Credit to Potrero Hill Democratic Club.

Last year, David Chiu accepted his new job as City Attorney, leaving his District 17 State Assembly seat behind. Four contenders seek to replace him, and on Tuesday, three presented their stances on housing, marijuana and much more during a Potrero Hill Democratic Club forum. 

Our own Joe Eskenazi moderated the discussion. We picked some questions and summarized the nearly hour-and-a-half conversation for you here. 

Who are the players, and what were their opening remarks?

David Campos: In the past, he worked as a Santa Clara Deputy County Executive, a San Francisco Supervisor, and a San Francisco Deputy City Attorney. He called for an increase in affordable housing, fixing homelessness and affordable healthcare for all. As a formerly undocumented citizen, Campos characterized himself as someone fighting for the “regular” people. 

“My vision is for a state of California that brings everyone along, including those left behind.” 

Bilal Mahmood: A neuroscientist and entrepreneur who worked in the Obama administration, and in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. He believes many of today’s current issues could be solved by combining science and policy, and cutting out red tape in housing production and small business. 

As a son of immigrants, he wants San Francisco “to return to what it represented for my family: A beacon of hope.” 

Thea Selby: A mother with two kids, whom she raised in the district; a small business owner, an elected City College Trustee and founder of the Lower Haight Merchant and Neighbor Association. She calls herself a champion of the working family, and touted her expertise on transit and education. 

“The assembly is where you have the opportunity … I want to make sure I’m there to help it.”

Matt Haney: At present, Haney represents District 6 as a San Francisco Supervisor. Before that, he served on the San Francisco Board of Education and as an attorney. The night of the event, he was at a Board of Supervisors meeting, making him unable to join the Potrero Hill Democratic Club’s forum. 

Some debate questions: 

  1. Eskenazi: I’d like you to assess Assemblyman Chiu’s term in Sacramento. What did he do well, and what was not so good? What would you continue to do, and what would you do differently?

Campos complimented Chiu as a “workhorse,” a trait he feels he shares. What he’ll do differently is build on relationships, including with the Latino and LGBTQ caucuses. He is backed by other representatives, like state senator Toni Atkins, and says this level of unity is “unique.” 

Mahmood praised how Chiu brought “broad coalitions” together and “pushed for ideas and legislation that [weren’t] popular,” like wind farms. Overall, Mahmood doesn’t find much to critique in Chiu’s tenure, and just said his “focus” on prioritizing climate change may differ. 

Selby, too, believes she could bring different groups together, especially women and transit groups, which she says Chiu did well. She diverged from her contenders and disagreed with Chiu’s priority on “corporate”-backed transit. Selby wants more progressive regional measures; she said she works with Voice For Public Transit, a group representing thousands of labor, transit and youth advocates.

  1. Eskenazi: I’d like you to espouse your views on what the Assembly can and should do regarding increased housing production. How does geographic equitability and local control factor in?

Mahmood noted he’s a renter and a son of immigrants, and both experiences color his views on housing production. The two main problems: “Our cities block new housing development, that drives up the price of rent due to lack of supply,” and cities’ failure to “uplift existing tenants.” Mahmood thinks the state needs laws that ban exclusionary zoning, bolster permitting, invest in social housing and strengthen tenant protections against Ellis Act evictions. He’s for building all affordability types and stopping “the obstructive micromanagement of our housing development, like we see in our San Francisco Board of Supervisors… and ensure that we can build anywhere, at any height, any time.”

Campos disagreed with the notion to build anywhere, at any height, at any time. His main focus is finding dollars for affordable housing statewide, which he did in Santa Clara through a voter-presented bond that assisted the formerly homeless. Affordable housing should extend not just to “low-income individuals, but for middle-income individuals” like teachers, first responders, firefighters and police officers.

Selby zeroed in on acquiring funding and land. She thinks the Bay Area Housing Authority could help out financially, and state reps need to pressure the feds to support more. Exploring an estate transfer tax is also viable. Incentivizing private institutions to sell their land for housing production is another possibility. 

  1. Eskenazi: What meaningful environmental legislation would you advocate for in the Assembly? 

Selby proposed legislation that could rake in $100 billion for climate policies, which would be paid for by progressively-funded wealth or income tax. The state needs hydrogen cell trucks, too, since trucks contribute to emissions. In addition, the state should promote a “shift” from car culture to biking and walking. 

Mahmood, who previously worked with the authors of the Green New Deal, said he wants the state to have its own. This means setting up and enforcing production goals for electric bikes and electric transit, giving zero-interest loans through a Climate Public Bank to businesses and families who decide to retrofit their homes, and cutting red tape for these policies. His scientific background makes him apt, he added. 

Campos, too, advocated for a Green New Deal and underscored the need for new, green jobs that shift away from industries that pollute and which are located in areas disproportionately affected by the environment; the Bayview neighborhood in San Francisco and the city of Richmond came to mind. He called on the state to make these investments, and these changes “will be one of the first things that [I’d do] if elected.”

  1. Eskenazi: What distinguishes you from your fellow candidates, and why would that would make you a more effective Assemblymember? 

Selby said her experience as a woman and a mother would shape specific policies that are often left out. Cracking down on tampon taxes, and including diapers into SNAP benefits, were policies supported by mothers and women, she said. Both the assembly and this position, however, have mostly been directed by men, who may not think about those issues.  

Campos’s experience as a poor, undocumented immigrant enlightens him to barebones issues, like hunger and wealth. However, his experience fighting inequality sets him apart: “It’s not just talk, it’s actual action.”

Mahmood said he’s not a “career politician,” rendering him unmoved by potentially cushier jobs. His background in science, the private and nonprofit sector and business coalesce in a distinct mix of knowledge that can solve what he thinks are society’s most pressing problems: climate change, the pandemic, healthcare and housing. 

Lightning Round:

Each candidate only could answer yes or no, though some did not do that.

  1. I supported SB35 when it was proposed. 

Campos: Yes. 

Mahmood: Yes. 

Selby:  Yes.

  1. SB35 has been a good thing for California. 

Campos: Yes. 

Mahmood: Yes. 

Selby:  Yes.

  1. I support the recall of Chesa Boudin. 

Campos:  No.  

Mahmood:  No position. 

Selby:  No.

  1. I support the recall of the San Francisco Board of Education.

Campos: Yes on one, no on two [of the members]. 

Mahmood: Yes on all three. 

Selby:  Yes.

  1. I support reforming the process of enacting recalls.

Campos: Yes. 

Mahmood: Yes.

Selby:  Yes.

  1. Congestion pricing in San Francisco would require state approval. With that said, yes or no, I support congestion pricing here.

Campos: Yes. 

Mahmood: Yes. 

Selby:  Yes.

  1. Caltrans should make more properties under freeways available for homeless shelters and housing.

Campos: Yes. 

Mahmood: Yes. 

Selby:  Yes.

  1. Potrero Hill is slated to be the site of a 450-micro unit, 120-foot tower. Yes or no: This is fair and good for the residents of Potrero Hill.

Campos: No position.

Mahmood: Yes.

Selby:  No position.

  1. I would, if offered, accept an endorsement and monetary support from the Police Officers Association.

Campos: No.

Mahmood: No. 

Selby:  No.

  1. I represent a change from the dominant political forces running the City for the last 25 years.

Campos: Yes. 

Mahmood: Yes. 

Selby:  Yes.

  1. If a Congressional seat opens up during your first term, would you consider running for it? 

Campos: No. 

Mahmood: No. 

Selby:  No.


Your contribution is appreciated.

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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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  1. Yep, Campos moseys into another cush political post in Boudin’s office, but somehow leaves that critical bit off of his resume.

    I intend to spoil my ballot as none of these aspirants is qualified or has done work to deserve a promotion. But it is poor form to hold a candidate forum on the night of a Board of Supervisors mtg when a candidate is a member.

  2. Campers,

    Nature of representation from Assembly 17 will remain pro-development and weakening local control of land use decisions.

    Everyone on line for the Zoom show couldn’t kiss Scott Wiener’s enough.

    Haney feels same as he now supports major gentrification projects and is getting big donations from building trades unions.

    Only change will be that if Haney wins D-6 will not have a Progressive supe for first time in 20 years since Ammiano brought back District Elections.

    Go Niners and let’s play Trey Lance from here on.

    He’s much more dangerous than Garoppolo.


  3. Seems unfair to schedule a debate at a time when you know one of the candidates will not be able to attend. It just seems to violate basic fairness.

    1. Sir or madam — 

      The Potrero Hill Dems meet on Tuesdays. That’s how it is, and that’s how it’s been for years and years before this particular crop of candidates. If they met on Wednesdays this wouldn’t be a problem, but then, maybe, the supes would be in committee. At some point, you hold the event and people can make it or they can’t.

      It’s not an order mandated from heaven that the candidate must be a sitting supervisor, though it has happened before. I’d have loved to have Matt Haney there, but he’ll have his opportunities — and so will you, the voters — at a jarringly large number of other debates in just the next week or so alone.



      1. Was this a live meeting?

        It would help if they were asked harder questions, but they said absolutely nothing.

        What has Selby done to improve MUNI or stave off catastrophic class cuts at CCSF?


        1. Harry — 

          It wasn’t a dead meeting. It was held via zoom.

          I’m sorry you didn’t like my choice of questions. The format we devised did not have space for questions of individual candidates to the exception of others.


  4. Thanks for doing this — some of the answers were only to be expected — each of them had answers I was a bit disappointed with, though perhaps if they had not been in “lightning round” format I might have understood their positions a bit better.

    Is there any history of Haney answering that question about running for higher office in his first term?

    1. Don’t be fooled by Haney. Of course he is much better than Campos (I cannot think of anyone worse except for Boudin), but ultimately he has been as disaster for the City.

    1. Same, he’s the only one that supports with the PH housing without reservation. Not sure if Selby is posturing because of her stance on Chesa and neutral vote on PH.

      1. Thus far I have been supporting Selby (while considering Mahmood as well) with monetary donations. I was disappointed to see that she is not supporting the recall of our cruel and monstrous DA Boudin. I hope all voters in the City can recognize that David Campos is horrible and wrong on every single issue. Campos is horrible; Haney is extremely bad that not as bad. Do any readers who have done research on the candidates’ positions have information on how to distinguish Selby and Mahmood? I have still not decided which of those two is better. The issues on Mahmood’s website mostly indicate that he is a good candidate. However, he supports rent control, the single most destructive policy in SF history and the main cause of our housing shortage.

        1. Wow, it is always amazing to me that such right-wing, uninformed people live here!

          Rent control only makes rent slightly more affordable in buildings built before 1970 or so. Rents still climb each year, with inflation.

          Plenty of cities without rent control (and most do not) have high rents and shortages.

          SF has thousands of units sitting empty. Almost 100% of new housing is for (and has been for) the wealthy.

          When the few older people remaining in rent controlled units die or move, the units will regress to the extraordinarily rapacious market rate.

          Rent are extraordinary everywhere, and rent control merely means you will not have extortionate annual increases or a price rise just because your greedy realty REIT wants more money!

          So sad to read the above!

          None of these candidates have anything to offer.

          1. Rent control – like all central price control – is communism.

            Communism doesn’t work to help people – certainly won’t help you attain your stated goals of more affordable housing.

            When prices go up, developers want to create ‘more housing’ – barring no red tape, that is what happens. Markets work to meet demand. When new housing is added to the market, prices go down because there is more supply.

            The idea is simple – given a certain demand, more supply, prices go down. Less supply, prices go up. No new supply, prices remain the same.

            Price controls do lead to more supply of housing – which means prices stay high. Why? because price controls discourage developers from creating more housing, which means no new housing is added to the market. Hence, price controls lock in current high prices

            If you really wanted to see an improvement in the overall price of housing (rental and for sale), you want to support ‘creating more supply’ – and, hence, you do not want to support price controls.

            Price controls lead to the exact opposite outcome from the outcome you purport to want. It’s not left wing vs right wing – it’s economics 101.

            Price controls (e.g. rent control e.g. communism) locks in prices at their current levels and in so doing discourages, often eliminating, the creation of more supply. Price controls (e.g. rent control e.g. communism) does not lead to lower prices – quite the opposite.

            if you want to help drive prices down, you should support creating more supply – not preventing more supply from being created.