Latest numbers from the San Francisco Department of Elections show David Chiu's lead over David Campos expanding.
The updated count released at 4 p.m. today has Chiu leading by 3.3 percent, or 3,049 votes.
The Department of Elections is working its way through 42,000 mail-in ballots that were dropped off at polling places yesterday, as well as 11,000 provisional ballots. A department spokesman said about 9,600 of those dropped-off, mail-in ballots were counted today, and the provisional ballots won't likely be touched until this weekend.
University of San Francisco politics professor Corey Cook said those provisional ballots may favor a Campos comeback.
"The question is, will they favor him enough to overcome the current gap," Cook said.
David Campos and David Chiu are locked in a dead heat in the race to replace Tom Ammiano in San Francisco's 17th Assembly District. San Francisco election officials say they still have tens of thousands of absentee and provisional ballots to count. Both the Chiu and Campos campaigns say they are "cautiously optimistic."
The latest returns showed Chiu leading by nearly 2,400 votes. "We are still obviously going to be waiting for the returns but at the end of the day all of you have every single day renewed my hope in what San Francisco is about," Chiu told his supporters.
Meantime, Campos says he is still holding out hope. "We're optimistic that we're going to pull it off. I think that, you know, it's all about the turnout on election day and I know that we did an amazing job in getting people out," Campos told KQED.
Campos says he was expecting Chiu to grab an early lead as results came in on election night, but he is feeling optimistic about his current position.
“I think we understand that the early absentees are ballots that historically would go for a candidate like David Chiu," he said. "But this is going to be decided by turnout, and it comes down to what the turnout on Election Day is. And we feel very confident about that … keep watching.”
New results are expected by 4 p.m. Wednesday, but election officials say 42,000 vote-by-mail ballots and 11,000 provisional ballots will still need to be counted. They plan to work through the weekend.
It's been an ugly contest, with independent committees launching aggressive mail campaigns attacking both candidates.
Campos and Chiu, both 44, have spent six years on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and are lawyers who attended Harvard Law School.
While the two Democrats have a lot in common, and would likely vote along similar party lines in Sacramento, they have very different styles and approaches, said Corey Cook, a University of San Francisco political science professor.
How each has responded to the consequences of the city's economic boom, he said, became the lightning rod issue in the race.
"A key differentiation are these very local issues around development, gentrification, displacement, renter protection. And I think this is where the two have had the most significant clashes over policy,” said Cook.
Campos, who came to the U.S. from Guatemala as a 14-year-old undocumented immigrant, says he is the clear progressive choice because he's worked to tackle the needs of the city's most vulnerable residents, including getting laws passed to provide free transit for low-income youth, extend health care to low-wage workers and increase relocation payments to evicted tenants. He accuses Chiu of compromising too much and bending to the interests of developers and real estate and corporate interests.
"In Sacramento, people are doing too much of what David has done. They’re compromising our affordability, they’re compromising away our environment. We need someone who is going to stand up for regular people and say: California belongs to working people as much as the rich people," Campos said during a debate on KQED's Forum.
Campos, who represents District 9 spanning the Mission, Bernal Heights and Portola, has been endorsed by Ammiano, who is being termed out, Assemblyman Phil Ting and many of the city's progressive political organizations.
Chiu, a former civil rights attorney and criminal prosecutor who is president of the Board of Supervisors, says he's been a more effective supervisor, getting more than 100 laws passed. The list includes controversial legislation to legalize Airbnb rentals, and other laws Chiu's campaign says help seniors, students, homeless veterans and tenants living in-law units. He has accused Campos of being all talk.
"He really is the pot trying to call the kettle black, " Chiu said on Forum, claiming Campos has also taken money from real estate interests. "He’s been shouting from the sidelines, saying no, pushing his extreme views and not getting things done."
Chiu represents District 3, which covers some of the city's most dense neighborhoods, including Nob Hill, Russian Hill, Chinatown and North Beach. He has been endorsed by Mayor Ed Lee and many of the city's moderate Democrats, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Attorney General Kamala Harris.
Chiu has raised $1.05 million, while Campos has taken in $728,000, making it one of the most expensive Assembly races in this election, according to SFist. Tech investors Ron Conway and Reid Hoffman have poured $550,000 into a committee opposing Campos, while labor organizations have donated $250,000 to a committee opposing Chiu.
The June primary was a close race, but Chiu won by 2,951 votes. Primaries typically draw low turnout, and Cook said two big factors could determine the outcome in this election.
"If the turnout is abysmally low, I think that favors Chiu because he’s effectively ahead among those who are more likely to vote. I think if Campos is able to turn out more progressive voters in his base, then he has a real shot of coming back and winning," said Cook.
The other factor will be Republicans, who make up about 6 percent of all voters in the 17th Assembly District.
"The presumption is that they’re likely to vote for David Chiu, but it’ll be interesting whether they vote in high numbers or not," said Cook.
Both Campos and Chiu still have two years to serve on the Board of Supervisors. Mayor Ed Lee will appoint someone to fill the term of the candidate who heads to Sacramento.