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David Chiu Seeks to Unite, Heal San Fran After Tough Election

The rancorous battle between David Chiu and David Campos for the California State Assembly District 17 seat, in San Francisco, may have been a glimpse into the future of California's electoral process.

The race featured leaders from the top two minority populations in the state -- Asian American and Latino, both Democrats, pitted against one another because of the state's “Top Two” primary rule, in which the top two vote winners square off in an election, regardless of their political affiliation.

City Board President Chiu, 44, was elevated to the State Assembly after fellow Democrat and board colleague David Campos conceded days after the polls closed. But the system forced a lengthy, costly race between the candidates.

"We decided for the general election if we were hit we were not going to stand silently. We would defend ourselves hard. And we did," said Chiu. "Unfortunately, in this kind of race, when it gets intense, voters get turned off more than I would like.”

By national standards, Chiu would be considered a progressive Democrat. In San Francisco, however, he is known as a moderate, and was accused of being Republican in attack ads.

In January, Chiu will be sworn in and represent 60 percent of the city, including Campos’ supervisor district. Chiu said after the election, he and Campos had a conciliatory talk and agreed to find common ground as they work together. Meanwhile, Chiu said he’s been reaching out to others in San Francisco’s diverse community and is committed to the healing process after his “top two” experience.

“It certainly wasn’t good for overall harmony,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do and it’s important in the midst of our diversity to bring folks together and really showcase our commonality as opposed to using divisive tactics of 'us vs. them' that push people away, and make it much more difficult to come to better policy results.”

David Chiu begins his final days as the first Chinese-American President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
David Chiu begins his final days as the first Chinese-American President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. This month, he edged out Democratic colleague David Campos in a race for State Assembly. Emil Guillermo for NBC News

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