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Beware of Scott Wiener, ‘The Machine’

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Supervisor Scott Wiener has been masterfully preparing for his upcoming senate race. (Anna Latino/2013 S.F. Examiner)
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He is relentless. Seldom sleeping, seldom stopping.

In his senate race, Supervisor Scott Wiener is playing the long game. His opponent, Supervisor Jane Kim, is now seeing how Wiener’s opening gambits more than a year ago are changing the landscape of their senate race.

Wiener just netted the Democratic Party endorsement at last weekend’s Democratic State Convention, by a landslide of 80 percent of delegates. Nearly 3,200 delegates filled the convention, the Los Angeles Times noted Friday. It’s a key endorsement that could aid in Wiener’s senate race.

It’s key for more reason than one, according to former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos.

“That’s gotta hurt, when the Kim campaign starts criticizing him for policy issues he’s taken as a supervisor, for issues that are not so liberal,” Agnos told On Guard. “His positions on the homeless, his positions on development, like 8 Washington, will be somewhat mitigated by that kind of an endorsement.”

So when the progressives try to slam Wiener as conservative, he now can say he’s endorsed by a party chaired by John Burton.

“[Burton] is a pedigreed progressive liberal,” Agnos said. “That says a lot.”

Though the pre-endorsement contest was in January 2016, the vote was officially approved Sunday at the convention.

Yet, Wiener long ago moved the necessary pieces into play.

A year ago, in January, On Guard brought you inside one of the sleepiest, fiercest races you’d never heard of: the democratic state delegate race.

In the African American Art & Culture Complex in the Fillmore, local democrats packed their chosen allies. The usually sparse event sported lines winding down the staircase and out the door, all to vote for Democratic party delegates.

Wiener’s allied delegates won with help from key allies like current state Sen. Mark Leno, the moderate-conservative wing of labor and now-Assemblyman David Chiu.

“Scott, you’ve got to give him credit,” said Eric Jaye, Kim’s campaign consultant. “He organized a great deal of the political establishment behind the campaign.”

Maggie Muir, from Wiener’s campaign, put that same effort in a different light.

“It’s reflective of Scott’s ability to work hard to build coalitions,” she said. “He never stops. There’s no one that works harder than Scott does.”

It’s an ethos the Bay Guardian recognized in 2013. It dubbed Wiener, “The Machine.”

As Wiener collected Democratic delegates, Kim still hadn’t announced her intention to run.

It was rumored, but there was a worry her fellow progressive Tom Ammiano would also run. The questions of “Will he? Won’t he?” may have kept Kim from making some key early plays.

And early arrangements pay off later, one of the delegates — and City College of San Francisco Board Trustee — Rafael Mandelman told On Guard.

He knows, because he’s been there himself.

Mandelman braved against Wiener for supervisor in 2010, the results of which should be obvious to anyone reading this column.

“It took me months to figure out how far behind I was,” Mandelman said. “He’d been laying the groundwork for years. He’s doing the same thing for his next move to state legislature.”

The one-time opponent offered analysis on Wiener’s efforts.

“One thing he does, and I don’t know if this does help him, he is tireless,” Mandelman said. “If you write him with a concern or a complaint if you are a constituent, you will get a thoughtful response even if he doesn’t agree with you. Often it’s a long response. That goes a fair way to winning people over.”

Still, Mandelman was quick to downplay the endorsement of the Democratic Party. Locally, anyway, it isn’t exactly indicative of a win, he pointed out.

“This is expected,” Mandelman said. “And look, I had the Democratic party [endorsement] in 2010. If the Democratic party determined all these things, I’d be supervisor, and Scott Wiener would not. Debra Walker would be supervisor and not Jane Kim.”

And of course, they endorsed Julie Christensen against Aaron Peskin … and we’ve all seen how that turned out.

Kim isn’t to be counted out yet. Even now, she’s wading through heated negotiations at the Board of Supervisors to increase The City’s requirements for affordable housing. Still, she has to play catch-up.

“Jane has an uphill battle,” Mandelman said. “But I don’t know what she has up her sleeve.”

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each Tuesday. Email him at joe@sfexaminer.com.

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