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May 28, 2003


Editor’s note: The SF Call does not endorse candidates. But individual Call contributors may -- and do -- freely express their own personal opinions about the city’s political races.

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

Harris goes down on Hallinan & Fazio in Noe Valley

Now, don’t misunderstand me. That’s the last thing I’d want. You know me … I’m not one to cause trouble.

What I meant was that Kimiko Harris was the first to start slinging mud in the debate between D.A. candidates Buzz (“Massage lower, baby“) Fazio, incumbent, Terence (“Is this a dream?”) Hallinan, and the aforementioned Harris.

OK, her name is “Kamala” and her only connection to Senator John Burton is through proxy by way of Willie Brown. I’m gonna take the fact she was first to take the low road as justification for giving Harris an h. brown “middle name” for the rest of this campaign. I’ll call her: Kamala (“low blow“) Harris. The rest is up to your filthy imaginations.

Now, it will soon be oblivious to you that I favor Hallinan (woe be to his ass), so don’t expect any objectivity here. Given a police department that listens to no one but Willie Brown, our famously hippie D.A. has held his own admirably for his two terms. He was the only candidate this evening who didn’t get negative with his opponents.

Preachers, drunks, politicians & whiskey

Good company counts. But if you can’t get good company, hang out with someone bad. Political consultant/attack journalist Frank Gallagher felt the same way, so we went to the debate together. Frank is a no-holds-barred hired gun who has beaten my side on issues like public power and helped usher Bevan Dufty into the Board of Supervisor’s seat in District 8.

We decided to hook up for some whiskey before the debate, which was held at the Noe Valley Ministry. I arrived to find the burly biker Gallagher (he was a bike messenger for five years) waiting outside the building. “We can’t drink here now, man. There’s an AA meeting in there.” We found an Irish bar just over twelve steps away around the corner on 24th. It’s important to have your head right before stepping into these frays. Neither of us had any pot, so we decided to go drunk. It made sense.

We watched Fazio do a George Bush style strut into the cute little church on Sanchez that has housed so many thousands of such public meetings. Both Fazio and Kamala Harris, who soon followed, were flanked by posses of sharkskin-suited political consultants. Folks in the audience whispered that Fazio was a closet Republican and noted his consultants were from a big firm from New York City. What the hell ever happened to spending your money locally?

I started to work the room to speak to several other reporters and political insiders, kneeling at the knees of each to speak earnestly. Ever wonder what goes on in these conversations? Well, I was searching for a joint. No luck.

District Attorney Hallinan entered the room guided by his top assistant, Jim Hammer. It was a kind of Ray Charles moment. Now, I love Terence but for the life of me, he often acts like he’s blind or completely disoriented. He kept touching Harris (sitting to his left) or Fazio (to his right) during the debate. Just lightly, mind you. It was almost like he was trying to affirm that they were really there. It truly irked Harris, and she finally complained: “Please don’t touch me!” Hallinan gave an autistic kind of head jerk as though a lamp had spoken to him, turned slightly and patted Fazio on his shoulder.

I wondered how in the hell Terence could dig his way out of the start. He didn’t have to. Fazio & Harris immediately started to bury each other and themselves.

Your momma votes Republican

After the perfunctory, mindless, self-congratulatory remarks each invited candidate is allowed, the conversation quickly got down to sex and violence and it was Kamala (“low blow“) Harris who led the way. Her handlers obviously remembered a great ploy used by Richard Nixon in a campaign in which it appeared he’d be running against Ted Kennedy. Standing tall before a podium in upstate New York, Nixon announced that he was not going to do any negative campaigning in the race. He said that he was particularly upset that people seemed to think that he’d bring up the death-by-drowning of a beautiful Kennedy staffer who was in Ted’s car at the time on a dark country road. All of you gray beards will recall, people actually thought the Irishman Kennedy might have been drinking alcohol at the party the couple had just come from and was drunk when they went off the bridge. There was outlandish talk about the Kennedy family using their high connections in the police department to keep Teddy from having his blood alcohol checked until he’d had time to sober up. Records were not made available to the local District Attorney. Records disappeared. All nonsense, no doubt, but that’s what Nixon said. Nixon was noble enough to announce that not only would the tragedy be out of bounds in his campaign but that, to prove it, he would announce at every campaign stop that “the death of that poor girl riding in the Senator’s car is NOT an issue in this campaign!”

Kennedy quit shortly thereafter. The past is never far behind, is it? Harris took the same low road.

After first accusing the other candidates of bringing up her time in the sack with Willie Brown, (they didn’t - the moderator did), she said that she was opposed to negative campaigning and would repeat at every campaign stop that accusations that Fazio had been busted at 3 am in a massage parlor raid and that Hallinan had been accused of punching people out … she would repeat at every campaign stop that these things were not issues with her. I gotta tell you, the house rocked with roaring laughter (including Harris herself, who blushed at her own hypocrisy). Here it was not even June. Almost six months till election and the race had gotten ugly. Gallagher and I high-fived each other. It was going to be our kind of race.

Then Harris, she like, turns to look at Fazio, who has just announced he will not accept an endorsement of any elected official (he couldn’t get them anyway - Harris has the Democratic machine hacks lined up and Hallinan gets the Progressive nod as long as he’s breathing) … Harris smirks and asks: “But would you accept the nomination of the Republican party?” It was another gut buster. Here he is at the Noe Valley Democratic Club and she’s asking if he’s really a Republican. Buzz boy, he kind of freezes up and starts stammering but won’t deny he would seek the downtown blessing (he will). Finally, in exasperation, he tosses the burning question over Hallinan’s head and back into Harris’s lap: “Would YOU accept the Republican endorsement?!” Now, guess who froze up. Honest, it was funny to watch. Willie fought hard for the Republican endorsement when he ran against Ammiano in 1999 with Kamala at his side. He got it too and they are still big Willie backers because he has paid them back with hundreds of millions in contracts and tax breaks.

Let’s bottom line the debate and check for apparent strategy.

The only thing that mattered in this debate was where the respective candidates stood on reforming our corrupt old-boy police department. Just like the cops in the Kennedy affair, these boys can lose records and obstruct justice with the best of them when their own get drunk and lie, cheat, steal, batter, and (some say) murder San Franciscans. Many think the cops covered up for Fazio in the massage parlor deal as thanks for his 20 years service in the DA’s office. You know what the cops say? Their motto in cover-ups and obstruction of justice is: “Lie till you die.” Well, Fazio was fresh off defending an SFPD captain who has knocked out more people than Mike Tyson (over 70 complaints of brutality). When cornered, Fazio finally said that some reform “might” be in order. Strictly an old boy.

Harris was much worse. She absolutely refused to give an opinion. Bottom line - the streets are a mess & the cops blame it on Hallinan. Only problem with that is that the streets were a mess long before Terence was District Attorney. The problem is with this mayor, past mayors, and police brass. When Hallinan wouldn’t give Willie’s girlfriend Kamala (‘low blow’) Harris a big job in his office, Willie laid plans to run Harris against Hallinan. Willie set Harris up in the City Attorney’s office with a high-profile (well-funded) job focusing on helping abused women (controversial, huh?). Local columnist (and Willie Brown appointee to the Police Commission) Wayne Friday noted in a report last week that “Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, Assemblymen Mark Leno and Leland Yee … supervisors Aaron Peskin, Sophie Maxwell, and Fiona Ma will be among those helping district attorney candidate Kamala Harris kick off her campaign … at the Women’s Building.” The only question is, what the hell is Peskin doing in the middle of that troupe of machine politicians? Musta lost a bet. You know how it will go. Kamala will announce she is a real friend of women because she has this job Willie got her and the hacks will break into applause on cue. It’s callous. It’s cynical. It’s hypocritical. It is just so San Francisco and I love it. And Harris? She’ll gaze upward as the flunkies sing her praise and smile. She has indeed paid her dues.

Seriously, folks. Willie has appointed a police chief who was busted for kicking a highway patrolman & running into cars while drunk. A chief who was arrested and charged with obstructing justice for allegedly hindering an investigation into his probationary patrolman son’s pounding of numerous citizens. Willie’s girlfriend thinks that’s fine. Of course, she would. Where the hell would she be without Willie? The other candidate just returned from court where he defended the cop accused of orchestrating the cover-up for the chief’s son. These people are not going to reform the police department. They’re only going to make it worse. There is really only one candidate who will cooperate with a new mayor in reforming our sorry collection of cop brass…

Hallinan for D.A.: sobone@juno.com