Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Political Notebook: In SF Senate race, Chinese ballot names play greater role


State Senate candidate Scott Wiener holds a toy giraffe as he campaigns in the Sunset district.
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When Scott Wiener first ran for the District 8 supervisor seat in 2010, the Chinese name he used on the ballot was of little importance. Just 300 voters requested a Chinese language ballot.

"Obviously, in District 8 we don't have a large monolingual Chinese community," acknowledged Wiener.

Nonetheless, as he sought to represent San Francisco's gay Castro district, as well as the Noe Valley, Diamond Heights and Glen Park neighborhoods at City Hall, his supervisorial campaign recruited Cantonese speakers for its phone-banking operation and reached out to those 300 voters.

Now that he is seeking the state's 11th Senate District seat, which covers all of San Francisco and a portion of northern San Mateo County, reaching out to Chinese voters is of even more significance. About 20 percent of the district's population is Chinese, with a sizeable monolingual community of Cantonese speakers.

"It is really important for me and for my campaign to be reaching out to everyone ... whether or not people speak English," Wiener told the Bay Area Reporter.

Thus, the openly gay supervisor has created several versions of his campaign signs he is handing out to supporters. The English-language one is a near duplicate of the orange with black lettering signs he used in his supervisor races except they now say "Scott Wiener for state Senate."

He also has Chinese-language signs that include the Chinese name he has used for the ballot since 2004, when he first ran for a seat on the Democratic County Central Committee. It is pronounced as Wei ( 威), Shan, Gao ( 善,高), which means prestige, kindness, and height/nobility respectively, according to a translation provided by a person with no ties to the campaigns of Wiener or his Senate race opponent, District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim.

"Wei" also stands for his last name "Wiener." His Chinese name can be found on Wiener's business cards as well as his supervisor office stationery.

His campaign signs in Chinese also feature the image of a giraffe, and while walking precincts in Chinese neighborhoods, Wiener and his supporters can often be found holding plastic blowup versions of the animals known for their long legs and lengthy necks.

The reference to the ruminant, the world's tallest mammal, is due to Chinatown power broker Rose Pak referring to Wiener as a giraffe.

"For years she has done that. We decided to have some fun with it," said Wiener, adding that people understand the joke.

Plus, added Wiener, "I am always happy to have a name not related to a hot dog or body parts."

Asked about Wiener's playing up his Chinese name, Kim campaign consultant Eric Jaye quipped, "It doesn't mean humility apparently."

He added that, "the reason why Supervisor Wiener would go to such contortions to name himself in Chinese in this way is precisely because of the growing electoral strength of the Asian community."

When she first ran for supervisor in 2010, Kim, who is Korean-American, used campaign signs both in English and in Chinese. Her ballot name in Chinese is 金贞妍 and is pronounced Jin Zhen Yan.

State Senate candidate Jane Kim, at left holding banner, joined other supporters in the Castro district.

"Jin" is for her last name Kim and means gold, "Zhen" stands for chastity, and "Yan" means beautiful, noted the person who translated the names for the B.A.R. The last two words are the Chinese equivalent of her Korean middle name, Jungyon, and the combination of all three is "a very typical and old-fashioned Korean girl's name," noted the translator.

As Wiener is targeting Asian voters in the race, Kim is zeroing in on progressive LGBT voters for support. For a recent campaign outreach event in the Castro district, her campaign created special signs sporting the colors of the rainbow flag, long a symbol of LGBT pride.

"Not all Asian voters are going to support Jane Kim, just like not all LGBT voters are going to support Scott Wiener," noted Jaye.

Candidates plan series of debates

As noted by the B.A.R. in a blog post last week regarding a poll commissioned by Wiener's campaign that showed him 15 points ahead of Kim, the two candidates are planning to hold six debates leading up to the June 7 primary election.

Five of the debates, combining two supervisor districts, will be held in San Francisco while the sixth will cover the city's 11th supervisor district and San Mateo County. In a joint press statement, the two candidates said the schedule is modeled after the famous "Lincoln-Douglas" debates.

"Our region and our state are at a crossroads. With so many challenges before us, we wanted to be sure voters have a chance to hear where we stand on the issues facing not just our many neighborhoods but our entire district and our entire state," stated Kim. "I'm excited for the chance to talk about how we can make sure our policies – and our state government – are working for us."

Added Wiener, "I look forward to a lively and substantive debate on the critical issues facing our city, region, and state, including housing affordability, the drought and climate change, education funding, health care access, and transportation. I see these six debates as a unique opportunity for our diverse neighborhoods to come together to discuss the issues affecting us all."

Letters recently went out to organizations interested in hosting the debates. The one encompassing Wiener's District 8 is combined with District 5, and the one focused on Kim's District 6 will include District 7.

The first debate will likely be held sometime in late February or early March.


AHF mum on pharmacy plans

With the city's planning commission expected to reject its request to relocate its Castro pharmacy, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is remaining mum on what its next steps will be in the permit fight.

As the B.A.R. noted on its blog, a majority of the six commissioners Thursday, January 14 signaled they were likely to disapprove AHF's permit request. But they postponed their vote to do so until their January 28 meeting in order to give AHF time to answer how they would activate the space at 518 Castro Street other than as a pharmacy.

The Los Angeles-based agency wants to relocate the pharmacy it operates on 18th Street into the nearby storefront so that it is in the same location as where its health clinic operates. AHF has contended doing so will lead to better health outcomes for its patients.

But critics of the agency have strongly opposed its permit, arguing there is no need for the relocation. Much of the opposition, however, stems from disagreements over AHF's policy stances against the widespread use of PrEP and sponsorship of a November ballot measure that would require condoms to be used on all porn sets in the state.

City planning staff initially had granted the agency the permit for relocating its pharmacy in January of 2014. But they then reversed course after concluding AHF's pharmacy was covered by the city's formula retail rules, which require chains with 11 or more stores to seek a conditional use permit to open a new location.

AHF lost its appeal of that decision and then sued the city and Wiener, claiming city officials had unfairly targeted it when they passed emergency zoning legislation covering chain stores in the Castro. But AHF put the lawsuit on hold last year when it decided to seek the permit for its pharmacy.

It has no plans, as of now, to use the storefront for anything other than a pharmacy, said AHF Bay Area regional manager Dale Gluth, though it has been using the space to show works by local artists. The agency expects to see its permit request be denied by the planning commission Thursday.

"I don't expect them to change their minds," said Gluth.

As for what AHF's next move will be, Gluth told the B.A.R. he could not say. It may appeal the commission's decision to the Board of Supervisors – it has 30 days to do so – or it could revive its lawsuit against the city.

"We are still working out our Plan B," said Gluth.

He did say that AHF has no intention of vacating its Castro spaces, noting that its landlord of the building that currently houses the pharmacy has said he would extend its lease for the 18th Street storefront.

"We are not leaving," said Gluth.


Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column discussed the findings of a new report on California's LGBT residents.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail


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