Donors are pouring money into Supervisor Carmen Chu’s re-election campaign fund, yet nearly all of her financial supporters will never see Chu’s name on a ballot — and many more do not even live in San Francisco.
Chu, who is so far unopposed in her bid for another term as District 4’s representative on the Board of Supervisors, raked in nearly $70,000 in campaign contributions in 2009, finance records show.
That figure makes her one of the citywide leaders in fundraising, and almost ensures she will not face any serious opposition. But only $5,600, or less than 10 percent, came from her own Sunset District constituents.
In fact, Chu’s most generous supporters are represented on the Board by another Chiu–David Chiu, who as progressive Board president is often one of mayoral ally Carmen Chu’s political opponents. Chu accepted $13,500 from donors with zip codes within David Chiu’s District 3 boundaries, records show, more than any other supervisorial district, including Chu’s own District 4.
In all, almost two-thirds of Chu’s war chest — over $43,000 — comes from San Francisco voters who will not have the chance to cast a vote for her. Out of 196 total contributors, 23 — or less than 12 percent — are District 4 constituents.
Chu is running unopposed in the district, which she has represented since her September 2007 appointment by Mayor Gavin Newsom. Chu was appointed to replace Ed Jew, who is serving a federal prison sentence in Arizona.
Chu benefited from out-of-town generosity as well: 47 donors and three political action committees with addresses from Sacramento to Los Angeles to even Plano, Texas, chipped in another $20,000 towards keeping Chu in charge of 19th Avenue to Great Highway, records show.
Why out-of-district and out-of-town money would pour into an uncontested election race is unclear. Other mayoral favorites face closer and far more uncertain battles in Districts 6 and 2. Chu has been a staunch mayoral ally and a key vote in political struggles — such as upholding vetoes — between the Board and Newsom.
Relying on outside money to win local elections is hardly a new phenomenon in San Francisco. Aaron Peskin, local Democratic Party chairman and District 3 supervisor from 2001 to 2009, recalled that of the 14 candidates who stood for supervisor in the 2000 election, only two raised more than half of their campaign money within their district: “(District 4 candidate) John Shanley, and me.”
“It’s not surprising that (outside) people would invest in a supervisor,” Peskin said. National action committees to support, say, LGBT candidates will often contribute money in local elections. “But I would find it surprising if it was the vast majority.”
Calls to Nichelle Lyons, who is listed as Chu’s campaign manager, were not returned. Chu declined to discuss her campaign when approached at City Hall on Tuesday. City law prohibits elected officials from using city-owned resources, such as city e-mail accounts or phone lines, for campaign purposes.
Chu’s done nothing illegal or unethical, and has by all accounts done a fine, if prosaic, job representing the Sunset. And while there’s eight months left to go before the November election, Chu’s formidable fundraising machine will likely scare off any serious opposition.
Though it does leave one to wonder…
“Obviously, if you’re a district representative, the more money you raise within your district, the more legitimate you are,” Peskin said. “Right?”