But progressives are confident that he will have a serious challenger
By Tim Redmond
JANUARY 15, 2015 – C.W. Nevius called me yesterday. Yeah, the Chron columnist, the guy we used to mock at the Guardian with a logo that said “What the Fuck, Chuck?” But like a lot of people I have criticized over the years, Nevius realizes that politics in San Francisco is a contact sport and he doesn’t seem to take it personally.
He called to ask about my relationship with Scott Wiener. No, that’s not a gossip item; he was writing a column about the supervisor, who is not popular among progressives, and wanted to know how Wiener treats someone who doesn’t share his politics.
I can’t speak for others who clash with him, but as I told Nevius, Scott Wiener has always been cordial to me, has always returned my phone calls and texts, and has always treated me with respect. (Sometimes we even agree.) I contrast that to Assemblymember David Chiu, who stopped talking to me last spring – which was silly, unprofessional, and foolish.
Why is Nevius writing a column about Scott Wiener? I think he’s figured out that the Wiener for State Senate race is well underway. And like Mayor Ed Lee, who figured he could raise enough money early enough and line up enough political allies to scare off any credible challenger, Wiener is already working hard to establish himself as a prohibitive favorite.
That’s what the all-out effort to lock up a slate of candidates for the state Democratic Convention was about last weekend. I was at the 17th Assembly District meeting, but a similar thing happened across town, in the 19th AD, where incumbent Assemblymember Phil Ting had a mixed slate of candidates (some progressives, some moderates) and Wiener’s allies tried to knock out all the progressives.
The SF Moderates – a group that used to be known as Plan C – put together a slate literally called “Parents, Puppies, and Pride on the Westside” that cherry picked some of the moderates from Ting’s slate but left off all the progressives. I am told by reliable sources that candidates were getting phone calls from the Mods asking one question – will you support Scott Wiener for Senate? – and anyone who didn’t pledge to work for his endorsement didn’t get the nod.
The effort, I’m told, also involved the San Francisco Board of Realtors and Mary Jung, the Realtor lobbyist who is also the chair of the local Democratic Party.
In the end, the Ting slate mostly prevailed. But the effort surprised a lot of people, including Wendy Aragon, a longtime party activist who was one of Ting’s nominees. “People were being told very specifically not to vote for me,” she said. “I can’t figure out why they saw me as a threat; I’m so low on the food chain in progressive politics.”
An interesting twist on all of this: Money was clearly spent on the slates. People were bused to the AD 17 caucus. Fliers were printed. Not big money, but somebody paid for these campaigns.
And we have no idea who that was.
There’s no reporting requirement for campaign contributions to candidates for state convention delegate. There’s no disclosure at all. Somebody could have delivered an envelope full of $100 bills to one of the camps and we’d never know a thing about it. That’s a loophole worth noting.
But back to the Wiener for Senate campaign.
Wiener hasn’t filed any paperwork yet, so he’s not officially in the race. But he told me he is “very seriously considering” it, which in political language means: Yeah, he’s in.
He will probably have the support of outgoing Sen. Mark Leno; Wiener has worked on every one of Leno’s campaigns, and the senator values that kind of loyalty. He has proven he can raise money. It’s a citywide race (actually, the district includes all of SF, parts of Daly City, Colma, and parts of South San Francisco) and he’s never run citywide, but he’s clearly already started working the West side.
And we don’t know at this point who’s going to challenge him from the progressive camp.
Everyone knew a year out that the 17th Assembly District race was going to be David Campos and David Chiu. At this point, the only progressive candidate talking about running for Leno’s seat is former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, but he hasn’t committed to the race. Sup. Jane Kim is mentioned in every conversation, but she hasn’t said much of anything publicly.
Ammiano is popular among a lot of folks up in Sacramento; if he decides to run, he’ll have a lot of support from incumbent legislators who would love to see him back in the state Capitol. That will also translate into money.
He told me that he’s looking at the race, but if he doesn’t run, somebody will. “There will be a serious progressive candidate,” he said.
The left has no candidate for mayor. Progressives lost the Assembly seat, and lost the D17 delegation elections. The mayor doesn’t believe he even has to acknowledge the progressives anymore; he can just side with Ron Conway and the Realtors with no consequences.
So there has to be a strong challenger to Wiener; an unopposed Mayor Ed Lee followed by an unopposed Sen. Scott Wiener would be deeply disturbing.
Meanwhile, the Wiener campaign is rolling along.