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Chinese community support swings for Leno as Breed combats racism in Chinatown

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A man walks past a large campaign banner for London Breed along Clay Street in Chinatown on May 23, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)


The battle to win San Francisco’s critical Chinese electorate has shifted abruptly in Mark Leno’s favor just in time for Election Day, June 5.

Last we peeked at who is backing who in the Chinese community in February, The City’s diverse Chinese groups and Chinatown power players were split between mayoral candidates Leno, London Breed and Jane Kim.

Flash forward three months, and the landscape has changed.

Leno is ascendant following the endorsement of Sing Tao Daily, one of The City’s most read Chinese-language newspapers. The paper also endorsed Kim as their No. 2 choice and surprisingly, to me anyhow, Breed as their third choice.

Sing Tao’s endorsement “is by far the most influential in San Francisco” among the Chinese community, said Eric Mar, a San Francisco State University Asian American studies professor and former member of the Board of Supervisors. Mar endorsed Kim and Leno, but is a straight-shooter in terms of political analysis.

And just to drive their point home, Sing Tao has printed its endorsement slate in its newspaper every day since it first ran their editorial May 6. “Leno tended to be a progressive player on many issues, but he never gave up on cross-party or divergence to seek consensus,” the paper wrote in their endorsement.

As Leno netted this recent boost, Breed has reportedly faced anti-black racism in Chinatown.

Late last month, a Breed poster at Clay and Stockton streets was cut up and marked with graffiti. The whole incident was caught on surveillance video, according to the World Journal, another major San Francisco Chinese-language newspaper.

The perpetrator was identified by the World Journal only as “Mr. Yu,” a veteran born and raised in Chinatown. The paper interviewed an acquaintance of Yu who said he was against Breed “because he could not accept an African-American to put posters in the Chinese community,” the paper wrote.

Breed’s campaign did not comment on the allegedly racist act.

After the incident, noted Chinatown power player Pius Lee replaced the poster himself. Lee, who is a Breed supporter, wrote to reporters in an email “It is my hope that this sign will stay there until June 5.”

Though Sing Tao’s endorsement and a single incident of apparent racism against Breed aren’t guarantees of how San Francisco’s diverse Chinese electorate will vote, that may be the sentiment field campaigns must contend with.

Mar told me Leno’s Chinese-voter field campaign beefed up “a bit late” to take advantage of the endorsement, whereas Breed’s has been strong from the start.
Mar said the progressive field campaigns “are playing catch-up to London Breed’s field campaign.”

* * *

Following a dust-up between Supervisor Jeff Sheehyand Veritas Investments, the commercial real estate firm has pumped thousands of dollars into the progressive-led Democratic Party — a move that aided Sheehy’s electoral opponent, supervisor-hopeful Rafael Mandelman.

Sheehy held a hearing on May 16 to hold Veritas accountable as accusations soared that the company engaged in “unlawful business practices” to hike their rents to pay for extensive construction, among other allegedly shady business practices. Progressive Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer has authored and passed legislation to limit those “pass-throughs.”

Veritas owns more than 250 rent-controlled buildings in The City.

But a spat behind the scenes may have led Sheehy to take some political lumps.

On May 2, representatives from Veritas, flanked by consultants from Lighthouse Public Affairs, met with Sheehy to try and prevent the hearing. Sheehy and his legislative aide, Sharon Johnson, told me Lighthouse consultant Rich Peterson was so “rude” they asked him and fellow consultant Matt Dorsey to leave.

Dorsey told me that account of the meeting was “not accurate, and I’m saddened to hear it, but it’s not my recollection of it.”

The kicker comes just eight days later, when Veritas Investments dropped $10,000 into the San Francisco Democratic Party, which is now led by The City’s progressive faction, allies of local tenants rights groups.

May 2, they battle. May 10, Veritas donates the cash. And by May 19, full color 8-by-10-inch mailers supporting Sheehy’s District 8 supervisor opponent hit doorsteps. “San Francisco Democrats #1 Choice,” it reads.

David Campos, chair of the local Democratic Party, said, “We have asked for help as a Democratic Party from a lot of different sources and people who are willing to support our candidates and our values.”

Campos told me the party also endorsed Sheehy. That’s true, of course, but only for their No. 2 choice — and Sheehy’s name was decidedly not on the most recent mailer. Funny that.

* * *

San Franciscans all over town are voting early. Case in point, Wednesday morning I ran into the always-wonderful Rebecca Solnit, the noted journalist, activist, and author of “Men Explain Things to Me.” Last time I saw her, Solnit handed me a pouch filled with home-baked cookies to pass out to local homeless denizens. Wednesday, however, she was rarin’ to exercise her constitutional rights.

Solnit walked into City Hall to cast her ballot early, a bouquet of orange flowers in hand (just to spruce up her home, she said). Jane Kim was her top mayoral pick.

Voting “feels like home maintenance on a larger scale,” she told me, much like “watering your plants.” It’s a lovely sentiment, and one I hope you all take to heart — so go water our collective garden, and vote.


On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

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