David Chiu (left) and David Campos (right) are running for California’s 17th District Assembly seat. Photo courtesy sfbos.org

As assemblyman Tom Ammiano will be termed out of office in December, Assembly candidates David Chiu and David Campos are contending for his seat in the State Assembly. Historically, Ammiano, who represents the 17th Assembly District and is a long-time democratic leader, has used his seat to legislate for the disenfranchised.

To Sacramento, either candidate will continue to uphold the District’s progressive stance. But to San Francisco’s liberal sensibilities– their differences are less nuanced.

“Our voting record on the board of supervisors has been identical 98 percent of the time,” said Chiu, who represents District 3 and is also the president of the Board of Supervisors.”We are both progressive democrats. We are both strong labor allies.”

During a time of increased evictions and with the threat of speculative marketing, tenants’ rights are a major priority of many District 17 voters. Campos, District 9’s supervisor, has repeatedly made allegations that Chiu’s campaign funding from developers and real estate speculators show who’s pulling his strings.

“He has raised more money from the Chamber [of Commerce] and developers than the entire amount that I have raised,” Campos said. “I think they have made it clear that he is their candidate.”

As of Dec. 21, Chiu has raised $448,206 in campaign contributions, $142,993 (31.9 percent) coming from real estate interests and $34,398 (7.6 percent) from financial interests. Campos has raised $211,223, with $82,650 (39 percent) from real estate interests.
“The Campos campaign has made those accusations,” said Chiu in response to the allegations. “What they [the Campos campaign] have raised has been from those exact same sources.”

While Chiu has gained an early lead in campaign funding, some of the candidates’ backers intersect. The Build Group, the firm undertaking the 2558 Mission St. development, as well as  Seven Hills properties, responsible for the 555 Bartlett development above Walgreens at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Bartlett streets, support both candidates.

About the Candidates
Both Candidates come from immigrant backgrounds, and both are Harvard Law Graduates.

Originally from Izabal, Guatemala, Campos immigrated to the United States with his family at 14-years-old. At the time, he was undocumented and did not speak English.

Chiu Grew up in Boston, the first son of Chinese immigrants. Both candidates’ view on policy has been fundamentally shaped by their backgrounds.

“The reason I’m here today is because of our public school system,” said Campos. “I want to make sure that we have the best public school system in the world.”

Campos was the former legal counsel for the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). He has fought with youth advocates for a program which will give free clipper cards to low-income youth. Google has donated $6.8 million to the program.

Chiu has also fought to improve education in San Francisco.

“As a son of immigrants, it has been critically important for me to work with the tremendous diversity of San Franciscans in every community, to make sure we are addressing the needs of everyday families and residents who are struggling,”said Chiu.

In 2012, Chiu introduced legislation aimed at allowing undocumented parents to vote in their children’s school board elections, stating that many public school children in San Francisco have undocumented parents.

On Tenants Rights
Both Candidates are committed to fighting for the modification of the states Ellis Act, a California state law that has been used as a mechanism for evicting San Francisco’s rent-controlled tenants.

“The long term objective with the Ellis Act is to get rid of it,” said Campos.

The Ellis Act was passed in 1986 with the intention of allowing landlords to go out of business by evicting tenants and selling the units. San Francisco currently requires building owners to pay a relocation fee to tenants evicted under this law.This payment increases if the tenant is elderly or disabled.

“I am supportive of reforming our State Ellis act, which can only be done at the state level–to address real estate speculators who have thwarted the law by buying evicting and flipping properties,”said Chiu.

Both Candidates have proposed legislation on the issue.

Last month, Chiu called on the city attorney’s office to draft the Tenant Right of First Refusal, a legislation that would give tenants the right to know when a sale might be made. In addition, tenants could pull resources together, and potentially work with the city to make an offer to the landlord, according to Chiu.

“We’ll be leading the fight to make sure the Ellis act works for San Francisco,” said Chiu. “This will be an extremely difficult battle because around the state there is little interest in changing the Ellis Act.”

Campos has introduced legislation that would require building owners to help evicted tenants readjust by paying the difference for a comparable unit. The amount would be calculated by the city controller’s office and account for two years of rent.

“My law will provide people to get enough money in relocation costs to be able to afford to stay in the city,” said Campos. “The speculators that are buying properties one day and flipping it the next day are not landlords, they never intended to be landlords.”

Legislation on the State Level
Most importantly, we must ask, who will be a more effective legislator at the state level and who would they advocate for?
“The main difference between David Campos and I is that during our six years in office, I have passed over 90 ordinances and he has passed one-third as many,” Chiu said.

In a more moderate State Assembly, compromise will be essential in effective legislation that advocates for San Francisco.

“Effectiveness is something that is defined by more than how many pieces of legislation you get through,” said Campos in response to Chiu. “Its not the number of laws you pass but the quality and the substance of the laws you pass.”

Both Candidates expressed confidence in their campaign–and both are committed to their image as advocates of the disenfranchised.
“We have been the go-to office for working people because they know that we can take on complicated legislation,” said Campos.

From 2012 to 2013, Ellis Act Evictions increased by 81 percent, accounting for 116 of the 1,757 total evictions. The University of San Francisco conducted a poll in November 2013 showing that affordability was the number one concern of San Francisco voters. In a growing city of renters, this issue is sure to be a priority for both campaigns.

“I have been working on affordable housing issues before it became politically popular to work on affordable housing issues,” said Chiu.
In the coming months, Campos and Chiu will continue to go head-to-head for the assembly seat. Primary elections will be held on June 3, followed by the general elections on Nov. 4.