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Jane Kim’s popularity soars among Chinese voters until policy comes up

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Supervisor Jane Kim is leading the San Francisco mayor’s race among Chinese voters, according to a firefighter’s union poll, but her stance on issues like homelessness could change that. (Rachel Garner/2016 Special to S.F. Examiner)

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A poll showing Supervisor Jane Kim’s popularity near the head of the pack in the June mayoral race is the talk of San Francisco’s political world, but the poll also reveals Kim’s potential strengths and weaknesses with a vital constituency: Chinese voters.

Kim’s popularity soars far above her opponents with Chinese voters until they hear about her positions on hot topics those voters rail against, at which point, that popularity plunges.

A firefighter’s union poll conducted in late February by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates consisted of calls to more than 400 city voters in English and Cantonese. When asked initially which candidate they support, Chinese voters showed up biggest for Kim: 44 percent backed the supervisor, while 9 percent favored Board of Supervisors President London Breed.

SEE RELATED: LGBT PAC’s endorsement of Leno threatens campaign promise

But when the pollsters explained some of Kim’s policy positions — positions that are seen as “negative” in the Chinese community — the support of the same voters dropped to 20 percent.

As for Leno, his polling numbers with the same Chinese voters were even lower than Breed’s, to the point of being statistically insignificant.

Those “negatives” mirror attack ads that ran against Kim in her state Senate race against Scott Wiener in 2016, according to one source who reviewed the poll. The ads scorched Kim for favoring tents for the homeless and “flip-flopping” on issues like support for the tech industry.

That’s a big deal, said David Latterman, principal at political consultancy Brick Circle Advisors, because the West Side is where the mayor’s race will be won. And as many San Franciscans know, from the Richmond and Sunset districts down to Parkmerced, the West Side is home to a sizable Chinese community.

Latterman wasn’t surprised that Jane came out ahead among Chinese voters. In his eyes, Breed wasn’t really known on the West Side before she became acting mayor — even though their politics closely align. And Leno and Angela Alioto haven’t run citywide races in decades, which leaves Kim, who has high name-recognition from her state Senate race.

Latterman was on Wiener’s campaign in 2016 and said he saw a similar pattern: Kim’s more progressive politics don’t easily gel with those voters, particularly because of her support of homeless peoples’ right to tents.

“The West Side is more conservative, especially West Side Chinese homeowners,” he said.
When asked about the poll, Kim noted she’s the only candidate who began their work advocating in Chinatown, particularly for Chinese seniors.

Kim said the poll shows the possible damage from attack ads from Super PACs and Independent Expenditure campaign committees — which Kim and Leno have decried — that act essentially as bank accounts independent of candidates that can take donations in any size.

“We anticipate seeing those attack ads from [independent expenditures] soon, as they see my strength in the polls grow,” Kim said.

* * *
London Breed is the final mayoral candidate to take a stance on a ballot proposition to cement San Francisco’s police Taser policy.

After the San Francisco Examiner highlighted Breed as the only major candidate to remain “neutral” on the ballot measure, Breed issued a stern statement on Facebook the same day opposing Proposition H.

“I oppose the proposed ballot measure, because I believe this incredibly important, complex and, yes, life-or-death policy needs to be implemented appropriately,” Breed wrote.

SEE RELATED: Breed neutral on Taser ballot measure as mayoral candidates choose sides

As recently as March 6, mayoral candidates Mark Leno and Jane Kim each stood against the Taser ballot measure, and Angela Alioto voiced support. At the time, Breed told the Examiner, “I have not taken a position” on the measure that was crafted by the San Francisco Police Officers Association.

Breed’s strong stance against Prop. H highlights its biggest problem: The San Francisco Police Department is already, definitely, assuredly, getting Tasers.

Prop. H would not change that; it would cement in stone lax policies around Tasers that The City could not change without going back to the voters. Chief Bill Scott? The Police Commission? If this passes, neither could put a single dang policy in place.

It’s a nuance most voters may not understand, and that’s a problem because Prop. H may place people’s lives at risk. The measure states police can use Tasers when someone is “actively resisting” an officer; the proposed Police Commission policy says Tasers can only be used when someone is “violently resisting” — a far, far higher standard.

“They’re tricking the voters to strip the police commission and the police of setting policy on when these should be used,” said John Crew, a retired attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.

That’s why Breed came out in opposition, she said.

“It is my fervent, and oft-repeated, belief that complex policy matters should be resolved, implemented, managed and, when necessary, revised through thoughtful public policymaking … I am not a fan of ballot box policy making, especially on life-or-death issues,” she wrote on Facebook.

Notably, Breed told the San Francisco Green Party and the San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters in a questionnaire that she was in favor of the Taser ballot measure. Breed campaign spokesperson Tara Moriarty said the questionnaires were “filled out improperly.”

“It was just a mistake, she never supported it,” Moriarty said.

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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