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Former Green Party Matt Gonzalez bid for Mayor of San Francisco in 2003(a history lesson)

(Taken from wikipedia)

In 2003, Gonzalez ran for Mayor of San Francisco, in a bid to replace outgoing two-term mayor Willie Brown. On a ballot with nine candidates’ names, Gonzalez finished second in the initial mayoral election on November 4 behind Gavin Newsom, a Democrat and fellow member of the Board of Supervisors who had been endorsed by Brown. Gonzalez received 19.6 percent of the total vote to Newsom’s 41.9 percent. Because none of the candidates received a majority a run-off election was held on December 9, gaining national and international media coverage.

Gonzalez faced a difficult run-off election; only three percent of voters in San Francisco were registered to his Green Party, and the Democratic Party, dominant in San Francisco, was opposing his candidacy. If elected, Gonzalez would have been the first Green Party mayor of any large American city. Although Gonzalez was endorsed by several key local Democrats, including five among the Board of Supervisors, national Democratic figures, concerned about Ralph Nader’s role in the 2000 presidential election, became involved on Newsom’s behalf. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson, Dianne Feinstein, and Nancy Pelosi all campaigned for Newsom. In the left-leaning political newsletter CounterPunch, Bruce Anderson wrote, “If Matt Gonzalez, a member of the Green Party, is elected mayor of San Francisco, it will be a dagger straight into the rotted heart of the Democratic Party… He wants to represent the many against the fortunate few the present mayor has faithfully represented for years now.”

The candidate, however, saw the election in similar terms. “They’re scared, not of a Green being elected mayor”, he said, “but of an honest person being elected mayor.” Many volunteers worked on Gonzalez’s campaign in the run-off. “He’s the indie-rock Kennedy”, one supporter said of Gonzalez. Said Rich DeLeon, professor of political science at San Francisco State University, “The Gonzalez campaign was truly a mobilizing campaign. It really attracted young people who had not been involved — who were perhaps cynical and apathetic — into the active electorate.”

Progressives championed Gonzalez as an alternative to a more centrist Democratic mainstream:

“ Gonzalez was the first Mexican-American, non-Democratic Party candidate in the City’s history to actually campaign, unabashedly, as a leftist and anti-corporate politician. He turned San Francisco’s sordid and sold-out political history upside down, invoking an inspired and conscious resistance from the City’s previous generations’ experiences of exclusion, exploitation, disenfranchisement and dot.com displacement. ”

In an interview in January 2005 on his last day in office as a Supervisor, Gonzalez said of his campaign, “After getting in the runoff, literally the day after, as I heard Mayor Brown and others start attacking me for being a communist and racist, well, I started thinking I was going to lose in the very landslide I had foreseen for other candidates. Naturally, I worked hard to represent progressive ideas and win the race. By the end, we started thinking, hey, maybe it’s possible.”

Newsom outspent Gonzales $4.4–4.9 million to $800,000–900,000. Gonzalez sought to tighten spending caps and expand public financing, and accused Newsom of campaign improprieties and spending limit violations. Newsom won the election by 133,546 to 119,329 votes.

Newsom won the run-off race, capturing 53 percent of the vote to Gonzalez’s 47 percent, and winning by about 11,000 votes. Newsom ran as a business friendly centrist Democrat and a moderate in San Francisco politics; some of his opponents called him conservative.  Newsom claimed he was a centrist in the Dianne Feinstein mold.  He ran on the slogan “great cities, great ideas” and presented over 21 policy papers. Newsom pledged to continue working on San Francisco’s homelessness issue. Newsom was sworn in as Mayor on January 3, 2004. He called for unity among the city’s political factions and promised to address the issues of potholes, public schools, and affordable housing. Newsom said he was “a different kind of leader who “isn’t afraid to solve even the toughest problems.”

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