Jackie Fielder with the SF Public Bank Coalition speaks on Tuesday Nov. 12, 2019 at a rally where Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer announced legislation to create a city public bank. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Public bank activist to take on Wiener in 2020 state Senate race

Indigenous organizer’s platform includes tenant protections, free education, health care

An indigenous organizer who has been at the forefront of the public bank movement is hoping to give incumbent state Sen. Scott Wiener a run for his money in his 2020 bid for re-election.

Jackie Fielder, a San Francisco State University lecturer and waitress who lives in a van, on Monday pulled papers to run against the incumbent senator in the March 2020 election. The March election is a state senate primary and the top two vote getters advance to the November general election.

“I’m running because it think it’s time that we have an outside candidate, especially a woman of color who is openly queer as well, challenge a real estate-backed elected official,” Fielder told the San Francisco Examiner on Friday.

Wiener, a 49-year-old former San Francisco supervisor who is openly gay and aligned with The City’s moderate faction and Mayor London Breed, won the seat in a hard-fought race against former Supervisor Jane Kim in 2016.

While Fielder, 25, is new to the world of electoral politics, she has worked to put in motion legislative changes in how San Francisco invests its money.

Earlier this month, Supervisor Sandra Fewer introduced legislation that would establish a nine-member task force to create a business plan for launching a public bank. Fielder is co-founder of the San Francisco Public Bank Coalition, which was instrumental in pushing for the legislation as part of an effort to divest from Wall Street banks that fund projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Two years ago, Fielder also helped lead indigenous resistance against the construction of the pipeline, which was viewed as a threat to North Dakota’s Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The Long Beach, Calif., native founded the San Francisco Defund DAPL Chapter and hit the road in her van to educate supporters on passing local laws to cut ties with Wells Fargo, a major investor in the pipeline.

Fielder also had a short cameo in a 2018 Maroon 5 music video called “Girls Like You,” during which she hammered her message home by wearing a T-shirt with the words “Divest, Water is Life.”

Similarly, Fielder has rallied with the “No on Proposition H” campaign, which opposed a San Francisco Police Officers Association-backed measure that last year sought to loosen the Police Department’s policies on the use of Tasers.

Fielder said that she is running on a platform that supports statewide rent control, tenant protections, free public universities, setting the minimum wage at $20 across the state and single-payer health care.

“I think we can easily pay for all of that and more by taxing the ultra-wealthy,” she said, adding that she is clearly not expecting “any contributions from landlord associations, real estate developers, fossil fuel companies, police unions, wall street banks, PG&E or billionaires.”

Fielder’s campaign is likely to resonate with housing justice activists who have criticized Wiener’s politics for potentially fueling gentrification and displacement. He is the primary author of Senate Bill 50, a bill encouraging denser development near transit that was blocked in the state legislature earlier this year.

Since Wiener has taken office, he has passed 36 bills that were signed into law, including SB 35, which streamlines the approval process for housing in cities not meeting their housing goals, and SB 1045, which expands state conservatorship laws.

“I’m proud of the 36 pieces of legislation I’ve passed into law to create more affordable housing, to help people struggling with homelessness, mental health, and addiction, to reform our criminal justice system, to expand access to health care, and to protect immigrants,” Wiener told the Examiner. “I’m also proud to have co-authored the recently enacted statewide rent cap and just cause eviction protections. In recognition of our work, Cal Matters rated me as one of the most progressive members of the Legislature.”

Wiener said that he welcome “all candidates to the race and look forward to a robust dialogue on the issues facing the residents of San Francisco and northern San Mateo County.”

Quentin Kopp, a retired judge and former state senator and San Francisco city supervisor, previously emerged as a challenger to Wiener after pulling papers in March. However, he was disqualified from the race after a legal opinion determined that he has already served the maximum three terms allowed for the state Senate, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last month.

Green Party member Barry Hermanson has also pulled papers to run for Wiener’s seat. The two candidates with the highest votes in the March Primary will advance to the November General election.

Fielder said that she knows what it’s like to experience housing insecurity. She currently lives in her van and couch surfs with friends.

She said that her current address is registered as an intersection in District 5.

“I am able-bodied and I have an income, unlike a lot of unhoused people, so I’m more on the upper scale of the unhoused situation. I have it a lot better than many people who are on the streets,” she said.

Fielder said that she does not believe that the lack of a fixed address will hurt her campaign.

“I think what we are seeing in California and nationwide is a general impatience and low tolerance for people in suits who talk a lot and don’t put their money where their mouth is,” she said. “I think that’s pretty much a general sentiment regardless of party.”


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State Sen. Scott Wiener won his seat in 2016 after a heated race against former Supervisor Jane Kim. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

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