Jane Kim: putting a pretty face on opportunism
Examiner columnist Melissa Griffin looks for lessons from the city's election:
District 6: Again, final votes are not in, but it looks like Jane Kim has this one locked up. Debra Walker had been campaigning for this seat for eons when Kim burst onto the scene and parlayed her persona as an outsider to the progressive machine into what looks like a victory. This one will go down as the election of “don’t assume you are entitled to that seat just because you’ve been anointed by insiders.”
That's one way of putting it. Another way: Kim was a carpetbagger who moved to District 6 to run for the Board of Supervisors, whereas Walker has lived there for years. Carptetbagging has been legitimized by city progressives even though it contradicts the spirit of district elections, which were supposed to encourage the election of supervisors with roots in the districts. Matt Gonzalez was the first progressive carpetbagger way back in 2000, the first year the system was used, when he moved from the Mission district to District 5.
If carpetbagging is okay, why have district elections in the first place? The answer: the city's leftists like the district election system because it artificially skews the city's political sytem to the left. The progressives now on the Board of Supervisors wouldn't have been elected in a citywide election, which is why none of them challenged Mayor Newsom when he ran for reelection in 2007.
And what substantive political differences do Kim and Walker have? None. In a letter to BeyondChron, Becky O'Malley, editor of the online Berkeley Daily Express, asks that question in response to Randy Shaw's self-congratulatory article that tells in some detail how Kim was elected but not why she campaigned against fellow progressive Walker in the first place[later: actually, it was Paul Hogarth who wrote about how Kim won]:
As someone who doesn't live in San Francisco, I have gotten NO CLUE from this story or others on this site about any differences between the District 6 candidates on issues or policies. I do gather from this piece that Jane Kim is younger and prettier, but the writers don't think that should make a difference, nor do I. Anything else to say about either one?
BeyondChron editor Randy Shaw thinks the fact that Kim is ethnically Asian is enough to validate her campaign against Walker under the apparent assumption that non-whites per se represent a step up politically from white folks:
But the forces of change surrounding Jane Kim would not be denied, and her campaign reminded the city of the power of broad-multi racial electoral coalitions fueled by the drive for justice. As a young Asian-American professional, Jane Kim is close to the perfect demographic for the changing District 6. When the Bay Guardian’s Steve Jones’ advised Kim to run for Supervisor in the heavily Asian-American but politically conservative District 4 (he claims the best of intentions), he and many others were likely unaware that nearly 25% of District 6 voters are Asian-American. The Uptown Tenderloin has long housed Southeast Asian and Chinese-American seniors and families, working-class Filipinos have a deep history in the South of Market, and young Asian Americans make up a fair share of those living in the new SOMA housing built since 2000. Kim worked hard in all of the above neighborhoods, and won each handily. Of the San Francisco’s three most progressive supervisor districts (5,6,9), District 6 has far and away the most Asian-American voters.
"The drive for justice"? Are Asian-Americans suffering from discrimination in San Francisco? There are now three supervisors of Asian ethnicity on the Board of Supervisors, and none of them has raised that as an issue.
The Guardian's Steve Jones had a good point. The conservative Carmen Chu was unopposed in District 4, so why take on someone in District 6 who shares your politics? Obviously the progressive vote in District 6 was split, just not enough to elect the more conservative Theresa Sparks. But Kim and her supporters didn't know that going in. Kim's ambition trumped all other considerations.
Kim didn't challenge Chu because her ethnicity wouldn't have been an advantage against Chu, and the campaign would have cast a bright light on her leftist politics, which wouldn't have gone over well in the more conservative District 4. One wonders how many of those who voted for Kim on strictly ethnic grounds knew that she's a party-line San Francisco progressive, who favored dumping JROTC from the city's schools, not a popular position with city Asians.
Kim merely puts a pretty face on the crudest opportunism. She became a member of the Green Party when it was fashionable to do so earlier in the decade but, like Ross Mirkarimi, John Rizzo, and Christine Olague, abandoned the Greens when Barack Obama made being a Democrat fashionable again.
Like all good SF progressives, Kim will of course give the Bicycle Coalition a blank check for whatever it wants to do to city streets.