Con­way seem­ingly stays on side­lines in supe races

San Francisco Chronicle - Late Edition (Sunday) - - BAY AREA - San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle colum­nists Phillip Matier and An­drew Ross ap­pear Sun­days, Mon­days and Wed­nes­days. Matier can be seen on the KPIX-TV morn­ing and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS ra­dio Mon­day through Fri­day at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a

Bil­lion­aire tech in­vestor Ron Con­way, whose abil­ity to raise big money for mod­er­ate can­di­dates and causes made him Pub­lic En­emy No. 1 among the city’s left-lean­ing politi­cos, has seem­ingly van­ished from the lo­cal Novem­ber elec­tion land­scape.

Or has he?

Not ac­cord­ing to Con­way’s long­time po­lit­i­cal neme­sis, Su­per­vi­sor Aaron Pe­skin, who in­sists that Con­way is still in play “even if you can’t see him.”

“He is 100 per­cent, and through prox­ies, en­gaged in this elec­tion and do­ing ev­ery­thing he can to de­feat pro­gres­sive can­di­dates,” Pe­skin charged when asked last week about Con­way’s


Con­way dis­misses Pe­skin’s as­ser­tions, say­ing “there’s too much dan­ger­ous vit­riol in our coun­try al­ready right now, so I won’t dig­nify one man’s tin­foil-hat con­spir­acy the­o­ries.”

Con­way first sur­faced as a ma­jor lo­cal player dur­ing the 2005 elec­tion of Mayor Ed Lee, help­ing to chan­nel hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars into the cam­paign war chests of mod­er­ate can­di­dates and causes — and against pro­gres­sive an­titech causes and in­cum­bents.

In ad­di­tion to Lee, Con­way and his band of like-minded donors helped elect Lon­don Breed to the Board of Su­per­vi­sors and David Chiu to the state As­sem­bly. They also helped de­feat pro­gres­sive for­mer Su­per­vi­sor David Cam­pos and Su­per­vi­sor Jane Kim when they sought higher of­fice.

Con­way and his fel­low Airbnb in­vestors also were big in the move to make the city’s tax code more tech-friendly and in the fight over short-term rental con­trols.

Over time, how­ever, Con­way be­came the light­ning rod for the left, who cast him as part of the “bil­lion­aires who con­trol City Hall.” But his at­tempt to thwart Peksin’s re­turn to City Hall in 2015 was a re­sound­ing de­feat.

With the pass­ing of Lee in De­cem­ber, Con­way im­me­di­ately be­gan push­ing his friend Breed for the mayor’s job — only to find that his pres­ence had be­come a li­a­bil­ity.

And while Con­way con­tin­ued to raise money for Breed, he did so qui­etly, with as few fin­ger­prints as pos­si­ble. Still, his wife gave $200,000 to de­feat Breed’s may­oral ri­val Kim, os­ten­si­bly over her vote years ear­lier to re­in­state Sher­iff Ross Mirkarimi fol­low­ing his do­mes­tic vi­o­lence con­vic­tion.

This time out, Con­way said he’s moved away from the lo­cal fray and is “al­most wholly fo­cused on what we need to do na­tion­ally to take back the House for the Democrats and stop Trump,” spend­ing a mil­lion dol­lars on get-out-thevote ef­forts and gun con­trol.

“I would think that’s a pri­or­ity that pro­gres­sives would agree with me on,” Con­way said.

But while Con­way may be on the side­lines lo­cally — not hav­ing per­son­ally spent money in any of the lo­cal races — the po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee he helped form is still run­ning hard.

Progress San Fran­cisco, a mod­er­ate busi­ness, la­bor and tech PAC launched in 2015 to bol­ster Lee’s agenda, has poured more than $1.5 mil­lion into help­ing mod­er­ate Dis­trict Four su­per­vi­sor can­di­date Jes­sica Ho and Dis­trict Six can­di­dates Chris­tine John­son and Sonja Trauss. Of­fice re­model: UC Pres­i­dent Janet Napoli­tano is spend­ing more than $1 mil­lion to re­tool her of­fice staff af­ter sting­ing crit­i­cism last year from Sacra­mento law­mak­ers over their han­dling of a state au­dit.

The first step was to bring in Huron Con­sult­ing Group on a $735,000 con­tract to give the of­fice a once-over.

Based on rec­om­men­da­tions from Huron, Napoli­tano has just hired a vet­eran com­mu­ni­ca­tions and pub­lic re­la­tions ex­pert — Claire Holmes — to a re­vived post as the $360,000-a-year se­nior vice pres­i­dent of ex­ter­nal re­la­tions and com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

It’s a nice salary but less than the $374,625 that Dan Doo­ley (hus­band of Gov. Jerry Brown’s chief of staff, Dianna Doo­ley) made be­fore the po­si­tion was elim­i­nated in 2014.

Napoli­tano has faced some rough go­ing since an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion found her of­fice in­ter­fered with a state

au­dit of its spend­ing habits, find­ings that con­trib­uted to the de­par­ture of two of her trusted aides.

That prompted Napoli­tano to hire Huron to re-eval­u­ate her op­er­a­tion. Now, based on firm’s rec­om­men­da­tion, the heads of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions and ex­ter­nal af­fairs units will re­port to Holmes, who in turn will re­port to Napoli­tano.

Hal­loween hor­ror: Penin­sula reader Tru Love (no joke) tells us her 12-year-old son was trick-or-treat­ing on Hal­loween night when a home­owner on the 2600 block of Cow­per Street in Palo Alto handed him a

bag of peanut M&M’s with a mes­sage on the wrap­per urg­ing a vote for Stacey Ash­lund for lo­cal school board.

“Hal­loween is for kids, not pol­i­tics,” Love says. “Who does that? How rude.”

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