San Francisco voters chose experience over new blood in Tuesday’s primary election for state Assembly District 12, with San Francisco Supervisor Fiona Ma leading with almost 60 percent of the vote and 90 percent of the precincts counted.
Ma, a former protégé of ex-state Sen. John Burton, defeated Golden Gate Bridge Board member and fellow Democrat Janet Reilly. In what some have called one of the most expensive Assembly races ever, the two camps — combined with their supporters — spent more than $1 million each in a tooth-and-nail battle that included attack ads directed at Reilly’s family and allegations of fundraising improprieties by Ma.
In an historically Democratic district, Ma is the favorite to replace Assemblyman Leland Yee — who is termed out and running for state Senate — for the powerful seat representing western San Francisco and northern San Mateo County come November.
"It’s over for tonight, but [Reilly’s] battle for these issues is not over," conceded Eric Jaye, Reilly campaign consultant, highlighting Reilly’s platform of universal health care, building stronger schools and cleaning up the environment.
Ma’s campaign raised more than $1.4 million and benefited from more than $1 million spent on her behalf by independent expenditure committees, or IEs, to attack Reilly. Of the handful of IEs that contributed to Ma’s campaign, her biggest supporter was Leaders for an Effective Government, a group started years ago by Burton.
Reilly decried the IEs, which received contributions from the California Association of Realtors and the law enforcement unions, as well as Sacramento special interests. The committees, which aren’t subject to contribution limits or required to detail where their money comes from, must operate separately from campaigns. Reilly questioned the extent to which that was happening in a complaint to the state Fair Political Practices Committee regarding Ma.
"We’re thrilled," Ma said. "I have 10 years of state and local experience, and voters chose me because I know what needs District 12 depends on."
Throughout the oftentimes negative race, Ma campaign consultant Tom A. Hsieh accused Reilly — the wife of real estate mogul and former political consultant Clint Reilly — of attempting to use her family’s connections and wealth to buy her way into elected office over a more experienced candidate. In all, Reilly loaned her campaign more than $400,000, spending almost $1.4 million on the race, Jaye said.