The Mission High School auditorium is a big venue, room for more than 1,000 people, and it was packed last night for an event featuring Sup. Jane Kim, former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and BART Board candidate Lateefa Simon talking about housing and transportation policy.

It was part of the Jane Kim for state Senate campaign; Kim sent out mailers promoting the event and her team worked every possible social media angle to get people out.

Jane Kim poses with SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi, former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and DA George Gascon
Jane Kim poses with SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi, former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and DA George Gascon

Still: Huge turnout for a Tuesday night, and the crowd was pretty enthusiastic about Kim’s positions.

Before the event actually started, I got to hang out in the VIP room with the speakers, and had a chance to talk to Villaraigosa, who has been more than coy about his future plans, which a lot of pundits speculate will include a run for governor. He would be a formidable challenger to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has been trying to create an air of inevitability about his next step up.

Villaraigosa has his issues, and the teachers and public employee unions aren’t thrilled with him (for very good reasons). But Kim and a long list of local elected officials, including Public Defender Jeff Adachi, District Attorney George Gascon, Sup. Aaron Peskin, School Board Member (and Supe candidate) Sandy Fewer and BART Board candidate Lateefa Simon were on hand, posing with the former LA mayor and Kim.

Mission High auditorium was packed
Mission High auditorium was packed

I asked him if he was running for governor, and he smiled. “I will make an announcement in November,” he said. But the scuttle behind the scenes was pretty clear – everyone expects him to enter the race.

(There’s a strange thing that happens in California politics when SoCal and NoCal candidates run against each other. People in this part of the state, who know the likes of Gavin Newsom, are often desperately looking for someone else; people in LA, who know the likes of Antonia Villaraigosa, have seen his flaws for years and want an alternative. There are more people in the South; the Northerners get elected).

But I got the clear impression that Villaraigosa is going to be in the race. The only reason he would stay out is if the Hillary Clinton administration offered him a sweet cabinet post – but if he says he’s announcing in November, it tends to support a run for governor.

Kim talked at some length about housing and homelessness, and while there wasn’t anything new that she hadn’t said before, she got a rousing reception.

A small number of protesters took the Wiener line that Kim wants tents all over the city
A small number of protesters took the Wiener line that Kim wants tents all over the city

This is part of her political strategy – to use events to get the word out and increase enthusiasm. “We know we are going to be outspent,” Eric Jaye, her campaign manager, told me. “So we need 1,000 people to each tell ten people why they are supporting Jane.”

It’s something that Dean Preston, who is running against incumbent Sup. London Breed, has also been doing. He’s been holding workshops on housing issues, attracting large numbers of tenants who are worried about staying in their homes.

A fairly small number of demonstrators showed up outside, pushing Sup. Scott Wiener’s line that Kim is against housing. In fact, Wiener put out a press release saying that Kim was against affordable housing because she voted No on a sales tax increase. Actually, she voted No as part of an effort by progressives to get rid of a nasty and cynical effort by Wiener to turn homelessness into a wedge issue in November.

You can see who this is playing out: The demonstrators pitched a couple of tents on the sidewalk and complained that “tents are not homes.” Pretty much everyone agrees that tents are not part of the city’s long-term housing solution. There’s a clear split on whether the city out to roust homeless people in tents when there are not enough shelter beds for them and nowhere near enough permanent housing.

Simon made the case that transportation is a critical progressive issue, particularly when more and more San Francisco residents are being displaced and forced to move further out of town. A hotel worker in San Francisco who has been forced to move to Richmond pays $300 a month for BART fares, she said – and that’s a social justice issue.

So the campaigns are heating up even before Labor Day. And from the way Wiener’s folks are acting, it’s just going to get more ugly.