciscans for a City That Works.
Various labor unions from California and Nevada have given an additional $37,000 to the group. The treasurer of the committee, Charley Lavery, is a union representative for Operating Engineers Local 3, another construction union from Burlingame.
Arce is not allowed to coordinate spending with the committee, and the committee’s “independent expenditures” on behalf of Arce do not count towards Arce’s total. The group is not subject to campaign contribution limits like individual donors are and can spend on behalf of multiple candidates or ballot measures.
Arce’s campaign manager said he would not comment on the independent expenditure, citing campaign laws barring campaigns from communicating with the group.
No independent expenditures have yet been spent on behalf of Ronen.
Lobbyists Give to Ronen
Ronen, for her part, is the only candidate to accept contributions from registered lobbyists, having received $2,700 from six registered lobbyists since December 2015.
The practice of taking campaign donations from lobbyists is currently perfectly legal, but could be changed if a new ballot measure passes in November. The initiative would bar lobbyist contributions to a candidate running for a spot in a governing body, like the Board of Supervisors, if that lobbyist has had dealings with that body, according to the San Francisco Public Press.
Rich Peterson, co-founder with Boe Hayward of the consulting firm Goodyear, Peterson, Hayward & Associates, gave Ronen $500. He has had 13 reported contacts with Ronen and two contacts with her boss, Supervisor Campos.
Peterson lobbied Ronen on behalf of Grocery Outlet starting on September 10, 2015, with the most recent contact occurring May 11, 2016. The discount store chain will open two new stores in the Mission District and Portola this year.
Hayward, who represented the developer of a controversial housing project at 2070 Bryant St. between 18th and 19th streets that was approved earlier this year, donated $500 to Ronen.
Ronen has not had any reported contact with Hayward, but Hayward has lobbied Campos 10 times. Hayward lobbied Campos for Facebook on the tech bus program, for the Nick Podell Company on 2070 Bryant St., and for Grocery Outlet on their two new stores coming to the Mission District and Portola, among other issues.
David Noyola, another lobbyist, has not had any reported contact with Ronen but did lobby Campos five times on behalf of Uber, Airbnb, and development giant Lennar. Noyola gave Ronen $500.
Three other lobbyists with contacts with both Ronen and Campos for various clients gave a total of $1,200 to Ronen.
Responding to the lobbyist contributions, Ronen said it was a drop in the bucket compared to the money she’s raised from others and pointed to her 14 years working in District 9.
“I have over 1,000 people donating to my campaign — and five lobbyists donating to me,” she said.
Most candidates running for supervisor received no contributions from lobbyists, but three got between $700 and $2,100. One candidate, Ahsha Safai, running to replace Supervisor John Avalos in District 11 received $11,912.74 from 37 lobbyists.
Incumbent supervisors running to retain their seats raised significantly more. Supervisor London Breed raised $30,650 from lobbyists, while her colleague Supervisor Aaron Peskin raised $17,000.
Other Candidates Outspent
The other two candidates in the race are outspent 10-1 or more. San Miguel has a tenth as much money as Arce and a twentieth as much as Ronen. España has about 2 percent of what Arce has and 1 percent of what Ronen has accumulated.
San Miguel, for her part, said money would not be the deciding factor in the race and pointed to daily interactions with voters as evidence that her campaign would “bring real change to City Hall.”
“No matter what the money differential may be today, we have a winning message and the coalition to make it happen,” she said.
España lamented the inability of his campaign to hire well-paid staffers and “political insiders” like the other candidates.
He said Ronen and Arce were able to open campaign headquarters in the Mission District that have even affected his daily commute from 24th Street to his job at the career center at the corner of Mission and Cesar Chavez streets.
“One is like a block away from my house and one is like a block away from my job,” he said. “It is an obstacle, because I’m trying to run a campaign as clean as possible.”