As a gay man, Scott Wiener has been fighting for the LGBT community for decades. From volunteering to take calls on the HIV hotline in college, to serving on the Human Rights Campaign’s National Board of Governors, Scott Wiener has kept LGBT issues at the forefront of his policy agenda. His work at the Board of Supervisors to expand San Francisco’s healthcare program to include transgender people, has been called “not only a model for the United States and for cities around the country, but for cities around the world.” Most recently, Scott authored legislation that bans public spending in states with LGBT hate laws, such as North Carolina’s HB 2. Scott has also brought his personal experiences into the public sphere, writing about the importance of taking PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and the importance of LGBT nightlife venues as sacred spaces.
– By Jeffrey Sparks
Scott Wiener for State Senate 2016
Sean Sullivan Sits down with Scott Wiener + Talk’s San Francisco’s Political Climate
When I ran for city Council in 2012 I knew my closest opponent had not paid her taxes since 2006. I also knew other salacious information about her that could have helped me as a candidate “define my opponent.”
Well, I didn’t use it. Why? Because I am not a scumbag… or at least I try not to be. The result? After 5 rounds as the number one vote getter, I lost to that opponent in the 6th & final round. I’m currently the owner of the hottest new lgbt bar, I’ve traveled the world, helped bring a new shelter for homeless youth into being and I’m 30 lbs lighter so I’m not sure losing was really a loss in the end.
But enough about me… This is about the blood sport of San Francisco Bay Area politics. Let’s take a look at the races.
In San Francisco, there are three open seats for supervisor including one with a leading lesbian candidate in Kimbery Alvarenga and Paul Henderson, an openly gay candidate for judge. As per usual, there is a plethora of state, regional and city ballot measures. But the race attracting the most attention (Gloss included) is the Supervisor Scott Wiener versus Supervisor Jane Kim for San Francisco’s lone seat in the California State Senate. It’s a seat we won’t see seriously challenged in 12 years unless the office holder becomes mired in controversy.
Scott Wiener isn’t “the life of the party and if that’s what you are looking for, I’m not your candidate” he told me. Wiener knows that he has a reputation for being stiff, boring but he wants to be regarded as “unglamorously busting his hump for San Franciscans” (oh my!). To further support that point to his bona fides, he has proven to be an extremely hard worker in SF and supports what needs to be done in Sacramento about LGBT senior and youth housing, and transgender advocacy. When it comes to being a party monster, he may not be one, but he wants you to have the right to be one. According to several folks I know, Wiener put his shoulder to the wheel to help open Oasis.
Jane Kim who represents South of Market and the Tenderloin got into the race only a year ago which doesn’t reflect political calculation or strong planning but what she calls “honoring former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano who wanted time to think about it.” Wiener had raised a lot of money by that time and locked up key endorsements but for Kim who represents much of SOMA, she believes every campaign she has run (for school board & board of supervisors) has been an uphill battle. Kim’s policy wonky in her own way. Kim articulates an elegant oral tapestry of the ills befalling California starting with being 47th out of 50 in education which leads to a juvenile justice system that feeds a prison industrial complex. Kim calls prison reform the social justice issue of our time and wants to address it head on.
Passionate about the homeless and underserved, Kim went undercover and spent time in our city’s homeless services to see how care works, and it’s that which drives her policy and zeal for housing. Kim looks at the issues before her in a human way as much as a political manner “Creating more housing is our way out of the many issues facing San Francisco and Sacramento is the place where we need leadership to advocate for more housing.”
In fact, both candidates agree on this, both strongly articulate the need for more affordable housing and support to get the homeless off the street. They differ on the how, and in San Francisco that’s all that matters in “defining your opponent”. In fact, Scott Wiener’s campaign since the June primary has been to show voters the “real Jane Kim” and even has a website to do so.
It was a surprise to many, including the candidates, that Kim vested Wiener in the June primary. Wiener had been in the race longer and has outraced Kim 3 to 1. Both candidates had help from “independent expenditure” campaigns that allow those with unlimited means to campaign on behalf of a candidate or against a candidate. However, those supporting Wiener had more resources including Equality California (Disclaimer, I worked for EQCA during the No on Prop 8 campaign), which hit Kim hard in attempts to “define her”. Kim has long been a champion of LGBT issues, is one of the cooperative knitted together to save The Stud, and is a supporter of keeping legacy nightlife alive in her SOMA district.
Kim won the support of then presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and that along with a fired up grassroots campaign put her over the top. Many say Wiener was stunned by this and has doubled down on “defining” Jane Kim. And here’s where I think both candidates could differentiate themselves to the voters because both campaigns and their friends could do us all a solid in these next few weeks by not doing this one thing.
Don’t be the scumbag!
Both Wiener and Kim are fully aware that the average voter doesn’t know the nuances of what led them to vote the way they have. In fact, neither is easy to pin down – but they are going to try. One such way is with how they voted regarding former Ross Mirakarmi’s removal from office. Beyond the headlines was how it was being dealt with inside SF City Hall. Jane Kim, like supervisor David Campos, are strong advocates for survivors of domestic violence. Yet Campos was “defined” two years ago by his opponent and his opponent’s supporters as if he championed domestic abuse. It’s absurd. As is claiming Kim supports tents over housing because she doesn’t believe in throwing out the tents and the belonging of homeless people. We deserve better campaigns. We are after all, in San Francisco and we have a race of two progressive Democrats.
Former State Attorney General and Treasurer Bill Lockyer called this type of campaigning “puke politics” and unfitting of Democrats no matter their opponents.
Look, I know it’s hard when you have an office before you that you really think you would be the best for and you raise money from supporters who believe in you and you think the only way to win is to cover your opponent in slime and let the voters figure it out. But San Francisco is supposed to be different. At the end of the day these candidates have only themselves to look in the mirror. They also have the responsibility to look at us in the face and say they did their very best to present their ideas, and themselves in the highest regard with the highest integrity.
While it is ultimately the responsibility of the voters to sort through campaign mailers and ads, both candidates know that the voters don’t have the proper context to do this research, they both know that the current system of political campaigning is designed to keep voters from being able to do this, from having all of the information at their disposal to make a truly informed decision. It’s high time California Democratic politicians, supposedly Progressive San Francisco politicians, stop mouthing the words about clean campaigns and started running campaigns that reflect the ideals we all say we believe.
We get the leaders we deserve and we get the campaigns we tolerate.
By Myles Helfand
It’s a shame Donald Trump hasn’t said anything horrible during this campaign about people with HIV.
Earlier this summer, as thousands descended on Cleveland, Ohio, to mark the controversial ascension of a presidential candidate whose campaign went viral and consumed one of humanity’s most powerful political parties, a very different group of thousands gathered halfway around the world to mark the controversial ascension of efforts to eliminate one of the most devastating viruses humanity has ever known.
During the same week as the Republican National Convention in July, the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) took place in Durban, South Africa. Occurring just once every two years in a different international city, the conference brings together more than 15,000 of the brightest minds and strongest spirits in the HIV community – a diverse mix of researchers, activists, policymakers and others who are on the front lines of the global effort to prevent HIV and improve the health of people already living with the virus.
The meeting came at a critical time, as the fight against HIV has reached a turning point: We have the means to (gradually) obliterate HIV from our species, and we even have an increasingly accepted plan to get there. What we don’t seem to have a lot of is political will, funding or widespread popular support.
In a reflection of this reality, here in the U.S., mainstream media set up camp at the political buffet in Cleveland and gorged itself on the fast-food bonanza of the Republican convention. AIDS 2016 was largely ignored, the health-conscious restaurant left to languish in an era when reckless abandon seems to be the flavor of the day.
Yet the conference had its fair share of tasty news – the kind of stuff that can fundamentally change opinions about HIV and the people living with it. For instance:
- We learned that almost 80,000 HIV-negative people in the U.S. are now regularly taking PrEP. (short for “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” a daily pill that virtually ensures a person won’t become HIV positive if taken correctly)
- We learned that PrEP is so effective, people appear to remain largely protected from HIV even if they only take the drug about once every two days.
- We were reminded that people with HIV who are on effective anti-HIV medications have almost zero chance of passing the virus on to someone else.
- So convincing is the science on this thatDemetre Daskalakis, M.D., one of the top HIV/AIDS officials in New York City (which is still home to more than 100,000 people living with HIV), recently endorsed a major new statement from experts publicly affirming that HIV-positive people have a “negligible risk” of transmitting HIV if they’re on meds and their viral load has been undetectable for the past six months.
In other words, we now know that people with HIV in the U.S. are almost completely uninfectious if they’re on successful treatment – and we also know that people without HIV can almost completely guarantee they’ll avoid infection if they take PrEP.
Remind me again why there are still such stringent restrictions on gay men who want to donate blood, and why HIV-positive people continue to receive lengthy prison sentences simply for having consensual sex with HIV-negative people? Remind me why a person’s HIV status still renders them a pariah across huge swaths of this country?
How is it that, in an age where it takes mere moments for popular anger to sweep the nation when an angry old man questions the patriotism of parents of a Muslim-American war hero, we’re still struggling 35 years later to sweep the nation with accurate, tolerant messaging about HIV?
Instead, the tremendous successes of scientific advances like PrEP – or another highly effective form of virus prevention, clean needle exchange – are met with skepticism, as practical discussions about putting the power of HIV prevention in the hands of more people become bogged down in a morass of moralism, bigotry and budget wrangling.
Heck, I still meet people who are surprised that people with HIV can live long, healthy lives while taking a single pill once a day – even though that’s been the case for a decade now. From a practical standpoint, managing HIV today is little different from managing high cholesterol, and a person on successful HIV treatment is roughly as likely to transmit the virus as a person on successful statins is to transmit an elevated LDL.
But the perception of HIV in our society remains frustratingly entrenched in an ignorant past. Even as the science moves farther and farther from the rhetoric, fear and ignorance remain the driving forces behind America’s understanding of HIV – in much the same way they have been the driving forces behind so much of this year’s presidential campaign.
It’s almost enough to make the dark, cynical side of my soul wish that Donald Trump would say something outlandish about people with HIV, in hopes that his explosive words would catalyze a wave of productive discussion and education about preventing and treating the virus. But I wouldn’t wish that kind of attention on anyone.
Instead, I remain hopeful that reason and compassion will win out in our country’s conversation about HIV. Publications like the one you’re reading right now help spread that hope and ensure that conversation happens. So can each of us, by ensuring we stay educated and that people close to us do the same.
One of Gloss’ favorite politicians, former columnist and former San Francisco Supervisor, Bevan Dufty, is back and running for an open seat on the BART Board. Stay tuned to hear about Bevan’s campaign, lesbians running in Oakland and more!