Employment attorney Stephen Jaffe has been a Democrat all of his life. In the recent Democratic Primary, he volunteered for the Bernie Sanders campaign, even filing for an injunction to get an extension in California for the voter registration deadline (the injunction was denied). He also worked as an observer to the Nevada caucuses.
Calling himself a “pretty hard-core Bernie supporter,” he was inspired to run for office by Bernie. Jaffe told Progressive Army, “[I’ve] never felt as deeply connected to any candidate as I became with Bernie during 2015-16. No one is perfect, but he was perfect for 2016. He was cheated out of the nomination and probably the presidency by the Clinton-Wasserman Schultz-Pelosi faction of the Party.”
But, unlike many Bernie supporters who are now running for office, Jaffe has taken on a big-name Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, whom he describes to us as:
The symbol of the Democratic Party Establishment. She is a super-wealthy neoliberal corporate Democrat funded by the same corporations and business entities she claims to oppose. The people of San Francisco deserve a representative in Congress who actually represents them, not someone politically indebted to corporate interests.
He is challenging her for California’s 12th district, in San Francisco. Jaffe believes the “people of San Francisco deserve a representative in Congress who actually represents them, not someone politically indebted to corporate interests.” As the co-founder and president of South Beach District 6 Democratic Club in San Francisco, he has been working on removing dark money from politics in the San Francisco area.
His platform includes the following progressive/Bernie-supported ideas: single-payer health care (specifically Medicare for all), elimination of superdelegates, and campaign finance reform (including refusing corporate donors). He also wants to “[a]ddress homelessness and decriminalize mental illness,” protect minorities in “Trump’s perverted vision of America,” protect the integrity and independence of the court system, and “preserv[e] peace and security in the US and world.” On the last point, he states, “Congress must assert itself to restrain Trump’s military adventures.” We asked Jaffe to pinpoint his top concern/priorities after winning the election:
Until the past few weeks, I would have said proposing and enacting single-payer healthcare was my first priority. However, Trump’s conduct [in the firing of Comey] has precipitated a constitutional crisis which requires the immediate attention of the Congress. We cannot allow Trump to seize all of the power from the Congress and the courts and create a de facto dictatorship.
Decriminalizing Mental Illness
What impresses us most about Jaffe is his explicit mention of decriminalization of people with mental disabilities. Earlier in the week, Jaffe made himself available to fellow Progressive Army correspondent Anoa Changa for a special edition of The Way With Anoa.
Citing a family member with schizophrenia, Jaffe explains that he’s spent many years self-educating about mental health, illness, and disability. Speaking about mental illness as a cause of homelessness, Jaffe goes on to say, “There’s such a disconnect between what’s needed and what’s available that the only place to keep some of these folks safe is — you know where? Jail.” He describes this situation as a revolving door and, speaking specifically about the LA County jail, he continues, “They’ve got an entire jail devoted to people suffering from mental health. And that’s wrong. No one chooses to be mentally ill. We have to start treating these people more like we treat people with heart disease or diabetes or cancer [rather] than leprosy.”
But Jaffe doesn’t just talk the talk about mental health, he walks the walk. He spoke on a panel at the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) 2015 National Convention titled “Treatment Engagement in San Francisco: Humane or Coercion?” He also states that he has worked with mentally ill clients pro bono.
The Path Forward
The first hurdle for Jaffe will be to finish in the top two in his June 2018 primary. The top two finishers in the primary will move on to the general, regardless of party affiliation. Jaffe told us that he is very confident he can advance to the general. Furthermore, he thinks he has a real shot to win the general because, as he explains, this is how “longtime SF Bay Area reps Mike Honda and Pete Stark lost their seats in 2016 and 2012, respectively.”
On an issue-based level, we think Jaffe has all the bases covered. He made a wholeheartedly honest plea to his future constituency in closing his interview with Anoa Changa:
I’m a novice politician. I’ve never run for office before. But I’ve got what I feel is a tremendous amount of life experience and hopefully I’ve picked up some wisdom and good judgment along the way. […] Consider me and my candidacy on what I say and where I stand.
He adds that he would love to debate Pelosi, explaining that, historically, she deals with challengers by ignoring them.
Disclaimer: The authors have reached out to Mr. Jaffe to request further information and will update this piece accordingly once we receive a response.