The Mission District is shaping up to be a battleground for the two leading progressive mayoral candidates, District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim and former State Senator Mark Leno, as they try to edge out the more moderate London Breed, president of the Board of Supervisors.
Take a stroll down Mission or 24th streets, and it’s not hard to notice the campaign signs of both candidates placed in the windows of older mom-and-pop restaurants and bodegas.
Kim “will make sure the people have more equality,” said Ok Kim, the owner of Jim’s Restaurant on Mission, which had a Jane Kim (no relation) sign in its window.
Alex Suen, who has run a small shop near 16th and Mission street for 27 years, had a Mark Leno sign in his window. He added that he still hadn’t made up his mind who to support, but he was clear on one thing:
“I want a mayor for the people, not for money,” he said – a leader that looks out for working-class businesses and residents like him.
For more than two decades – and, in fact, as long as District 9 has existed in its current form – the Mission has voted for progressive supervisors, starting with Tom Ammiano, and, later, David Campos and Hillary Ronen.
“For progressives, the Mission has always been Ground Zero for the changes that are making San Francisco unaffordable for working-class and low-income people,” said Campos, now the chair of the Democratic County Central Committee.
“So it’s not surprising that two leading progressive candidates have decided to focus on the Mission,” he added.
Earlier this month, Kim opened her campaign office smack-dab in the middle of the neighborhood, on Mission Street between 22nd and 23rd. Meanwhile, Leno has set up shop in the Castro, his old stomping grounds, where he served as District 8 Supervisor from 1998 to 2002 before running for Assembly.
District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen has endorsed both candidates. A Chamber of Commerce-commissioned poll taken in late January shows Leno and Kim in a virtual tie for second place, with 16 percent of voters saying they would pick Leno first, and 15 percent saying they would pick Kim.
Meanwhile, District 5 Supervisor London Breed, painted by progressives to be an incarnation of monied interests, led the poll at 33 percent. Given the few London Breed signs in the Mission, it appears she has left Mission voters to Kim and Leno.
Jon Golinger, Kim’s campaign manager, is clear why they’re in the Mission.
“In this race in particular, we (wanted) to be in the beating heart of San Francisco, particularly where there’s a lot of unhappy, fed-up, fired-up activists and people who are ready to do something to save our city.” He noted also that it was also important that the office was accessible by foot and public transit.
What’s more, Golinger said that of the 182,192 San Franciscans who voted for Kim during her run for State Senate – in which she very narrowly lost to Scott Wiener, a moderate, by 8,426 votes – many of the votes were cast by people who live in and around the Mission.
Indeed, Kim brought in 14,330 votes in the Mission, compared to Wiener’s 10,052, according to city data. In the greater District 9 – which includes the Mission, Bernal Heights and Portola – Kim captured 19,186 votes to Wiener’s 13,730.
However, while the Mission can be considered a key to securing progressive votes – and perhaps serve as a litmus for how other progressive-leaning districts might swing – the neighborhood’s voter turnout is considerably lower than more residential areas, such as the Richmond and Sunset, which reported 31,322 and 34,353 votes, respectively, during the Nov. 8, 2016, election.
By comparison, 26,353 ballots were cast in the Mission.
Nonetheless, Kim’s early-childhood-education ballot measure, which would increase a tax on commercial landlords to 3.5 percent to fund childhood programs for low-income families, could play well in the neighborhood.
According to the Department of Public Health, District 9’s under-18 population was 16.1 percent in 2017 – among the highest in the city.
Kim also authored renter-friendly Eviction Protections 2.0, which passed in 2015, and she supported the unsuccessful, progressive-backed Mission housing moratorium.
On a recent Thursday evening at a home in Bernal Heights, Kim talked about the ballot measure, along with other issues, including housing and homelessness, with a small group of residents of the neighborhood.
“Running as a progressive candidate, one of the hard things I’m gonna have to prove is whether I can run a city,” she told the group, promising to double the number of street cleaners and public restrooms if she became mayor.
She was also quick to note that a majority of San Francisco’s new housing stock was built in her district. Some 60 percent of San Francisco’s new housing was built in District 6 from 2007 to 2016, according to Planning Department data. Kim assumed her post in 2011.
Jose Muniz, who has lived in Bernal Heights since 1975, seemed sold. “She’s clear on the issues,” he said. “I haven’t seen any other candidate be as clear about what they want to do and what they’ve done.”
But Leno might also fare well in the Mission. During his 2008 run for California’s 3rd Senate District, the neighborhood cast 21,238 ballots in his favor. He ran against Sashi McEntee, a Republican, who won a mere 1,630 votes.
“I’m focused on running a strong grassroots campaign across District 9,” Leno said in a statement to Mission Local.
He said his campaign is going door-to-door in the area, and he is talking to as many voters as he can about his plans for the city’s homeless crisis and his plans to build 50,000 affordable units in the city “that will impact the many thousands in the Mission still at risk of displacement.”
“The support for our campaign has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “And having the support of Supervisor Hillary Ronen has given our campaign a major boost to get that message out.”
Furthermore, Leno could simply outspend Kim. In early February, his campaign announced that it would soon surpass the $500,000 mark, while Kim’s campaign said the supervisor had raised more than $100,000.
In the end, however, the Mission votes may not be enough to put any candidate on top. Leno is clearly focused on District 8, which includes Noe Valley, where 89 percent of voters turned out in November 2016.
Moreover, the swing districts are in the west side of the city – Districts 1, 4, 5, and 7 – which have a high percentage of Asian voters, whose support is largely split. Districts 1 and 7 voted in progressive Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer and Norman Yee, respectively. And Districts 4 and 5 favored moderates Katy Tang and London Breed, respectively.
The Mission is nonetheless up for grabs for the two progressive candidates. Suen, the merchant on 16th and Mission, pointed to the Leno sign in his window, explaining that he had no attachment to the candidate.
“I can take the sign down right now,” he said.