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Thursday, August 1, 2002

A Source at City Hall

one person's comments on politics in San Francisco



Counting to 4

In 1995 then Assembly Speaker Willie Brown launched his mayoral campaign in Japantown's Peace Plaza. What stood out about the kickoff was that you knew what a Brown administration would be all about. It was for the deal. The common factor of those on that dais was the understanding each had that they would get the best deal if Brown were mayor. Most weren't disappointed.

Brown's second term now is winding down. He is a lame duck. There are eight votes on the Board of Supervisors to override his veto on most questions. Home Depot was the exception. The November and the December runoff elections are Brown's last shot at getting at least four votes in play on the Board of Supervisors, unless he's able to get an appointment or two with the help of Gray Davis, should the governor be re-elected.

Brown has two strategies. End up with four seats after the December runoff elections, or work to re-elect Gray Davis this November so at least one existing member of the Board of Supervisors can be offered a "promotion" to give the mayor an appointment. It's worth noting Independent columnist and longtime Brown propagandist Warren Hinckle's broadside against Supervisor Gonzalez's full-time equivalent pay proposal going to the voters this November. If adopted, members of the Board of Supervisors would get a raise from their current salary of $37,500. However, if it actually passes, the incentive to take an appointment from the governor would be less. This Hinckle column might actually have some kind of political calculus to it other than bile.

Four votes are sufficient to sustain a mayoral veto. Four votes make it possible to telegraph to Board President Tom Ammiano (presuming he continues, and that might be the subject for another Brown revenge fantasy) that the mayor either wants this or that in the budget and every piece of legislation or he'll veto it. Brown would be something more than a ceremonial figurehead in his last year as mayor. That leverage is worth fighting for, and Districts 6 and 8 will get extra attention because of it. Here is the electoral connection.

Chris Daly in District 6 is a target because of the bad press he has received in the daily papers, particularly in the Fangs' Examiner. The fight in the mayor's office, the love, and the dustup with the cop set the table. The fact that Daly got in Brown's face means there is definitely a price to be paid. The odds of taking Daly down are long. The district's demography works to the incumbent's advantage. The Chronicle stories confirming existing suspicions about how government operates under Brown, such as Lance Williams's series on Planning Commissioner Hector Chinchilla, make it that much harder for Daly's foes to gain traction.

District 8 is an open seat. Mark Leno is going to Sacramento after winning the March 5 primary. There are three front runners in the race: Eileen Hansen, Tom Radulovich, and Bevan Dufty. Hansen came within 700 votes of knocking out the popular Leno in 2000. Radulovich has spent the last six years on the BART Board. Dufty has been the consummate staffer for all his professional life, and this is his first run for public office. Dufty was Director of Neighborhood Service in the Brown Administration.

Outside of the "environmental community" Hansen has most of the left locked up. She's been active in groups like the Harvey Milk Club for well over fifteen years. Her gender is a hard fact for egalitarians to overlook as they size up a Board of Supervisors composed of ten men and one woman. Were Hansen to win, she would be the only progressive female politician in San Francisco.

Radulovich's upset win in 1996 was made possible by a deal those at Peace Plaza would acknowledge for its realism. The BART Board incumbent was a Quentin Kopp protégé, Michael Bernick. He just happened to be under FBI investigation for questionable campaign contributions. Working for Bernick was veteran political consultant Dennis Collins, who got looped into the fed's wiretap. It was a summer of bad press for Bernick, who appropriately enough now works for Gray Davis. The Milk Club president thought it was good politics to swap Milk's support for Robert Barnes's school board candidate Juanita Owens if Alice B. Toklas would support Tom Radulovich for BART. At that time Robert Barnes was the undisputed "El Hefe" of Toklas. The deal went down. Owens went on kowtow to Bill Rojas and eventually get trounced in 2000 by Matt Gonzalez in District 5. Radulovich now serves on the BART Board and participates as the minority in 7-2 votes.

Dufty is the most driven of the three. He has superior interpersonal skills. That counts in District 8, especially in a community in which word of mouth can be decisive. A veteran Brown Administration antagonist recently acknowledged that Dufty has the best grasp on the neighborhood's issues. The antagonist commented that Dufty would put together the best office to do constituent work after complaining from bitter experience about the one-dimensional ideologues that qualify as staffers for some of the present board. Dufty would go beyond hiring groupies to chant the words. The only real question is how far does Dufty's loyalty go? How much distance will Dufty put between himself and his former boss? At the Plan C forum he stressed that he was running as his own person. Dufty's success as a candidate may well rest upon how many voters believe that he is running as his own person.

In the meantime, Brown will be looking for four votes.