Newsom campaign also plugging Sparks

Thersa Sparks just got a campaign boost from the lieutenant governor campaign of Gavin Newsom.
Luke Thomas/Fog City Journal


Gavin Newsom's campaign for lieutenant governor might have a tough time beating moderate Latino Republican Abel Maldonado – indeed, even many of his local allies privately tell us they fear he's going to lose – but it is still using some of its significant resources and energy to promote the candidacy of Theresa Sparks, whom Newsom endorsed to replace Chris Daly on the Board of Supervisors.

“I'm hoping we can count on your vote for Gavin Newsom for lieutenant governor and Theresa Sparks for District 6 supervisor,” a volunteer with the Newsom campaign said during a call that I received today, the first I've gotten from the Newsom campaign.

As of Sept. 23, the Sparks campaign reported having $29,361 in the bank, about half of what her main District 6 rival Debra Walker had on hand on that date ($57,895), even though Sparks has out-fundraised Walker $124,000 to $110,000, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.

Yet even these strong local fundraising totals pale in comparison to what a statewide candidate like Newsom can pull down. As of the last full campaign report that extended through June 30, Newsom's campaign had $494,000 in the bank after raising $1.4 million, and his recent late contribution reports show hundreds of thousands of dollars more rolling in since then.

Among the recent Newsom contributors are downtown political players such as the San Francisco Apartment Association ($3,500 on 9/16), Shorenstein Realty Services ($6,500 on 9/16), Recology (the company bidding on SF's big garbage contract, $2,500 on 9/16), San Francisco Building Owners and Managers Association ($5,000 on 9/1), and Sen. Dianne Feinstein ($5,000 on 9/4) – all of which far exceeds the $500 local limit on campaign contributions

It's unusual for a local and statewide candidate to share a phone-banking operation, and clearly a sign that Newsom would really like to deal with a more ideologically friendly (that is, less progressive) Board of Supervisors if he doesn't move to Sacramento in January. And from a campaign finance perspective, both campaigns will probably need to document where the resources came from for this shared campaigning when the next pre-election statements are due on Oct. 5.

"Generally speaking, if they share resources they should be apportioning those costs," Mabel Ng, deputy director of the San Francisco Ethics Commission, told the Guardian. Yet she also noted that California Gov. Code Section 84310 makes a distinction between automatic robo-calls and the kind of live "volunteer" that the caller identified himself as. "If it's a live person, some of these rules don't apply," Ng said. If that's the case, Sparks might be in for lots of no-cost campaigning during the final pre-election push.

The Newsom campaign has not responded to a Guardian inquiry about the issue, but Sparks returned our call after this article was initially posted. Although she took issue with the implication that there was anything wrong with her benefitting from calls by the Newsom campaign, comparing it to the support Walker has received from the Democratic County Central Committee, she admits to the coordination on the matter between her campaign and Newsom's.

"Newsom had a volunteer phone bank and he asked if he shoudl add my name to it and I said yes," Sparks told the Guardian, adding that she's been pleased with the response to this effort and her own campaign's phonebanking efforts.

Meanwhile, while Sparks just got a boost from above today, so did Newsom, who was the subject of an e-mail blast from former President Bill Clinton, who wrote, "We have a tremendous opportunity in Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom, two leaders who realize the promise of their state and will get it back on track. Please join me in helping these candidates win in November.”