Wiener Bests Fielder, Keeps State Senate Seat

Though his progressive challenger lost, she says her movement was energized.

Incumbent state senator Scott Wiener won re-election to California’s 11th District on Tuesday, prevailing over democratic socialist opponent Jackie Fielder by a double-digit margin.

Wiener, a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, captured 59.1 percent of the vote in a race many expected him to win unopposed — but when Fielder threw her hat into the ring weeks before the filing deadline, she complicated the narrative. The 26-year-old queer, Indigenous-Latina educator and organizer surprised many when she captured a third of the vote in the March primary. Fielder campaigned largely on issues like housing and health care, and sought to undercut Wiener’s progressive bona fides by calling attention to contributions he’d received from the real estate industry and other corporate interests. She ultimately earned over 142,000 votes.

“I am proud to have earned a second term in the legislature with a decisive margin,” Sen. Wiener wrote in an email via communications director Catie Stewart. “I am looking forward to continuing to work on the issues that matter most to our community.”

The 50-year-old gay attorney has represented District 11 — which encompasses San Francisco, Daly City, Colma, Broadmoor and part of South San Francisco — since 2016. He serves as chair of the Senate Housing Committe and the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus and has proposed more bills than any other current state senator, sponsoring 228 and passing 27. Courage California Super PAC gave Wiener a 91 out of 100 on their Courage Score, which analyzes legislators’ progressive voting records. But Fielder made the argument that when it came to issues like homelessness and law enforcement, Wiener wasn’t progressive enough.

Fielder conceded just before midnight on Nov. 3, writing on Twitter that while the votes she won were “not enough,” her team “worked damn hard for every single one, and we’re proud of every single one.”

“When we launched this campaign last year, we were starting from zero,” Fielder wrote in an email to supporters. “Together, we built a movement.”

Fielder, a lecturer in the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University, was working two full-time jobs as a server when she launched her campaign last December. Unhoused at the time, she told Teen Vogue that she was couch-surfing and sleeping in her van, and had used the city intersection where she was registered to vote as the address on her candidate papers.

She took pride in her refusal to accept corporate campaign contributions, pitching her grassroots operation as a stark contrast to Wiener’s, whose campaign reported that nearly one-third of all their donations came from groups in the real estate lobby, like the California Association of Realtors, in the first two quarters of 2020. In June, Fielder publicly called on her opponent to stop accepting contributions from police unions, resulting in Wiener’s pledge to donate $20,000 to Bay Area organizations supporting at-risk youth of color. Fielder said the move wasn’t enough, because the donation didn’t account for an additional $45,000 Wiener received from police unions in his first state senate bid.

“In all of San Francisco, I cannot think of a politician who owes his career more to law enforcement unions than Scott Wiener,” Fielder told SF Weekly in an October interview.

The Wiener campaign did not respond to previous requests for comment on critiques of his police union contributions.

However, Wiener did note that his campaign was not the only one relying on large sums of money to push its message. On election night Wiener tweeted: “$1.5 [million] was spent by or on behalf of my opponent [and] we prevailed.” 

Roisin Isner, Fielder’s campaign director, told SF Weekly that she was unsure of how the Wiener campaign reached that figure. Wiener communications director Stewart said that the team reached their number based on contributions from the independent expenditure group California Indians Supporting Jackie and on the estimated value of slate mailers sent by the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club and the San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters.

In the first two quarters of this year, Fielder reported raising over $289,000, while Wiener raised over $1.1 million.

Though both running on progressive platforms, the candidates’ endorsements reflected a more nuanced divide between the two: while Fielder earned the backing of two Black Lives Matter founders and organizations like the San Francisco Tenants Union and the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, Wiener was endorsed by many in the California Democratic establishment, including vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris, Governor Gavin Newsom and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The San Francisco Chronicle, the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and the San Francisco Renters Alliance, among other organizations, also backed the incumbent.

In her email to supporters, Fielder described running her campaign as “the honor of my life.” She said that despite her loss, she felt confident about the future of democratic socialist platforms like hers in California.

“[This] was never about me as an individual,” Fielder wrote. “I may not have won the race for state senate, but our movement definitely won big.”

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