State Sen. Scott Wiener will hang on to his seat representing San Francisco and parts of the Peninsula after a tough campaign against a challenger from the left.
Wiener was up against democratic socialist organizer Jackie Fielder, a political newcomer who won enough votes in the primary to reach the final ballot.
But as of results shortly past 11 p.m., roughly 60 percent of the votes cast in California Senate District 11 — which includes San Francisco, Daly City, Colma, Broadmoor and parts of South San Francisco — were in support of the former San Francisco supervisor.
“I’m so deeply grateful to the voters for choosing to send me back to the Senate,” said Wiener, who declared victory just before 10 p.m. “This really is the honor of my life, this is my community of 23 years. No one is entitled to an easy reelection. Having an opponent makes you a stronger elected official.”
Wiener is known for his focus on housing development and advancing LGBTQ protections for gay Californians like himself. Since narrowly beating former San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim in 2016, he has authored and supported dozens of bills to speed up housing production.
He also led efforts to protect net neutrality in California and backed a bill to authorize public banks, on which Fielder was a lead organizer.
Wiener was endorsed by San Francisco elected officials including Mayor London Breed, Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and by groups such as California YIMBY, Human Rights Campaign, Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and California Young Democrats.
Wiener is widely considered one of the most liberal politicians in the California Legislature. But Fielder’s run to his left showed San Francisco’s progressive momentum seeking to expand outside city limits and tap into the energy of like-minded candidates nationwide.
The democratic socialist organizer jumped into the race in the final days of 2019, motivated by the progressive victories of District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Supervisor Dean Preston last November. Fielder, who is Indigenous, Latina and queer, advanced from the March primaries but said her grassroots campaign faced obstacles presented by the pandemic, economic downturn and wildfires.
Fielder ran on taxing billionaires to bring a Green New Deal, free public transportation, government takeover of PG&E, state single-payer healthcare, $20 minimum wage and redirecting police funding to social services, among other initiatives. She has repeatedly criticized Wiener’s financial support from real estate and oil interests.
“I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve built,” Fielder said. “I’m committed to making sure that other challengers crop up across the state and continue to put pressure on the people in Sacramento who are beholden to these special interests. Whether it’s Scott or whether it’s other corporate Democrats, I hope that they understand there’s a growing movement that’s unapologetically demanding universal health care, a right to housing, expanded public school, [and] a Green New Deal.”
Approaches to addressing the housing crisis are a major difference between the two. Wiener’s answer to housing is to increase development and density in job-heavy areas including San Francisco to tackle climate change. He’s gained popularity among urbanists for proposing bold measures to bypass restrictions on housing.
His high-profile legislation includes Senate Bill 35, which requires cities that fall short of regional housing goals to streamline approval for certain projects; the bill has speeded up affordable housing development. Senate Bill 50, which ultimately failed, proposed sweeping changes to increase density along transit lines but drew objections from tenant and community groups who warned it would accelerate displacement and local governments who objected to the loss of local control.
Fielder instead urges deep government investment. She proposed taxing billionaires to establish a $100 billion housing emergency fund that would stabilize 200,000 existing affordable housing units and build at least 100,000 public or nonprofit affordable housing.
Fielder also targeted Wiener for spearheading measures in San Francisco that backed policing and criminalized homelessness, such as barring sleeping in parks and tents on sidewalks. However, he has also since co-authored bills in the Legislature chipping away at mass incarceration.
Fielder nabbed endorsements from California Federation of Teachers, Sunrise Bay Area, San Francisco Tenants Union, San Francisco supervisors Gordon Mar and Matt Haney, and Black Lives Matter co-founders Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors.
Wiener said Fielder’s plan to establish an Indigenous wildfire task force was a great idea and that he would support it should it move forward with Indigenous leadership.
“I am always looking for great ideas,” Wiener said. “Jackie and I agree on many things.”