David Chiu saving campaign cash, biding time till right 'moment' 

Mayoral hopeful David Chiu’s campaign has more cash on hand than any other major candidate. (AP file photo) - MAYORAL HOPEFUL DAVID CHIU’S CAMPAIGN HAS MORE CASH ON HAND THAN ANY OTHER MAJOR CANDIDATE. (AP FILE PHOTO)
  • Mayoral hopeful David Chiu’s campaign has more cash on hand than any other major candidate. (AP file photo)
  • Mayoral hopeful David Chiu’s campaign has more cash on hand than any other major candidate. (AP file photo)

While some candidates in the mayoral race are spending money at a breakneck pace, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu is biding his time. With only 35 days to go until the Nov. 8 election, Chiu’s campaign has more cash on hand than any other candidate — about $570,000 that it is hoping will spur a surprise win.

Based on the theory that most voters do not engage in the process until they are forced to make a decision, campaign officials say Chiu’s “moment” will soon arrive, as mailed ballots go out next week.

Chiu’s Campaign Manager Addisu Demissie declined to discuss specific strategies, but acknowledged his campaign’s “smart and frugal” strategy, and said voters can finally expect to see much more of Chiu in the near future.

“We’ll be in every medium we possibly can be in to get to voters where they are,” Demissie said. “Summer just ended and folks have been focused on other things; people were taking their kids back to school. But now it’s October and this is the time.”

Jim Ross, a well-traveled local political consultant not involved in the mayoral race, said he agrees with the campaign’s basic logic.

“They have a saying in advertising,” Ross said. “Nobody ever reads tire ads until they need tires.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Lee’s campaign has spent nearly half the $748,000 it raised in less than two months.

Campaign spokesman Tony Winnicker said he is nonetheless confident that the interim mayor can continue to raise what he needs without the help of The City’s public finance option.

Similarly, candidate and City Attorney Dennis Herrera has spent more than $900,000 and has about $350,000 left in the bank.

Other local observers have a different take on Chiu’s strategy, since most generally agree that little short of a major scandal could sink Lee, the clear front-runner based on recent polling. They say that, even if Chiu doesn’t win, he has a good opportunity to improve his name recognition for a possible future campaign.

University of San Francisco political science professor Corey Cook said Chiu losing the race would not significantly threaten an otherwise bright political future.

“Voters don’t tend to hold you responsible for elections you didn’t win,” Cook said.

Demissie took issue with speculation that Chiu will use his mayoral race money solely to build name recognition — perhaps for a state Assembly run down the line — and said the supervisor is completely focused on the mayoral race. But he acknowledged the increased attention could be a nice general side effect.

“Of course, of course,” Demissie said. “And when he’s mayor, it’s going to raise his profile even more.”

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

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Dan Schreiber

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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