Kim-Wiener Senate Showdown Takes Shape

by on March 2, 2015

With Mayor Lee facing no serious re-election opposition, the next big San Francisco political showdown is the expected 2016 State Senate fight between Supervisors Jane Kim and Scott Wiener. Both have hit the ground running since easily winning re-election last November. And both are working hard to broaden and strengthen political alliances that they will need to win in 2016.

Here’s our early take on the race.

Not a Chiu-Campos Replay

Whereas David Chiu defeated David Campos in a district that excluded the more conservative San Francisco Westside, Kim and Wiener are running a citywide race. The district includes all of San Francisco, 27% of South San Francisco, and the northern tip (17.5%) of San Mateo County.

While the larger district would seem to bode well for the more conservative Wiener, the electorate is 37% Asian American. So the inclusion of Westside Asian American voters is more likely to benefit Jane Kim.

This race also differs from Campos-Chiu in Kim having a broader political base than the core progressives that backed Campos. Kim has far more support than Campos had against Chiu in the tech community, among SOMA condo owners, and among moderate Asian Americans.

Real estate and landlord interests were more likely to support Chiu over Campos, but Chiu had a consistently pro-tenant voting record on rent control and eviction issues and was never their guy. With a chance to replace the ardently pro-tenant Mark Leno with strong landlord ally Scott Wiener, expect record real estate spending on Wiener’s behalf for 2016.

Gay Community Split

Campos won some gay voters who were closer ideologically to Chiu because they felt that after Migden, Leno and Ammiano, the Assembly race involved a “gay” seat. Should Kim defeat Wiener, straight Asian Americans would hold both San Francisco Assembly seats, the State Senate, and the Mayor’s Office.

Yet do not expect gays to rally around the rainbow flag for Scott Wiener.

Last week, Campos fiercely attacked Wiener for reviving the “ghost of Ronald Reagan” in endorsing “trickle-down economics” in the name of a laissez-faire housing policy. Campos also criticized Wiener’s “hypocrisy” in opposing restrictions of housing in the Mission while introducing legislation to stop “monster” homes in affluent Corona Heights.

Wiener backed Chiu over Campos. You can be sure that Campos will go all out for Kim,  undermining claims that Wiener’s victory is necessary for the gay movement’s power.

Mark Leno did not endorse in the Campos-Chiu race. Along with Phil Ting, Wiener is Leno’s closest San Francisco political ally. Yet while Leno’s endorsement of Wiener may seem obvious, it goes against Leno’s potential 2019 mayoral run.

If Leno is considering such a run, it makes far more sense for him to stay out of the Wiener-Kim election. This would earn him future consideration from appreciative  Kim supporters.

Wiener/Kim Similarities

Just as the Campos-Chiu race had the big picture similarity of a battle between two Harvard Law grads, Scott Wiener and Jane Kim are likely closer in political approach than any other two Supervisors.

Both are relentless campaigners. They each hits multiple events each night, and tweet about it. Neither is easily ideologically pigeonholed, a problem that hurt Campos against Chiu.

Whereas Wiener has been the Board’s leading voice for landlords and housing developers, he also gets support from progressive transit, bike and pedestrian activists. Wiener has also been a leading advocate for the city’s parks.

Kim has support among all sides to the battle over tech’s impact on San Francisco, and has cultivated the affluent SOMA condo owners whose politics are more moderate than her own. Kim also has the advantage of citywide name recognition from her School Board races.

Wiener and Kim both face the at least temporary ending of their promising political careers if they lose the Senate race. They each have law degrees to fall back on, but Kim was on the School Board even before passing the bar and Wiener’s brief city attorney career was always a temporary stop before he would run for office.

The Outcome’s Impact

It was often stated about the Campos-Chiu race that for all of the passion on each side, their actual votes as Assembly members would not be much different. Regardless of the truth of this assertion, this point will not often be said about the Wiener-Kim outcome.

Kim shares the strong position on tenant protection issues of current Senator Leno and his predecessors Carole Migden and John Burton. Wiener would vote along the lines of former State Senator Leland Yee, a staunch landlord ally.

Landlord-tenant issues will be at the forefront of the Kim-Wiener race whereas Campos and Chiu’s backing of the Prop G anti-speculation tax made this contrast less clear. And if Ellis evictions remain an issue in 2016—and they will unless we get Leno’s recently introduced SB 364 passed this year—the question as to which candidate can best win legislative passage of an Ellis bill will become a key issue in the race.

Kim and Wiener, along with Campos and Board President London Breed, have been the most active legislators in 2015. Expect both to continue to push issues that seek to broaden their political base for the multi-million dollar political donnybrook of 2016.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron

Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw is the author of four books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. His new book is The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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