Gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener made official this week his long expected run for a state Senate seat.
Wiener, 45, filed paperwork with state elections officials to begin raising money for his campaign to represent Senate District 11, which includes all of San Francisco and portions of northern San Mateo County. The current officeholder, gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), is termed out of office in 2016 and is endorsing Wiener to be his successor.
(Supervisor Scott Wiener. Photo: Rick Gerharter)
“I love serving on the Board of Supervisors. It’s been a tremendous honor to have worked very hard for my district and the city,” Wiener told the Bay Area Reporter in a phone interview Tuesday. “In terms of the work I do around transportation, housing, water, and health, I can, being in the state Senate, be so impactful in that role in helping not only the city and region but the state as a whole.”
Leno said the political colleagues, as well as friends, have known each other since at least 2002 when he first ran for an Assembly seat.
“I think Scott will make a terrific state senator. Supervisor Wiener has been a prolific and earnest legislator on the county board,” Leno told the B.A.R. “On complex issues such as transportation, health, civil rights, the environment, Supervisor Wiener has repeatedly demonstrated an uncommon understanding and command.”
“You can throw in his work ethic, his intelligence, and his tenacity,” added Leno. “Altogether, they suggest the constituents of District 11 will be well served.”
Wiener, a former San Francisco Democratic Party chair, plans to announce numerous endorsements from politicians, community leaders, and unions Wednesday morning when he publicly launches his Senate bid.
Among those on the list are Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Kamala Harris, and Board of Equalization member Fiona Ma. All three Democrats are former local San Francisco elected officials.
Both City Attorney Dennis Herrera, for whom Wiener once worked, and District Attorney George Gascon are backing Wiener’s Senate bid, as is Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu. All four of the Board of Supervisors’ more moderate members, Board President London Breed (District 5), Julie Christensen (D3), Mark Farrell (D2), and Katy Tang (D4), endorsed Wiener.
In San Mateo County, state Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) has endorsed Wiener, as have all five members of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. The Senate district includes the cities of Colma and Daly City as well as a portion of South San Francisco.
The list of individual endorsers runs nearly 200 strong. Twelve unions, including police, firefighters and labor trades, have also lent Wiener their support.
The strong showing out of the gate from Wiener doesn’t surprise Rafael Mandelman, a local Democratic Party official who unsuccessfully ran against him for the supervisor seat in 2010.
“I think he has certainly demonstrated over his time in office that he is incredibly hardworking and that he is incredibly diligent and persistent. Once he starts working on an issue, he pursues it doggedly until he gets what he wants,” said Mandelman, currently president of the City College board of trustees who has yet to be asked for his endorsement in the Senate race. “I think that people on all places in the political spectrum have been impressed with his work ethic and his tenacity. The challenge is he is also quite controversial. He has picked a number of fights that have earned him friends and enemies.”
One issue critics have repeatedly attacked Wiener on is affordable housing. It is no coincidence housing is listed at the top of a list of his legislative accomplishments Wiener’s campaign sent out to reporters. It mentions his push to allow homeowners to add in-law units and granting larger density allowances to developers to build more affordable housing among his legislative wins.
“I think that criticism is way off base and based on a very selective view of the work I have done I have been working hard on housing for all income levels since the day I took office,” said Wiener. “I have been a consistent supporter of building more affordable housing. I have supported money in the budget every year for affordable housing, including for seniors and at-risk youth.”
Should he win the Senate seat, Wiener said he would take up Leno’s so far unsuccessful legislative battle to curb Ellis Act evictions in the city. And he said he would support changes to Proposition 13 that would result in commercial property owners paying more in taxes than residential property owners.
Wiener said he fully expects that housing issues will be “front and center” in the Senate campaign.
“Housing is the most significant challenge facing our city right now,” he said. “How we react to this housing crisis will determine, in many ways, what this city is in the future.”
Unlike in his re-election bid last year for supervisor, when he faced only token opposition, Wiener is likely to face at least one, perhaps two, strong progressive opponents for the Senate Seat.
Gay former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who was termed out of his seat last December, has expressed interest in seeking Leno’s seat. He filed paperwork to form a Senate campaign committee but has yet to report raising any money for it.
District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim is said to be interested in running for the seat, while gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos has also been mentioned as a possible candidate. Campos lost his bid in November for a state Assembly seat representing San Francisco’s eastern neighborhoods to former Supervisor David Chiu, who has endorsed Wiener’s Senate bid.
The June primary, where the top two vote getters will advance to the November election, is less than a year away. It won’t be long before another candidate jumps into the race.
But with the field his alone at the moment, “Scott has a significant head start,” said Mandelman. “If I were Scott right now, I would be feeling really good.”
– reported by Matthew S. Bajko