With Meg Whitman inching past Jerry Brown in the polls, Democrats are rightfully concerned. Whitman has engaged in a media blitz not seen since Ross Perot bought airtime to show us pie charts and Texas politics, “If you see a snake, just kill it — don’t appoint a committee on snakes.”
If Whitman’s campaign strategy is to use the Jedi mind trick of forcefully putting thoughts in people’s heads, Jerry Brown’s campaign strategy appears to be “playing hard to get.”
See, Brown doesn’t appear to have much in the way of a campaign going. Oh, I know he’s trying to show he’s creative and forward-thinking, but, as political strategies go, just because something is “unorthodox” doesn’t mean it is effective.
On Easter Sunday, I was having dinner with one of the wonkiest people I know. A former elected official, he remains active in politics and shares my love of funky, arcane details. As with most conversations these days among the civic chattering class, the subject turned to Brown’s unenthusiastic campaign.
“What if Brown drops out of the race?” I asked.
“Oh!” his eyes widened.
Here’s what we put together: If Brown stays in the race long enough to win the party primary in June, the field would be clear of gadflys and single-issue activists running for the Democratic nod. Once it’s Brown versus some Republican (let’s just pretend there’s still a question about who that will be) Brown could drop out of the race. At that point, volunteered my dinner companion, the state Democratic Central Committee would appoint Brown’s replacement, which could be anyone — a moneyed Democrat like Steve Westley, a popular politician like Dianne Feinstein, or even a young lieutenant governor candidate.
Democratic groups like Level the Playing Field 2010 are raising money to defeat a Republican candidate (rhymes with Whitman) so a substitute Democratic Party candidate could just as easily benefit from those efforts.
“It’s a thought,” he grinned. “Pass the cornbread.”
June’s ballot will include the names of 63 people vying for 24 seats on the Democratic County Central Committee. Clubs all over town have sent questionnaires to candidates in an effort to ferret out folks worth giving a stamp of approval.
The Harvey Milk Democratic Club surveys have been completed, and I dug through more than 200 pages of responses. Getting the Milk club endorsement is a pretty big deal, so many candidates put a serious effort into their answers, which means most are pretty boring. However, as with all things in our fair city, there are some fun little gems in there too. Here are my favorites:
Question: Do you support the decriminalization of sex work/ prostitution? Please explain your position.
Answer: If you can give it away, why should it be illegal to sell it? (Michael Bornstein)
Q: What do you plan to do regarding the state cuts to education? How do you plan to address this? Do you oppose state tuition hikes?
A: I DON’T KNOW. (Tai Mamoe; I love the candid use of all caps here.)
Q: Do you support the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana?
A: YES. My grandma smoked it for her asthma in the 1940s. In fact, we should consider legalizing all drugs, as we did alcohol after Prohibition. Then there would be less crime on the streets. (Jane Morrison)
Q: How do you propose the city respond to the current fiscal crisis? Do you support putting revenue measures on the November ballots? Which ones?
A: Big long-term problem … I don’t believe revenue proposals would be favorably received at this time: The public is hurting financially and feeling quite cranky. (Former state Sen. Carole Migden)
Indeed, Migden was the only candidate I saw who expressed reservations about taxes on the November ballot. “Smart lady,” I thought. Then I saw this:
Q: Where do you stand on the issue of state workers being put on furlough days?
A: I oppose the opposition of furloughs. (Former state Sen. Carole Migden)
Luckily for Migden, the Milk club opposed her opposition and is endorsing her candidacy.
Back in February, when Muni drivers rejected a package of proposals that would have saved the transit agency $15 million, Supervisor Sean Elsbernd vowed to gather signatures and put a measure on the November ballot that would eliminate the scheme that guarantees Muni operators the second-highest salaries for transit operators in the nation.
On Monday, Elsbernd began making good on that promise when he dispatched signature-gatherers for just such a ballot measure. Today, Elsbernd and a team of volunteers will be all over town getting people to sign on. According to Elsbernd: “To protect against unjust fare increases and unnecessary service cuts, San Franciscans are taking matters into their owns hands by gathering signatures to place a Muni reform measure on the ballot. … This measure does just that. I look forward to meeting with San Franciscans from one corner of The City to the other over the next few months in our quest to finally put Muni riders first.”
And just how will Elsbernd and his team of volunteers be getting around The City to gather signatures? By taking Muni, of course. Hey, if people rob banks because that’s where the money is, they ride Muni to find fed-up passengers.