David Campos was born in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala. His father was a meteorologist. His family first tried to cross the border when David was 11, but they were caught and deported. Around 1983, his father made it across the border and went to Los Angeles, where he became a carpenter. In 1985, at age 14, with his mother and two sisters, he fled Guatemala and emigrated to the United States. Campos graduated at the top of his class at Jefferson High School in South Central Los Angeles. He earned scholarships and admissions to Stanford University, from which he graduated in 1993 with a degree in political science. While attending Harvard Law School from 1993 to 1996, Campos became a permanent resident of the United States and met his partner, Phil Hwang. They married in 2014.
After three years of private law practice, Campos became Deputy City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco in 1999. During his tenure he was chief attorney for San Francisco Unified School District overseeing its school desegregation program. Campos was also appointed as a San Francisco Police Commissioner from 2005-2008.
In 2008, David Campos was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, representing District 9 (Bernal Heights, Portola, and the Inner Mission), succeeding current State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano.
Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed Campos to the vacant supervisorial seat on December 4, 2008, one month before the other freshman supervisors were elected in November 2008. His predecessor, Ammiano, had resigned from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in early December to start his tenure at the California State Assembly.
In 1989, San Francisco passed the "City and County of Refuge" Ordinance (also known as the Sanctuary Ordinance) which prohibits City employees from helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with immigration investigations or arrests unless such help is required by federal or state law or a warrant.
In 2008, following the arrest of undocumented alien youth Edwin Ramos for a triple murder, Gavin Newsom amended the sanctuary city policy of San Francisco to allow the city to refer juvenile undocumented immigrants convicted of felonies to federal authorities for deportation. San Francisco had also been referring such youth arrested but not yet tried in court to federal authorities.
Supervisor Campos introduced legislation in August 2009 that sought to protect undocumented alien youths from deportation and separation from their families by the San Francisco police. The legislation would have required local authorities to wait for a criminal conviction before turning youth over to ICE. In an editorial for the "San Francisco Chronicle", Campos stated that his proposal "strikes a balance between the former city policy that failed to report people who should have been reported, and the current one, which in essence violates the right of these young people to a hearing on the accusations against them and can ultimately tear them from the protection of their families" and that he believed "every person has the right to a hearing before being punished and is innocent until proven guilty."
Supervisor Campos and local community activists including P.O.W.E.R. (People Organized to Win Employment Rights) and CCDC (Chinatown Community Development Center) are credited with providing free local public transportation to San Francisco youth. San Francisco residents from low-income communities were outraged after San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) decided to significantly reduce the use of school buses for transporting students to and from school. Campos argued, "In the midst of this affordability crisis, we know that low and moderate income families, youth, seniors and people with disabilities are struggling more than ever, and making public transportation affordable and accessible is one step towards alleviating some of the financial stress people are experiencing."
On March 1, 2013, the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority (SFMTA) launched the Free MUNI for Low Income Youth Pilot Program. The 16-month pilot program waived MUNI fares for low- and moderate-income youth residents of San Francisco between the ages of 5 and 18. To qualify for free passes, families must make less than the average income in the Bay Area, which the SFMTA puts at $82,400 for a family of two and $103,000 for a family of four.
The SFMTA decided to renew the program in response to the pilot program’s success. According to preliminary data by the Office of the Mayor, Free Muni for Low Income Youth had a positive impact on San Francisco’s transportation network. In addition, Clipper card data showed 266,000 more rides by youth Muni riders in May 2013 than in May 2012. Approximately 45 percent of Free Muni for Low Income Youth participants plan to ride public transportation as an adult, while 70 percent would recommend Muni to their friends, according to the San Francisco Unified School District Student Survey results.
This success has also inspired Google to contribute $6.8 million and support these efforts for two years.
Since it opened in 2011, the San Francisco Planned Parenthood sought to prevent protests by anti-abortion activists. According to proponents of the ordinance, protesters were obscuring access to the clinics with large signs, and taking pictures and video of anyone entering the clinic. At that time abortions accounted for less than 2 percent of patient visits.
In May 2013, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed Campos’s Health Care Access Buffer Zone legislation. The legislation created a 25-foot harassment free buffer zone around all free-standing health clinics in the city. The penalty for encroaching the buffer zone is up to a $1,000 fine or three months in jail. The ordinance also expands the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes it a federal offense to use physical force or intimidation to prevent a person from entering a reproductive health care facility.
In September 2012, San Francisco's supervisors voted 8-3 to approve Campos’s CleanPowerSF legislation. CleanPowerSF is a planned publicly owned clean energy program that allow residents to choose to buy electricity generated from renewable source rather than from PG&E, the dominant utility in the city. Ultimately, the plan will use the program’s revenue stream to help construct the city’s own renewable energy infrastructure, including wind and solar generators.
In April 2016, Campos introduced legislation that would fine short-term rental companies such as Airbnb $1000 a day for each listing that wasn't registered with the City of San Francisco. City law requires that all short-term rentals be registered. After the Board of Supervisors approved the legislation, Airbnb sued the City, claiming that the law violated the Communications Decency Act, which prohibits the government from holding websites accountable for the content published by users. Campos then introduced new amendments to the legislation to attempt to address the challenges in the lawsuit.
On August 1, 2013, Campos filed papers at San Francisco City Hall to run for the California State Assembly seat in the 17th District (eastern half of San Francisco). If he had beenelected, Campos would have been the first Latino to represent San Francisco in the State Assembly. If elected, he would have been the fourth consecutive LGBT public officials to serve San Francisco in the State Assembly, starting with Carole Migden (1996-2002) and continuing with Mark Leno (2002-2008) and Tom Ammiano (2008-2014).
Campos lost to David Chiu in the primary on Tuesday, June 3, 2014, with 43 percent of the vote. Chiu won 48 percent of the vote and Republican candidate David Salaverry won 8.5 percent.
In March of 2017 Campos was named one of seven deputy executives for Santa Clara County. The job pays $240,000 a year. "I will likely be working on LGBT, immigration, housing and health care,” Campos said of his new job.