As an LGBT Democratic Club, the members of the Alice B. Toklas Club are keenly aware of the plight of marginalized communities. And while San Francisco is far better than most cities, we still have much work left to do.
As a recent example, we can look to our state Senate race between supervisors Scott Wiener and Jane Kim. Alice board member Gary McCoy recently participated in an independent television ad focusing on Kim’s record on the housing and homelessness crisis. As a formerly homeless HIV-positive recovering addict, McCoy not only understands but has personally grappled with these issues.
In response to this ad, Kim unleashed a character attack on McCoy. She falsely asserted that he was paid to participate in the ad in an effort to raise questions about his honesty. The Kim campaign even asserted in bold letters: “Nothing he says is true.”
This statement dismisses McCoy’s experience and is factually inaccurate. McCoy has shared his story publicly many times — his path from homelessness highlights the good work of our social programs, which gave him the resources necessary to recover from addiction, secure employment and find transitional housing. With the help of Supervisor Wiener, McCoy has made a remarkable recovery.
Several years ago, McCoy was living in chronic homelessness, struggling with addiction and untreated HIV. Today, he now lives in an apartment with his husband, is getting the health care he needs and works to improve our city’s parks.
What Wiener understands, and Kim seems to miss, is that we must listen to those who have experienced homelessness.
Since Kim’s video was released, we have heard the outrage from a variety of community leaders, from homelessness and HIV activists to LGBT and addiction recovery leaders. We share that outrage, not just because we support Wiener in his political campaign but because we understand that character attacks against members of marginalized communities is a line that should not be crossed — no matter the political reward.
San Francisco is supposed to be better than that. Our leaders justifiably condemn Donald Trump’s personal attacks upon women, immigrants, Muslims and whomever is the latest in his crosshairs. Yet, here we have someone who calls herself progressive, launching a verifiably false character attack upon a community leader who has faced the challenges that thousands of San Franciscans are struggling with everyday.
Of course, Kim has found some pretty crass ways to launch attacks against Wiener. Most notably, she appeared at a rally with Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, who has spent the last five years vilifying PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). Though PrEP has been shown to be a tremendously successful new program helping to reduce HIV infections, Weinstein has dismissively referred to PrEP as a “party drug.” Kim even supports Weinstein’s sex-shaming Yes on Proposition 60 campaign, which is officially opposed by both the California Republican and Democratic parties. On behalf of Kim, Weinstein sent out a mailer to San Franciscans purporting to support his backward cause, but instead it was a thinly veiled attack on Wiener, a noted PrEP supporter.
After John Maa’s excellent editorial in these pages last week, we know Kim is willing to put her electoral ambitions over the health and well-being of the community. Maa connected the dots between her opposition to commonsense proposals for healthier San Franciscans and her complicit support of big corporations using their largesse to attack her opponents.
We must admit that Kim’s campaign strategist, Eric Jaye, and campaign manager, Christopher Vasquez, have found creative ways to promote their candidate. But in the process, they have created a dangerous slash-and-burn campaign that should disqualify any candidate from leadership in our progressive city.
This profile in cynicism isn’t the campaign that San Franciscans want. And this isn’t the kind of senator that San Franciscans deserve. Jane Kim must immediately remove this outrageous attack ad and apologize to Gary McCoy. And San Franciscans should remember these tactics when they make their decision on November 8.
Brian Leubitz and Louise Fischer are the co-chairs of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club.