Bevan Dufty's bid for mayor started strong: The outgoing Castro District supervisor raised $100,000 before any of the rivals he'll face in November 2011 had even declared their candidacies. But that was way back in 2009. Now, according to the most recent campaign finance records, he has only $321 left.
Where did all the money go? Much of it went to out-of-state consultant Steve Hildebrand, who helped elect Barack Obama. Whatever advice Dufty bought from Hildebrand hasn't helped the termed-out supervisor keep up the momentum. For having a year on the campaign trail to himself, he has precious little — no signs around town or key campaign issues in the news — to show for it. Is Dufty done?
Dufty, whose term as supervisor ends next month, insists he's still very much in the game and his rivals are trying to use his campaign's balance sheet against him.
“I don't command a tremendous amount of respect — people say, 'Oh, he's too nice of a guy, oh, he's never raised big money.' And people are trying to sell that I'm not in this race,” he told SF Weekly last week.
Dufty says he hasn't raised any money for his mayoral campaign in recent months on purpose. If he hits fundraising goals in early 2011, he's eligible for 4-to-1 matching funds from the city's public-financing program, money that would have been unavailable if he took big checks during 2010. And while keeping his promise to accept only small contributions from individuals living or working in San Francisco (a page right out of Hildebrand's Obama playbook), he vowed to raise $100,000 this month alone, and said he could do the same in January and February.
The problem, according to local political consultant David Latterman, is that other likely mayoral candidates such as state Senator Leland Yee, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, and Assessor Phil Ting can all raise $100,000 this month, too — and since they're not self-imposing a limit of $200 per contributor, they'll have a much easier time of it. “His campaign's gone almost nowhere,” Latterman says. “He's actually lost ground.” And what if state Senator Mark Leno — a better-known LGBT candidate who would surely compete for Dufty's base — jumps into the race? Dufty would be in serious trouble.
Money aside, observers say Dufty simply didn't do enough with the time he had. “If you were to tell me that Dufty had $100,000 on hand and Herrera $321, I would still think of Herrera as the clear favorite in the race,” says Corey Cook, a political science professor at USF. “Dufty just isn't in the conversation at the present time.”