By Aaron Kinney
SAN FRANCISCO -- State Sen. Mark Leno isn't bothering with TV and radio ads, or even billboards. He doesn't have a campaign website -- just a splash page dedicated to fundraising.
This is what happens when you trounce your opponent in a head-to-head primary and then square off again in a general election five months later.
As an incumbent in a liberal stronghold, Leno received 82 percent of the vote in the June 5 primary for the newly drawn 11th Senate District, which includes all of San Francisco along with Broadmoor, Colma, Daly City and part of South San Francisco. Republican challenger Harmeet Dhillon got 18 percent.
Now the candidates are in the final weeks of a campaign that, while drained of any drama, is nonetheless enlivened by the rhetorical skill of Dhillon, an Indian-born attorney who disdains the Democratic establishment in San Francisco, where she says politicians rotate from one position to another but never seem to leave.
"Name a San Francisco politician who has been carried out of office other than feet first or through term limits," said Dhillon, the 44-year-old chairwoman of the San Francisco Republican Party. "They're on the public dole forever, and they don't do much."
Dhillon espouses lower taxes and business regulations and enhanced privacy and property rights. And she scorns the state's high-speed rail line recently approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown.
"We'll be paying for this bullet train to nowhere until I die, while we shove more children into smaller classrooms," she said. "That contrast encapsulates all that is wrong with Sacramento."
Like most Democrats, Leno takes the opposite view of high-speed rail, which he calls "the tide that lifts all economic boats" because of its projected job creation and indirect economic benefits. The state also needs the bullet train to accommodate a population that is expected to grow substantially over the next 30 years, he said.
"There's absolutely no way we could build the necessary freeways or airports to manage another 15 million people," Leno said. "Every developed country in the world is doing this, and we are unfortunately way behind."
Leno, 61, was elected in 2008 to his seat representing the 3rd Senate District, which includes the eastern half of San Francisco, all of Marin County and part of Sonoma County. He is chairman of the Senate budget committee and lists education and equal rights at the top of his legislative agenda. Leno sees the 11th district as broadly similar to the one he represents today.
"A county line is an arbitrary line," he said. "Many of the neighborhoods in the southern portion of San Francisco County have similar demographics to the northern tip of San Mateo County."
There are about 10 San Francisco voters for each San Mateo County voter in the new 11th district, according to data from the California Secretary of State's office. Overall party registration favors Democrats over Republicans by 55.6 percent to 9.5 percent.
Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.