Political Notebook: Gay CA Dem Party vice chair Campos says he's done seeking public office

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday July 6, 2022
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David Campos is pondering his next steps after falling short in his state Assembly bid this spring. Photo: Rick Gerharter
David Campos is pondering his next steps after falling short in his state Assembly bid this spring. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Because he placed second in the June 7 primary for San Francisco's 17th Assembly District seat, David Campos' name will appear on the November 8 ballot even though he is not actively seeking the elected position. Under California's jungle primary system, the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation move on to the general election.

Thus, as the first-place finisher with 63.24% of the primary vote according to the unofficial returns, Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) easily advanced to the fall election. Due to his garnering 24.85% of the vote last month, Campos is also moving on after besting Republican Bill Shireman, who received 11.91% of the primary vote.

Campos, 51, had qualified for the race in case he had won the special runoff election this spring for the vacant Assembly seat. But he lost to Haney in their April contest to succeed David Chiu, who had resigned last November after his appointment as San Francisco's city attorney.

After he lost to Haney, Campos announced he would not campaign against him in the general election for a full two-year term in the Assembly. Nonetheless, 27,270 people still cast their primary ballots for Campos.

"I am appreciative of that. We didn't do anything to get that," Campos told the Bay Area Reporter in a recent phone interview. "It is some solace."

Asked about having his name now appear a fourth time on a ballot this year for the Assembly seat, Campos reiterated his pledge not to be an actual candidate going forward. He noted the situation was out of his control.

"I am not running for this office," said Campos. "It just is the way the rules work. I can't really change those rules."

What he can control is if he will be a candidate in any future electoral campaigns. And on that possibility, Campos told the B.A.R. he has no plans to again seek election to public office.

"I think my days of running for elected office are behind me," he said. "I think so."

He ruled out running to be the city's district attorney in the fall now that his former boss, Chesa Boudin, was recalled last month. Hired by Boudin to be his chief of staff in September 2020, Campos had taken a leave of absence earlier this year to focus on his Assembly bid and decided not to return after the April election.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed will now name Boudin's replacement, and the person will need to run in November to serve out his term through the end of 2023. Campos told the B.A.R. he has no plans to run against the mayoral appointee.

And as the B.A.R. reported last week in its exit interview with Boudin, Campos said he doesn't "have an opinion one way or the other" on if he thinks Boudin should run again for election as DA in November. It is a decision his former boss needs to decide on his own, said Campos.

Future plans

As for his own next steps, Campos is still trying to determine what he wants to do. He plans to continue to do public service of some type and remains vice chair of the California Democratic Party.

Having won election to the party post in 2021, Campos noted that he had been running for some form of elected office for the last year. He wanted to take some time off to spend with his husband, Phil Hwang, before he commits himself to his next job.

"It was a very busy year. I am trying to spend some time with my husband and with family," said Campos. "That has been the most rewarding part of it. I am trying to figure out what makes sense in terms of the options out there. Sometimes you need time to step back and think about things. I certainly have been able to do that."

Campos and his family escaped Guatemala when he was 14 and illegally crossed the border into the U.S. He went on to graduate from Stanford then Harvard Law School and was hired as a deputy city attorney in San Francisco, serving for several years as the lead counsel for the city's public school district.

He served as a city police commissioner and was elected in 2008 as the District 9 supervisor. After serving the allowed two four-year terms, and losing his first bid for the Assembly seat to Chiu in 2014, Campos was hired as a deputy county executive in Santa Clara County, where he worked until resigning two years ago in order to join Boudin's staff.

In 2017, Campos was elected as chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party. He helped House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) retake the majority in the 2018 midterm elections by opening an office in the city's Castro district where local Democrats could call voters in swing districts across the country being targeted that year by the party.

As she attempts to hold on to control of the chamber in this year's midterms, Pelosi has taken over the Castro storefront that Campos had used for his Assembly campaign at 541 Castro Street. It will serve as a place where local Democrats can once again get involved in House races the party deems critical if it is to fend off the expected GOP takeover of the chamber this year. The Keep it Blue HQ will be operational later this month.

"We are trying to make sure we keep the House in 2022," said Campos. "I am already doing a lot of work on that. As vice chair of the state party, I have been going to different parts of the state trying to promote voter outreach. We want to make sure Democratic turnout is really strong."

As for what impact the constitutional amendment to protect abortion access in California, put on the fall ballot by state Democratic leaders, will have on close races for House and legislative seats, Campos told the B.A.R. it remains an open question at this point.

"It's hard to say across the board if it is going to be helpful or not. I do think, though, my hope is that it will at least mobilize the base, which hasn't really been mobilizing in the last few months," said Campos, of Democratic voters. "I think, in that sense, it will be a positive overall. In terms of individual races, I think each candidate is going to have to figure out how they present themselves relative to this issue."

Last spring, Campos was a vocal supporter of seeing Honey Mahogany succeed him as the first nonbinary, transgender chair of a local Democratic Party in the state. Yet Campos has not endorsed Mahogany, formerly Haney's chief of staff in his District 6 supervisor office, now that she is running for the board seat on the fall ballot against gay Supervisor Matt Dorsey, whom Breed appointed to fill the vacancy created by Haney's election to the Legislature.

Campos told the B.A.R. he likely will remain neutral in the contest.

"I haven't endorsed anyone in that race. I am not sure I will," he said. "I think that voters will have an opportunity to decide for themselves."

Political Notes, the notebook's online companion, will return Monday, July 18.

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