By Genevieve Ennis
On Saturday, Nov. 7, the final votes were tallied and it was announced that Connie Chan won the general election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. She will represent District 1, replacing outgoing Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, who chose not to run for reelection.
Chan moved to San Francisco from Hong Kong when she was 13. Her mother still lives in the same Chinatown apartment where she grew up.
After graduating from Galileo High School, Chan earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Davis. She then started out as a volunteer interpreter, working with pro-bono attorneys for the SF Bar Association’s Volunteer Legal Outreach, while serving as a community organizer for SF SAFE and Community Youth Center.
In 2006, Chan started as an aide to Supervisor Sophie Maxwell. She later served as an aide to then-District Attorney Kamala Harris, followed by Supervisor Aaron Peskin in 2016. Over the past 15 years, she also served at San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and City College of San Francisco.
Connie Chan was endorsed by her former boss Kamala Harris, who was San Francisco’s district attorney, the attorney general of California, and is currently a United States senator and the vice president-elect. Courtesy photo.
She won the Richmond District supervisor seat after a very tight race, outlasting runner-up Marjan Philhour by a margin of 123 votes.
Chan, who has lived in the Richmond since 2011, outlined some of her top priorities in an interview.
“How do we support and provide assistance to tenants and homeowners on fixed income?” she asked. “We need affordable housing. I want to make sure small businesses can stay open. We need to expand city services for clean streets and public transit so we can be safe with COVID-19.”
She said she faced many challenges running a campaign in the middle of a pandemic and during the California wildfires this summer.
“I remember it was a Wednesday when the sky went orange and there was no sun all day. It was a campaign unlike any other campaign season,” Chan recalled. “We had to meet people where they were at. We worked on understanding what people needed – the voters, volunteers and supporters.”
“At the beginning of the campaign, we ran mutual aid assistance, checking in on people – especially seniors – for groceries and services,” Chan said. “We ran phone banking for wellness check-ins. The community came together.
“Campaigning traditionally was not possible this year as the pandemic had changed the way we interacted with each other. We switched to contactless literature dropping, but we had to cancel two weekends in a row because of the wildfires, and we could not have our volunteers be outdoors.”
Once city and public health officials provided guidelines on how to operate campaign activities, Chan and her team could campaign while observing certain restrictions, including social distancing and wearing masks.
“Knocking on doors was a way to connect with neighbors and the community and, compared to previous years, we had more door-knocking conversations.”
Now that Chan will represent District 1 on the Board of Supervisors, she recognizes that the community will rely on her to advocate on its behalf.
“We need to prioritize our small businesses for state and federal funding and grants,” Chan said.
“Our small businesses on Clement, Balboa and Geary make the Richmond diverse, and we need to make sure our city has the resources and assistance needed.”
Chan pushed for cultural competency and free legal counsel on the campaign trail and said she will continue to advocate for free legal counsel for small businesses in an effort to fight for equity.
“There is so much liability in understanding how to reopen (during the pandemic),” she said. “There is so much help needed in comparison to corporations.”
Chan also stressed the importance of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
“I have a lot of hope with the new White House and new administration that help will trickle down,” she said.
“San Franciscans want affordable housing,” Chan said. “There needs to be policies that incentivize the production of affordable housing without the displacement of the people already here. I will advocate for and demand affordable housing, especially in Richmond.”
Chan ran her campaign on decreasing the income divide and stressed that we need to “be transparent about how we are spending taxpayer dollars on city services.”
“I see the power of unions being able to advocate for workers and a safer worker environment,” she said. “When workers unionize, they are able to be at the table to negotiate for fair wages and for a safer working environment. The income divide has continued to increase in the last two decades. CEOs make 300 times more than the average worker’s salary. I am so pleased that Prop. L passed. It is another step of bridging that income divide between the executive and the workers in the company.”
Chan also stressed the importance of public health and the health care services the city can provide. She said she will push for COVID response services, such as on-demand and mobile testing.
“We need to increase these sites and distribute the vaccine equitably,” she said.
With a second grader in a Richmond District school, Chan understands the need to invest in the public school system for free quality education.
“We need to support the school districts and help them to open safely so we don’t have setbacks,” she said.
Chan is scheduled to take on her new role in January 2021.
Chan’s long-time partner Ed became a San Francisco firefighter in 2011 – the same year they bought their home in the Richmond. Today, they are raising their 7-year-old son, who is a student at Lafayette Elementary School.
Supervisor-elect Connie Chan poses with her long-time partner, Ed, and their son, Edo. Courtesy photo.