District 11 Supervisor John Avalos has not had a day off since a family trip to Yosemite in July. When he returned, he entered the race for mayor to find himself a popular candidate running a new type of campaign. —Alexander Mullaney
What makes your campaign different from the rest? I’m trying to bring people back into San Francisco politics. I’m concerned about who has the ability to shape what happens in City Hall because I see more and more that it’s the wealthiest, the one percent. I am running a campaign so that people can get a greater sense of our power and recover what we lost over the years. We lost a lot in January with the new mayor and board of supervisors. I was moved to a marginal role on the board based on the deal making for David Chiu to become board president. He wanted to be board president so he could get a better shot at being elected mayor. In that process, a lot of people lost a lot of power. I saw a candidacy unifying for working and middle class people that could make a difference in what we talked about in the election, and how we could create an idea of what government should be doing through the election and beyond. That’s what my campaign is about.
You’ve been campaigning for six months. Any big lessons or experiences? It’s been the most challenging thing I have done professionally. At some points I’ve wondered, “How are we ever going to get through this? How can I ever raise enough money to make this happen?” And right now, I don’t feel that way. Now things are coming along. We haven’t raised a million dollars, we’ve maybe raised $450,000. We are running a campaign that is changing the way we do campaigns. It’s a people-orientated campaign. It’s a lot of volunteers. We have signs going up all over the city. We’re really proud of it. We’ve worked really hard, and we’re really proud of what we’re achieving. We’re right up there with candidates who have spent millions of dollars, and we’re still climbing.
You’ve received a number of highly sought after endorsements. What’s that say? We got the Bike Coalition, Democratic Party, Sierra Club, California Nurses Association, Richmond Democratic Club, D11 Democratic Club and the Bay Guardian, which is really big. I really think that no one has said a bad word about me all this time, which I’m really proud of. I really think it shows how I work with people and I respect the people I work with. Also, it shows who’s behind me in terms of everyday people. I mean, it’s not my decision to run. I mean, it is but it’s with the backing of a lot of people who are really trying to create a city that we all can live in. So that gives me a lot of grounding, a lot of hope.
In debates and campaigning what District 11 issues have you brought to the foreground? Blight, Muni, commercial corridors. Our blight issues don’t get the attention from the city that other neighborhoods do. We are just like the Bayview/Hunter’s Point and Sunset neighborhoods that are furthest from the central part of the city don’t get the equity to make our neighborhood as livable as it can be. We have great assets that we can build on, like schools. We have a lot of elementary schools that are doing well. How can we make sure that we’re funding all these schools more adequately? The mayor doesn’t have direct control over the schools but can champion the schools. I want to champion our schools. Illegal dumping is a big issue I talk about a lot as well that is huge in District 10. We have a lot in common with other neighborhoods that are far away from the center of San Francisco. We talk about San Francisco being a transit-first city, but in these parts of the city, we don’t have as many options as other people do, and the options we do have play second fiddle to other parts of San Francisco.
Any legislation in the works? I’ll be looking at strengthening Local Business Enterprise participation in our public contracts. Affirmative action’s been eliminated so we can’t look at how we are doing according to race, but I think we need some approach that’s going to lift up a lot of businesses, especially black-owned businesses that are leaving the city and aren’t getting access to a lot of the contracts that we have. That’s a big thing I think that hasn’t been addressed adequately.
With the election closing in, how’s the future looking? I’m really excited about what could be in store for District 11. The campaign’s outreach has been able to focus attention on a mayor for the district’s needs, and my visibility across the whole city helps the district. I hope our district will continue to benefit from that no matter what the outcome of this election.