An Odd Tradition: Thousands of Dollars Flood to Winning S.F. Supes After Polls Close — From Their Enemies

You'd think making a donation to a San Francisco supervisorial candidate would be a bit like a horse race: You make your “bets,” you cheer down the stretch, and, if you bet correctly, you get a “return.” In some ways it's like that. But once the horses cross the finish line, the analogy blows up. In a San Francisco supervisorial horse race, the winning horse's “people” quickly shoot those who bet on his opponents a message: Horse racing is expensive. It would behoove you to make a donation to the winner. And they do.

Glancing through the supes' campaign filing statements, a cavalcade of donations came in following election day, Nov. 4. Counter-intuitively, many of these post-election donations were from folks who either did not support the winners — or out-and-out opposed them. “A number of them were dead-set against me,” concurs Supervisor John Avalos, who was not the preferred candidate of what our buddies the Guardian call “Downtown interests,” but still racked up post-election donations from people and organizations that backed his opponents like big-shot lawyers Steven Kay and Mary Murphy, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, and the San Francisco Firefighters Political Action Committee. Meanwhile, Avalos' progressive colleague, Eric Mar, managed to get post-election donations from erstwhile foes like land-use lawyers Andrew Junius and James Reuben, the Residential Builders Association, and Rodrigo Santos. That last donor is more than a little eye-catching; Santos is the president of the Coalition for Responsible Government, which spent $14,236 on an anti-Mar hit piece during the race (Santos — and many others — did not return multiple calls for this story).

John Hanley, the president of the firefighter's union, said that making a donation to winning candidates it did not back is the union's “policy,” but he laughed when asked if it's actually written down anywhere. “What's in it for us? We want to congratulate the candidate on winning. Here's $500 to decrease your debt and congratulations. Other than that, there's nothing in it for us,” said Hanley, whose PAC donated $500 to Avalos and Eric Mar (to whom he personally gave $500 as well, despite vociferously supporting Mar's opponent, Sue Lee, during the campaign). “The election's over so let's help decrease the debt so they can do politics full-time, govern San Francisco, and not have to do fund-raising.”

Hanley — and every one else reached for this story — would have us believe that after months of hard-core campaigning, some of which did indeed reach gutter-level, once the winner was declared everyone clasped hands and said “May God allow you to rule wisely — and here's a check for 500 bones.”

Or maybe, just maybe, they want to get their calls returned. Bob Stern returned our call, and he thinks that one makes some sense.

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