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Can Jane Kim Turn Her Primary-Night Shocker Into a November Election Victory?

Or, put another way: How long will her Bernie bump last?


In yesterday's Democratic primary, Supervisor Jane Kim came from behind to threaten fellow supe Scott Wiener's once-large lead in the state senate race. Her narrower-than-expected loss didn't turn the race upside-down—Wiener still came in first, by about two points. But it did reveal Kim to be a more formidable opponent than she was thought to be at the outset, before Bernie Sanders picked her to be his BFF on the stump in San Francisco. But can his coattails stretch all the way to the election? Or will Bernie's impending exit from the presidential race turn Kim's Bernie bump into a Sanders slump?

From the conventional election wisdom, you’d think Kim has a shot at keeping up the mojo: San Francisco voters in presidential elections tend to be more progressive and younger, with a higher proportion of renters. Then again, given that the primary attracted a surge of new voters who turned out for Bernie, are there any more untapped progressive voters left who can further goose her returns in the fall? An even stronger sign: Kim actually did better in San Francisco than Bernie—78,417 voters cast a ballot for her, whereas only 69,688 bothered to vote Bernie, as of the latest count

That could be because the Sanders-Kim media blitz reached everyone, not just Bernie voters. Of the presidential candidate’s appearances in the city, Wiener consultant Maggie Muir observes, “She was basically attached to his hip the whole time.” Not having spent much dough on the race, Kim needed a platform for delivering her message about affordability and fighting for the little guy, and Sanders handed it to her. “You can’t pay for that much media exposure,” says Muir. No, it doesn’t hurt to be in the blazing klieg lights of the national political story for days on end, as Kim was. Wiener dutifully supported Hillary Clinton. But he wasn’t stapled to her. 

Yet what Kim did with the Sanders spotlight when she stepped into it counts just as much, if not more. She used it wisely, to hammer home her message hard: Money and influence have gotten out of hand in this city! More affordable housing! Free City College! Blackbelt Jane will fight for you!!”

Next to Kim’s message, Wiener’s sounds more staid: Muir rattles off his accomplishments on paid parental leave and transportation—smart, deft, real accomplishments, but not things that resonate in quite the same way as stuff with “free” in the title. Asked whether he would be making any changes in campaign strategies or consultants, Wiener texts: “I have a great team and will have the same team for November. Jane Kim rode the Bernie Sanders tidal wave and basically became his Bay Area running mate. She got massive exposure and surged. I nevertheless came in first place because of the extraordinary work our team did in the field, mail, and online. We're ready for November. We always knew this would be a competitive race, just as the Chiu-Campos and Leno-Britt races were decided by just a few points. On to November.”

On to November, indeed.


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