Sen. Bernie Sanders was leading among San Francisco voters Tuesday night. (Chris Victorio | Special to S.F. Examiner).

Bernie Sanders sweeps San Francisco while Biden surges nationwide

Supporters call for progressive unity as Democratic primary race narrows

While voters nationwide showed strong support for former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday, San Francisco voters preferred the progressive platform of Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Sanders won over 32 percent of San Francisco voters while Biden trailed with 22 percent, according to the Department of Elections. Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg had an astonishingly strong showing in early results but later fell into fourth place with 13 percent of the vote, behind Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s 13 percent.

Jane Kim, a former San Francisco supervisor and Sanders’ regional campaign director, credited the strong showing to an early and fierce start in California.

“We’ve always been a state that’s pushed our country,” Kim said. “California is far more representative of the country than New Hampshire and Iowa.”

Though Sanders had a double-digit lead in the polls over Warren and Biden in California leading up to Election Day, Tuesday night’s results showed Bloomberg ahead of the two at the state level.

California has 415 pledged delegates, the most of any state nationwide, making it a formidable factor in presidential races. This year the state returned to a March primary, bumped up from a June date that came too late to give preferred candidates momentum.

Super Tuesday accelerated the narrowing of the field of Democratic presidential candidates that began with a strong showing for Biden in South Carolina on Saturday, followed by the departures of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Bay Area billionaire Tom Steyer. Nationwide, Biden won nine of 14 races in states like Arkansas, Minnesota, and Massachusetts, while Sanders took Colorado, Utah, and Vermont.

Like many California voters, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis on Tuesday said she struggled to keep up with the rapidly changing race. She initially backed California Sen. Kamala Harris, then campaigned and cast her vote for Buttigieg before he dropped out on Sunday. Now, she’s waiting to see what state voters want.

“I think three people dropping out over the weekend surprised everyone,” Kounalakis said. “My guess is as good as any.”

Sanders and Warren supporters in San Francisco said they are still in it until the end. Mariela Gandara, who grew up in San Francisco and volunteers for Sanders’ local campaign, noted that many people didn’t know the primary election occurred on Tuesday or who was running. Defeating President Donald Trump is still a chief concern but in November’s general election.

“Corruption is a big one — who is going to beat Trump?” Gandara said. “It’s Bernie, Bernie can beat Trump.”

What drew Gandara to volunteer wasn’t just Sanders but the grassroots movement behind him. It’s something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by others, including Oakland-set Sorry to Bother You director Boots Riley, who had never voted for a candidate prior to Sanders.

But Bay Area voters also gravitated toward Warren’s similarly progressive platform. Local officials showed unison in ways not often seen for local issues: District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Supervisors Matt Haney, Aaron Peskin, Dean Preston, Gordon Mar and Hillary Ronen (who dual endorsed Warren) went for Sanders. Supervisors Shamann Walton, Norman Yee, Rafael Mandelman, and Ahsha Safaí, as well as state Sen. Scott Wiener, endorsed Warren. Straying from both camps was Mayor London Breed, who endorsed Bloomberg.

“It’s about the values, not the individual,” Ronen said as early results rolled in Tuesday night, adding that with Warren appearing to be on her way out, Sanders is the next best bet. “Really nobody is going to inspire the masses like Bernie.”

YIMBY Action Executive Director Laura Foote estimated that a majority of her group’s members supported Warren, but roughly a third went for Sanders. Though disagreements on land use persist locally, Foote notes that the degree of separation narrows nationally.

“The idea that there are ‘progressives’ and ‘moderates’ has proven to be nutty when national politics get involved,” Foote said. “There’s some unity.”

While former state Sen. Scott Weiner campaign staffer Armand Domalewski trusts Warren’s instincts, his support for Sanders came down to two things: social class and foreign policy. Domalewski recalls growing up poor as the child of a Polish refugee, which also adds to being drawn to Sanders’ strong anti-interventionist stance.

Further, Sanders’ attention to the Federal Reserve, an obscure but massively powerful entity swaying the economy, is a motivator for Domalewski. While concerning, he understands how people in his circle who don’t tune in as much have a tough time distinguishing between candidates who talk similarily.

“Honestly, it’s very worrying to me,” Domalewski said. “[Sanders’platform] speaks to me that we need something much bigger and much more radical than simply a voice like Joe Biden’s that says we should go back to how things were under [President Barack] Obama.”

Like Domalewski, San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee candidate Kelly Akemi Groth is concerned that the sudden moderate unity behind Biden and lack of progressive unity will prevent the party from running a reformist, motivating candidate for the general election.

“I think the candidates need to hash things out,” Groth said of Sanders and Warren. “I think people really remember 2016 [and] know we need to unify behind a candidate.”

While it will take days to determine the delegate count, Super Tuesday indicated an increasingly likely outcome of a contested nomination. It takes 1,991 delegates to ensure a nomination at the Democratic National Convention in July.

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