San Francisco mayoral candidates kicking fundraising into high gear 

Money is already piling up and campaign momentum is building 10 months before voters will head to the polls and decide who will serve as San Francisco’s mayor for at least the next four years.

With the end of the Gavin Newsom era, the field is now wide open for a new leader to take over as San Francisco’s top politician and take on tough challenges, such as navigating The City through the recession and shepherding massive developments planned for the waterfront and Bayview-Hunters Point.

Candidates are already building their war chests, with several surpassing the six-figure mark, according to campaign finance filings due Monday with the Ethics Commission. The reports show how much candidates raised during 2010.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who began fundraising in August, pulled in $265,805. State Sen. Leland Yee said he raised $170,000 in seven weeks. Venture capitalist Joanna Rees raked in $154,320. Former Supervisor Bevan Dufty raised $108,305. Candidates can receive donations of up to $500 per individual.

This year’s mayoral hopefuls will be in the first mayor contest with public financing.

John St. Croix, executive director of the Ethics Commission, which regulates campaign spending in The City, estimates upwards of $8 million for total distribution of public financing funds. He assumes eight mayoral candidates would receive the $800,000 in public finance dollars and then adds on an additional $100,000 cushion if spending limits are lifted.

Local political consultant David Latterman said there were no surprises with the campaign contribution amounts. “They will raise what they need to compete. Everyone is par for the course. There are no real shockers,” he said.

In the last mayoral race without an incumbent, Newsom spent $5.1 million in 2003 to win the top post in a heated and close contest with Green party member Matt Gonzalez. In Newsom’s re-election bid in November 2007, when he faced no threatening opponents, Newsom spent $1.5 million.

The field is expected to grow even more competitive. Board of Supervisors President David Chiu is thought to be considering a mayoral run. A decision to jump in the race is thought to be imminent from former District 2 Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier. District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said he is “very seriously” considering a mayoral run, noting there is no “left of center” candidate.

Interim Mayor Ed Lee has said he plans to serve out his post for a year and then resume his role as city administrator, although there has been speculation around City Hall he might make a run if called upon to do so by community leaders.

“This is a huge race. It’s the next eight years of the city,” Latterman said.

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