Kim launches D6 campaign, stressing independence from "machine" politics

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Jane Kim and David Chiu are part of a new generation of progressive political leaders in San Francisco.
Steven T. Jones

Jane Kim launched her campaign for the District 6 seat on the Board of Supervisors last night during a spirited event at 111 Minna, showcasing some high-profile supporters and giving a speech that began with touting her early work on immigrant rights and homeless issues and ended with the declaration, “I'm not part of anyone's machine and I'm certainly not a part of anyone's master plan.”

That emphasis on her independence could be seen as a subtle dig at Debra Walker, another progressive who has been running for the seat for the last two years, who locked down early support from many progressive groups and officials, and whose supporters were unhappy with Kim's late decision to enter the race, concerned it might split the vote and allow downtown-backed Theresa Sparks -- who could be viewed as a "machine" candidate on the other end of the political spectrum -- to steal the seat for the moderates.

When I asked what “machine” she meant and whether the comment was a reference to Walker's supporters, Kim wouldn't clarify the comment, refusing to criticize the Walker campaign and saying only, “I want to be a part of a new political process.”

And that new process seems to rely heavily on the energy of young people, including many of color, who dominated the crowd last night. Kim also signaled that she will be pushing a fairly bold progressive agenda that includes more city support for schools, Muni, immigrants, and low-income families, and making the streets more vibrant and democratic.

“The mantra of our campaign is to make our neighborhoods complete,” Kim said.

She proposed making substantial pedestian and bicycle improvements on several streets in her district, including 2nd, Folsom, Taylor, and Turk streets, creating more bikes lanes that are separated from car traffic, and turning many of the alleys in her district into more active public spaces. She called for the city to help fund youth programs and a longer school year and to offer more support to small businesses, which she called the city's most important job generator.

Kim, a civil rights attorney and president of the school board, also emphasized the need to improve the tone of political debate in the city, which she helped accomplish on the school board (whose vice president, Hydra Mendoza, an employee of Mayor Gavin Newsom, was there in support). “People are disillusioned and disappointed with the process and the bickering,” Kim said.

Among Kim's supporters at the event were Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, former Mayor Art Agnos, filmmaker Kevin Epps, Police Commissioner and immigrant rights activist Angela Chan, transportation activist Dave Synder, and representatives from a wide variety of community groups.

“She has epitomized the progressive values that I think all of San Francisco shares,” Chiu told the crowd, later adding, “She will be a part of the next generation of political leaders of San Francisco.”

“I'm really proud that Jane has put herself out there as a future leader and our supervisor,” said Epps, later adding, “I think Jane really has her ear to the streets.”

Kim pledged to run a clean campaign focused on her issues, and her only supporter to voice overt criticism of Walker was Agnos, who said he was impressed with Kim's work with him last year in fighting Prop. D, which would have removed mid-Market from the city ban on new billboards, a measure that Walker supported.

“Prop. D for me was a tipping point, and Debra went with the commercial interests,” Agnos told the Guardian.

But Kim, 32, says her reason for running is to help push a progressive vision for the city and bring new blood into the political process.

“I have to tell you, I never wanted to go into politics,” she told the crowd. “But I had the desire to see some real change.”