Campos vs. Chiu for state seat is a battle on many fronts 

click to enlarge Two members of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors will be battling over the 17th Assembly District seat currently held by termed-out Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. - ERIC RISBERG/2010 S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Eric Risberg/2010 S.F. Examiner file photo
  • Two members of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors will be battling over the 17th Assembly District seat currently held by termed-out Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.

Last week, a long-rumored political race became official — the Davids of the Board of Supervisors are running against each other in California's 17th Assembly District for what will become a historic win.

David Campos, who publicly announced his candidacy more than a month and a half ago on the steps of City Hall, would be the first Latino from The City to represent the district in the Assembly. David Chiu, who went public with his bid last Thursday online, would be the first Asian to represent the district; together with Assemblyman Phil Ting in District 19 to the west, Chinese-Americans would represent all of San Francisco.

But the seat also has a history of its own, adding another dynamic to what will likely shape up to be a close race.

The three most recent Assembly members in the seat, which represented the 13th District until redistricting last year, have been gay — termed-out incumbent Tom Ammiano, preceded by now-state Sen. Mark Leno and Carole Migden. While Campos is the only gay candidate, Chiu has consistently backed LGBT issues.

How much influence the LGBT voter bloc has in the race over a seat that has been held by gay legislators for nearly two decades could be a major deciding factor.

Ammiano, who previously sat in Campos' District 9 seat on the Board of Supervisors, said the LGBT community continues to value having a representative of their sexual orientation.

"That does not get a 'get out of jail' card by any means, but certainly in my playbook it's important," said Ammiano, who endorsed Campos the day he announced. "But I wouldn't automatically dismiss someone who is not gay. We wouldn't be here without our allies."

But the demographics of The City and the voters that turn out are also another key piece of the election.

David Lee, executive director of the Chinese American Voters Education Committee, said that the LGBT voter bloc in The City is among the highest in turnout. Asians, who are the second-largest ethnic group in The City, continue to lag in voter turnout and registration, he said.

"That is the challenge that David Chiu has," Lee said. "In terms of 'how do you activate presumably what would be a natural base and get them out to vote and vote twice, because due to the open primary system this election will go all the way until November?'"

In the embryonic stages of the campaign, which has a ways to go until the June 2014 primaries, neither candidate has spoken ill of the other. Both also avoided commenting directly on the opponent when questioned about who would be the better Assembly member.

"I hope that San Franciscans can judge me on my record of delivering results, of efficiently moving forward to solve some of our city's most difficult challenges," Chiu said.

Campos said the demographics of the district lean toward him being a better fit.

"There are also a lot of working-class people and I know that our message in fighting for the little guy is going to resonate in Sacramento," he said.

While the candidates are playing up their differences on many issues, they also have similarities. Chiu has been supportive of LGBT issues and Campos has pushed issues of interest to the Asian community. The common ground has earned each candidate backers and endorsements from 'the other side.'

While the divide between the Asian and LGBT communities may be played up, some say they are a thing of the older generation. Today, the populations face many of the same challenges — high risk for displacement being one of them, said Tom Temprano, president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, which has endorsed Campos in the past but has not taken a side in this race yet.

"I would not like to see this race framed as a LGBT community versus Asian community race, although that's already a lot of the discussion," Temprano said. "I hope we can talk more about substantive issues. This district has a Latino population, and African-American population, so it's certainly more complicated than two communities running against each other."

Sizing up Assembly hopefuls

David Chiu

• Represents: District 3, including Financial District, Chinatown, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, Nob Hill and Union Square

• Terms: Three. Jan. 8, 2009, to present (board president)

Age: 43

Education: Harvard Law School

David Campos

Represents: District 9, including the Mission, Bernal Heights, St. Mary's Park and Portola

Terms: Two. Dec. 4, 2008, to present

Age: 42

Education: Harvard Law School

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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