Judge: Campos must change ‘misleading’ occupation on Assembly race ballot
The language of the ballots turned political football in the special runoff election for the Assembly seat representing the eastern half of San Francisco, pitting Supervisor Matt Haney against former Supervisor David Campos.
After months of Haney’s complaints, a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that Campos was misleading the public by listing his current occupation on the April ballot as a “civil rights attorney.” The judge determined that Campos, who worked as district attorney Chesa Boudin’s chief of staff until he took leave for the Assembly campaign, should change his profession to “criminal justice administrator.”
“Ballot designations are important,” Haney said in a statement. “Mine is a supervisor because that’s my job, and voters should know that. Campos’ nominee on the ballot should not be a civil rights lawyer, as that is clearly not his current job, and listing him as such would defy common sense and mislead voters.
“We agree with the final ballot designation,” Campos said in an interview with The Examiner. “That said, we respectfully disagree with the judge on this decision. The point is… what I’m doing has everything to do with civil rights, and quite frankly, the fact that Matt Haney brought this lawsuit against Shirley Weber challenging that point says more about him than it does about me.
The decision comes after months of back and forth between the campaigns and the office of Weber, California’s secretary of state. In December, Haney’s campaign complained about the listed occupation of Campos. At the same time, Weber’s staff contacted Campos asking for more information about his current occupation.
Campos responded with a letter outlining his duties in Boudin’s office, saying, “I practice civil rights law every day in our office.” He cited his work combating racial profiling in policing and reducing gang improvements in criminal charges as further evidence. Campos also noted that he was on the list of civil rights lawyers when he ran for supervisor in 2008.
At the time, Weber found those arguments satisfying and allowed the “civil rights advocate” to appear as Campos’ occupation in the Feb. 15 primary ballot.
After Campos and Haney qualified for the April 19 runoff, Haney renewed his efforts to challenge Campos’ listed occupation.
In his complaint, Haney cited a provision of the election code that prohibits candidates from providing an occupation that “would mislead the voter,” as well as requirements that the occupation listed by candidates must be as current as possible.
In response, Campos provided the court with affidavits from himself as well as Boudin, attesting to the accuracy of his described profession.
“I hired David Campos not to be a line prosecutor or because of prior criminal trial experience, but to help shape and implement the policy direction of the office,” Boudin wrote. . “I believe David Campos’ vote-to-appoint Civil Rights Attorney reflects the work we do at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.”
Judge Shelleyanne WL Chang disagreed, ruling that “administrator of criminal justice” is a more accurate description.
“The court finds it highly unlikely that the tasks that Mr. Campos and Mr. Boudin described in their statements are their primary occupation, as opposed to overseeing prosecutions and making policy decisions involving those accused of ‘a crime or to the enforcement of criminal laws,’ Chang said during the hearing on Tuesday. ‘Thus, the court finds that he meets the standard of misleading the voter.’
The semantic battle is the latest installment in an increasingly bitter campaign season between the two progressive Assembly candidates, with June’s recall election of Boudin, the former Campos boss, looming behind -plan.