With less than two weeks to go until the Nov. 2 elections, Thomas J. Coates, the prominent San Francisco commercial real-estate investor, has moved his financial heft behind a handful of moderate local candidates, escalating the stakes in what have already been some of the costliest and most closely contested races in recent memory.
On Monday and Tuesday, Coates wrote checks totaling more than $200,000 to third-party expenditure committees for Proposition G, the initiative to reform pay for Muni workers, as well as supervisorial candidates Scott Wiener, Mark Farrell, Steve Moss and Theresa Sparks, disclosure forms filed Oct. 20 show.
Coates, best known for spending nearly $1 million in 2008 on Prop. 98 — the unsuccessful statewide measure to eliminate rent control — gave $45,000 apiece to committees formed on behalf of Sparks and Moss, who are running in District 6 and District 10, respectively. He has also given $10,000 to efforts to elect Wiener of District 8, and $100,000 to elect Farrell, from District 2.
He additionally gave $25,000 to Yes on G, the campaign working to pass the transit operator wage initiative.
Coates could not be reached for comment.
The contributions from Coates, while significant coming from an individual, are still dwarfed by the total amount of "soft money" expenditures that have gone toward candidates during one of the costliest election cycles in recent years.
As of Oct. 7, the slate to which Coates directed his contributions, the Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth — a conglomeration largely funded by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and the Building Owners and Managers Association, a developers' organization — had already spent over $50,000 on Moss' behalf, more than $58,000 for Sparks and more than $60,000 for Wiener.
And yet pro-labor, progressive candidates such as Sparks' opponent Debra Walker have enjoyed the benefit of even more prodigious fundraising from labor unions. Labor has spent more than $72,000 of soft money on Walker and close to $90,000 to Rafael Mandelman, who is battling Wiener in District 8.
Among leading supervisorial candidates, Jane Kim, whose independent expenditure committee, New Day for SF, has been closely scrutinized in press reports, ironically has one of the lowest totals of outside expenditures — under $10,000, half of which reportedly came from former Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr.
Rebecca Prozan in District 8 has similarly received a modest $5,000, which came from a realtors' group.