Fault Lines: Our great state’s popularity contest 

If Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval somehow makes it onto the superior court bench in November, he may want to install a weather vane in his chambers so he can note the direction of the wind before he has to make a decision. Right now his index finger must be getting tired.

Sandoval, who has recused himself from voting on controversial issues lately because it might provide fodder for his more experienced opponent, Judge Thomas Mellon, this week criticized the use of gang injunctions, shortly after saying that they might be needed in his district to fight violent crime. The flip-flop apparently occurred after some young nonprofit activists, who oppose the use of gang injunctions, showed up at a meeting to discuss violence in the Excelsior, and Sandoval couldn’t bring himself to back up his earlier support for legislation used to weed out known gang members.

It was enough to get City Attorney Dennis Herrera, author of several civil gang injunctions, to fire off a letter to Sandoval intended to “disabuse you of the misinformation you have regrettably stated as fact for publication."

Herrera also pointed out that the fast-shuffling supervisor voted in 2006 for a board resolution saying the civil injunctions are effective in “deterring and abating the public nuisance activity caused by criminal street gangs."

Sandoval can’t seem to tell the difference between being a politician or a judge — the latter is not supposed to rely on an applause-meter.

If ever there was a picture worth a thousand words, it’s located on a desk table behind Mayor Gavin Newsom’s oversized office chair, a photo of a beaming trio — himself, Attorney General Jerry Brown and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Newsom thinks it’s funny enough that he showed it to a few journalists before going on his honeymoon last week, but it does beg the question: How long will they all be smiling?

Newsom, Brown and Feinstein are considered the three Democratic frontrunners in the race to replace Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger when his term ends, yet only two of them have made noises about running. So far, Feinstein has generally avoided the question, saying that she likes her current job and hopes to run for re-election in 2012.

But boy, oh boy, is she tempted — she’s been itching for the job for 20 years. If she decided to make the leap sometime after the presidential election, it would change the state’s political landscape completely.

For starters, if Feinstein goes for the gold, Newsom would almost certainly drop out, and the same goes for a number of other candidates who know they’d have virtually no chance should the senior senator from California jump in. Feinstein is essentially Newsom’s political fairy godmother — she advises him on everything and also is quick to scold him when she thinks he’s been impertinent (hello, gay marriage!).

So while Newsom tried to get out of the gate early to start raising money and his political profile — and has been in serious talks with strategist Garry South about running his campaign — the bet in this corner is that Newsom will look for another job if Feinstein chooses to run for the statehouse.

“I would weigh it very seriously is she entered the race,’’ Newsom said. “It’s no surprise to me that she would consider it, because there is no doubt that she is the most popular politician in California."

The last time Feinstein thought about dipping her foot in the gubernatorial pool was in 2003 when Gray Davis was being recalled after his disastrous second term. Feinstein thought it too disloyal to fellow Democrats — and at the time, no one knew about the juggernaut rising out of the “Terminator’’ set.

Feinstein would be the first woman to hold the job — this year’s familiar fantasy theme.

Of all the dumb proposals that have been pushed by Supervisor Chris Daly lately, few have reached the level of silliness as his plan to make lobbyists wear badges while doing their thing at City Hall. The proposal came out some time ago, when Daly was swearing at consultants at public hearings and getting himself into all kinds of trouble and newspaper stories.

Yet Daly socked away a lot of money from those lawyers, lobbyists and developers during his re-election campaign, and his colleagues — at least seven of them — saw through the ruse and rejected the idea this week.

Perhaps he would have had better luck if he had suggested they don love beads, like the kind Daly wore to look so sharp during the period he was accessorizing.

Now Daly is left to try and turn the San Francisco Zoo into a glorified cat-herding farm.

The very same people who pushed ranked-choice voting on San Francisco residents are doing their best to make sure it doesn’t apply to themselves. The so-called “progressives,’’ who recently took control of the local Democratic Party, took the unusual step of endorsing only one candidate in upcoming supervisor’s races — with one exception, adding North Beach activist Denise McCarthy as a second seed to their list.

Despite pleas from more moderate members to embrace some of the many qualified female candidates, the committee decided to go its own ham-handed way, turning the ideal of a “big tent’’ for Democratic candidates into more of a snug mummy bag.

The committee also came out in opposition of measures supporting the mayor’s new Community Justice Center and the JROTC school leadership program — which this November voters will pass handily, once again showing how outside the mainstream of The City the power-hungry progressives have become.

They also voted to support every tax measure on the ballot (surprise) and the latest public-power initiative. They did, however, shy away from endorsing a plan to name a city sewage plant after President Bush, fearing political backlash. How radical.

kgarcia@sfexaminer.com

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