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Four candidates are vying for the vacant 17th Assembly District seat — which covers most of the San Francisco’s eastern and southeast neighborhoods — in a Feb. 15 primary election that could set the stage for a showdown at the ballot box this spring.

The candidates recently took part in a debate hosted by the Commonwealth Club of California.

In the running are Supervisor Matt Haney, who is also former Board of Education president; former Supervisor David Campos who most recently served as chief of staff at the District Attorney’s Office; City College of San Francisco board trustee Thea Selby, also a small business owner and co-founder of the Lower Haight Merchant and Neighbor Association; and entrepreneur and neuroscientist Bilal Mahmood, a former policy analyst with the administration of former President Barack Obama. All candidates are Democrats.

“I see a California where we stop talking about poverty and actually mending poverty beginning with a true living wage. I see a California where homelessness is not left to the generosity of each individual city or county but is approached as a humanitarian challenge that the entire state must pay to solve,” Campos said. “I see a state where we can create middle class jobs today by investing in the affordable and green energy that will save our planet tomorrow; a state where we don’t confuse luxury housing with affordable housing; a state where we end hunger now; and a state where we grow our economy and we actually share our prosperity fairly.”

(Video courtesy of Commonwealth Club of California/YouTube)

“I’m running because we have huge challenges in our state that are overlapping and reaching crisis levels. Housing is unaffordable, except for the very rich,” Haney said. “Homelessness is out of control not only in San Francisco but across the state. We have a climate crisis and emergency that is seeing every year more wildfires, the threat of sea level rise and we aren’t seeing solutions put forth at the state level that we need.”

“We need a new type of vision in our city,” Mahmood said. “The dream of the middle class is really disappearing. If you look around the city, the cost of rent is increasing, the number of unhoused has increased, the number of opioid related deaths is twice the number of COVID deaths, transit lines have diminished, and we all have a climate disaster that’s facing us in the next eight to five years.”

Mahmood added, “I’m running because for state Assembly because I think we need the courage and innovation to solve these problems.”

“I am a woman and I have raised family. I’m also a parent — the only parent in this race. I have a whole world of experience that comes from raising a family in this city. I know how hard it is,” Selby said. “I think we all deserve to have all those things, that not just working families, but that everyone deserves, which is to be living in neighborhoods that are safe and thriving. We all deserve safe streets, good schools, fair housing, good transportation, and good communities. I certainly will fight for our working families, but I also will fight for small businesses.”

The seat is up for grabs after former Assemblymember David Chiu took over as San Francisco city attorney back in November. Mayor London Breed appointed Chiu to the position after she had previously appointed former city attorney Dennis Herrera to serve as general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Once the primary election takes place on Feb. 15, if no candidate receives a majority vote, or more than 50 percent, a general election will occur on April 9 in which voters will then choose between the top two candidates from the primary election. The winning candidate will serve until the start of the next term in January 2023.