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Politics & Policy

Democrats in the Mission, Republicans in Pacific Heights: SF becomes D.C. for the day

A woman in a light blue suit smiles and waves, standing behind a man in a dark blue suit who is leaning over a podium. The background has flags and a scoreboard.
The Democrats brought the vice president to San Francisco ahead of Donald Trump’s visit for a fundraiser the following day. | Source: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

For the next 24 hours, the fracas of national politics will be temporarily thrust onto San Francisco as Democrats and Republicans excavate fundraising dollars from the Bay Area’s wealthy residents like money-hungry Gold Rush miners.

Nearly everything about the two fundraising events—one with Kamala Harris in the Mission District, and the other with Donald Trump in Pacific Heights—is a near-perfect reflection of just how different the two candidates are.

On Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris, the Oakland-born former district attorney of San Francisco, joined local business owner Manny Yekutiel at a mortuary-turned-live music space, The Chapel, in the deep-blue Mission.

Joined by well-heeled philanthropists and political organizers Shannon Hunt-Scott, Stacy Mason and Sheila Thompson, Harris’ pitch was centered on what Democrats view as an assault on freedoms such as abortion, LGBTQ+ issues and voting rights. Some volunteers sprinkled glitter on their faces for Pride month and hung up rainbow flags while drag queens milled around the venue.

A speaker stands at a podium on a stage, with American and California Republic flags behind them. The audience is holding up phones, capturing the moment.
Kamala Harris speaks at an event at The Chapel in San Francisco on Thursday. | Source: Gabe Greschler/The Standard

The event targeted areas many consider ripe for Democratic fundraising ever since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, with President Joe Biden’s party casting itself as a defender of civil rights and democracy itself. 

“This is what’s happening in America,” Harris said about Republican policymaking. “And we will not stand for it.” 

But the campaign, at least for the moment, doesn’t appear to be capitalizing on President Donald Trump’s myriad legal issues—most recently a historic 34-count conviction in a hush-money case in New York. Harris made no mention of the legal case on Wednesday.

Just a couple miles away, white-gloved waiters were presumably setting down fine China and setting Diet Coke on ice in the wealthier, more conservative Pacific Heights neighborhood for a gathering many in the city would consider outright traitorous.

At the home of venture capitalist David Sacks, the conversation among a who’s-who of Silicon Valley Trumpers is likely to steer toward criticisms of Biden’s economic record, foreign policy decisions and immigration policies.

Even the ticket costs varied widely. Democrats were comparably charging pennies for Wednesday’s price of entry, at up to $6,600 a pop. In true Pacific Heights fashion, the Sacks event reportedly cost $500,000 per couple.

The only throughline for both events: frustrated San Franciscans giving the middle finger to both political parties. Pro-Palestine protestors spilled onto the corner of Valencia and 19th streets outside the Democrats’ fundraiser on Wednesday, with about 150 people waving flags and wearing keffiyehs objecting to Biden’s support for Israel amidst the conflict with Hamas. 

A line of police officers in riot gear face off against protesters in a city street. The scene includes both officers and civilians holding signs in an urban setting.
Riot police and protesters square-off in the Mission on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. | Source: Tomoki Chien/The Standard

In addition to chants about the ongoing war, protestors mentioned the vice president’s track record as the city’s district attorney, which progressives are quick to criticize for being too tough on crime. Similar actions are expected at the Republican event, though they may come in the form of an inflatable Trump chicken.

Inside the Mission event, Democratic donors munched on fried chicken sandwiches, veggie empanadas and hummus and sipped soda, beer and wine. Facing approval numbers in the high thirties, Harris has struggled to find public acclaim as the president’s underling.  

But one wouldn’t have been able to tell on Wednesday, as Harris was greeted with thunderous applause by a crowd of hundreds of people who whooped and cheered as the vice president castigated Republicans and told of her meetings with world leaders.

In introducing Harris, Yekutiel said immigrants, DACA recipients and women seeking abortions will all see their lives change for the worse if the current occupants of the White House are ousted from their jobs. 

Manny Yekutiel hosts an event at his eponymous political salon, Manny's, in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Manny Yekutiel, owner of Manny's, introduced Vice President Kamala Harris during Wednesday's event. | Source: Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle/Getty Images

“It’s the queer kid in a small town or even a big town who isn’t sure that he can love himself or doesn’t know if his friends and neighbors will love him back,” Yekutiel said. “All of those people, their lives will be affected if we don’t reelect this woman and Joe Biden.”

Trickling out of The Chapel, participants in Wednesday’s gathering said they were impressed with the vice president’s “laser-focused” attention to certain issues. 

“What she really drove home was giving a face to the people that will be most impacted by Donald Trump,” said Paul Henderson, who leads the city’s Department of Police Accountability.

Others grumbled about her supposedly showing up late to the venue. “She could have been on the phone doing like, really significant vice president shit,” criminal defense attorney Randall Knox said.