Will Wiener Attacks Sink Kim?

by on October 4, 2016

Wiener Backers Use Trumpian Logic to Attack Kim as “Unqualified”

After Jane Kim’s surprising success in the June State Senate primary, I wrote (“Jane Kim’s Stunning Success,” June 9, 2016) that Scott Wiener now faced a choice: “he will either have to find a way to expand his base beyond the additional Republican votes or cut into Kim’s support through negative campaigning.”

Wiener has chosen the latter.

Wiener’s State Senate campaign is now a classic case of “Going Negative.” I saw just how negative when I got an email last week from Wiener backer Andrea Shorter with the subject line, “’We Can’t Trust Jane Kim’ Holds Supervisor Jane Kim Accountable for Vote in Support of Domestic Abuser Ross Mirkarimi.”

“We Can’t Trust Jane Kim” is a committee running ads attacking Kim for voting in 2012 against removing Mirkarimi from office. Ron Conway has “proudly provided initial funding” for the ads, and has spent $200,000 to defeat Jane Kim. Conway’s ultimate contribution total will likely be even higher.

I wonder if Conway would have contributed this money if Rose Pak were still alive. Pak became very disappointed in Conway after they allied to elect Mayor Lee in 2011.  Pak strongly backed Jane Kim and Conway knew that funding attacks on Kim risked him getting into his own war with Rose Pak. Even Ron Conway would think twice before risking such a conflict.

The Mirkarimi Factor

Could these attacks swing the race to Wiener? Shorter certainly thinks so. She writes, “Conway has partnered with domestic violence prevention advocates since 2012 to hold the “Mirkarimi Four” accountable.” She notes that the others —Christina Olague in the 2012 D5 Supervisor’s race and David Campos in the 2014 Assembly contest—were defeated.

But Olague ran a poor campaign and faced a tough opponent in London Breed; she likely would have lost regardless of her Mirkarimi vote. Campos lost to a very strong candidate in David Chiu. Chiu attacked Campos for his Mirkarimi vote before the June 2014 primary but it was less an issue in November. The chief reason Campos likely lost that race is that too many voters saw him as anti-tech.

Of course, one candidate who voted to retain Mirkarimi easily won re-election two years later. Her name is Jane Kim.

If Ron Conway and some domestic violence advocates really felt Kim couldn’t be trusted after the Mirkarimi vote, why didn’t they challenge Kim in the 2014 D6 supervisor’s race?  Was it because they didn’t want to play the Mirkarimi card and lose?  Their failure to raise the issue in 2014 says that something beyond the Mirkarimi vote explains their opposition to Kim.

Conway’s attacks on Kim, a longtime tech ally, also show him putting his personal agendas ahead of his industry.

“Can’t Trust Kim” v. “Crooked Hillary”

Shorter’s charge that Kim’s vote “disqualifies her” from the State Senate reminds me of Donald Trump’s “Crooked Hillary” attacks on Hillary Clinton. Trump has repeatedly claimed that Clinton’s use of a private server to handle non-classified emails “disqualifies” her from the presidency.

In the view of Trump supporters, that single act defines Clinton. In contrast, Clinton backers argue that Clinton’s trustworthiness must be assessed in the  context of nearly four decades of public service.

Jane Kim has served in public office in San Francisco since 2007. She has cast votes on many controversial issues where emotions have run high on both sides. Yet reporters (or voters, given her political success) have never found Kim to be “untrustworthy.”

Ironically, Shorter’s claims that Kim can’t be trusted are undermined by a separate independent expenditure campaign for Wiener funded by realtors and landlords. Real estate groups have made defeating Jane Kim their top state legislative election priority. They have done so because they trust and count upon Kim to actively back tenants and oppose real estate speculators.

If the real estate lobby thought Kim were untrustworthy, they would not be heavily investing to defeat her. Instead, they would stay out of the race and then shower her with money if she won so that she would side with them.

The real estate industry understands the high stakes of this State Senate race. So do Chevron and other corporate interests also opposing Kim. All of these politically sophisticated interests trust Jane Kim to oppose their agendas.

So that brings us back to the question: will Wiener’s attacks on Kim succeed?

I suspect that voters who see Kim’s vote on Mirkarimi as disqualifying would not be supporting her anyway. And with over 80% of San Francisco voters likely to choose Hillary Clinton despite her use of a private email server, this may be the wrong election cycle to argue that Kim’s trustworthiness should be evaluated by a single act rather than by the totality of her record.

I wrote in July (“Can Kim-Wiener Avoid Going Negative?“) that “it’s in everyone’s interest for this election to be about competing visions, not which candidate’s negative attacks have worked best.” Unfortunately, what began as a test of different visions has descended to an all too typical negative campaign.

With a month to go, polls show the race still too close to call.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron. He is the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco.

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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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