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Why Democrats Must Stop San Francisco's Green Parade
November 15, 2003

Progressives' are having a parade in San Francisco. In this case, it's a parade of green progressives. A young progressive Green Party candidate has beaten back a flock of traditional Democrats and earned the right to take on the leading moderate Democrat candidate on December 9. It may be a preview of things to come.

Ten years ago, San Francisco's mayoral contest preempted a major leadership change in major American cities.

In the early nineties, black mayors governed most America's major cities -- liberal mainstream African American mayors. Then in 1991, San Francisco a former Police Chief, Frank Jordan battled a blue blood liberal incumbent Mayor Art Agnos. Although without an "R" next his name, a DINO, or Democrat in Name Only, Jordan took a hard-line on homelessness, he was pro-business, and he advocated aggressive police presence in the neighborhoods. He won.

In the years following Jordan's victory, more conservative mayors assumed power in America's major cities - including Giuliani in New York, Riordan in Los Angeles, and Daly in Chicago.

Now, two thirty-somethings, Green Party candidate, Matt Gonzalez, and Gavin Newsom, will face-off in the mayoral runoff. Both are straight, both have adoring female groupies, both are members of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, and both have active, but subdued, star quality. In other words, it's an even match and an ideal face-off. The traditional coalition power of the Democrat Party is pitted against the more glitzy, youth-oriented glamour of the Green Party. Gonzales was until recently a democrat, and he is a stand-in for presidential candidate Howard Dean.

Gonzalez and the Greens do not have a voter registration advantage. Only 14,698 registered voters are members of the Green Party, compared to the city's 247,502 Democrat Party registration. But nearly 150,000 voters are not registered as Democrats or Republicans, and 119,722 are elusive 'decline to state', or in other words they don't trust political parties-prime voters for the anti-establishment Green Party.

In the San Francisco Mayoral primary, the well financed Newsom campaign captured 42% of the vote, while the 'populist" (that is, minimally financed) Gonzales campaign won 20% of the vote. The other moderate democrat candidates taken together won 32% of the vote. So Newsom should be the easy winner in the December runoff. But post-election polls show a much closer race.

Whatever the outcome of the runoff, Gonzalez and the Greens have shaken the political environment in the West's most left coast city. And here, there may be a preview of things to come in other American cities.

Urban environmentalism began in San Francisco 40 years ago with hard fought battles to stop freeway construction through the middle of the city. It gave rise to a well-organized populist movement that began to slow massive development projects throughout the city, especially along the treasured waterfront. Urban environmentalism spread to other cities. It led to required impact studies and numerous new local, regional and state regulatory bodies. In the late nineties high tech companies demanded large open office space in San Francisco and in other major cities. Their appetite for open space caused traditionally residential neighborhoods to be targeted for office expansion. The new well-paid workers needed homes. They began to drive out poorer tenants.

Thus, urban environmentalists of the sixties were reborn through a younger generation - many who were the very residents being crowded out by the high tech yuppies. And in the revolt against the office expansion into residential neighborhoods, the Green Party more than the Democrat Party, represented rebellion, resistance and just plain being cool. Gay politics, which had dominated San Francisco for many years, gave way to anti-business politics. Hence the popularity of the Greens and Matt Gonzalez, who was elected President of the Board of Supervisors, replacing the acknowledged leader of the Gay community, Tom Ammiano.

Gonzalez with his 14,000 Green party voters has shaken the mighty giant, the Democrat Party with its 247,000 voters. It's clear that the party of Pelosi, Feinstein, and Willie Brown is a fragile coalition. Gonzalez campaigns with an unabashedly solid liberal agenda and an anti-establishment tone.

Gavin Newsom has the positive features of the 'new Democrat.' A successful entrepreneur, strong family background, he literally risked his life to take on the homelessness and lawless street population in San Francisco. He sponsored a measure to reduce public assistance to the homeless, causing constant death threats, and requiring constant police protection. Newsom has the support of the entire Democrat political establishment, though not yet, the key local democrat central committee. Newsom is likely to win.

But the Gonzalez primary victory is a wakeup call for the democrats. The number of 'decline to state' voters is growing, and they're an impatient, skeptical voting bloc that is reducing democrat registration. Among democrat voters, a growing minority is willing to turn on establishment candidates - at least 25,000 non-Green party voters cast votes for Gonzalez.

More ominously for the Democrat Party, the rebellion among especially younger urban voters against their party is anti-business, anti-growth, and of course, anti-establishment. This movement has dominated many Assembly and Senate district races in California, forcing democrat voters to choose liberal candidates in safe democrat districts.

In San Francisco, the Democrat Party is being driven to the left. When that party is forced to the left, for whatever reason, it becomes marginalized, disconnected from mainstream voters, and falls into the loser column.

After the demise of Democrat Governor Gray Davis, the democrats can't afford another embarrassing loss. The democrats have learned that they lose when they've can't keep their extreme left under control. In this case, it's the Green Party led by Gonzalez, and all those disruntled left leaning democrat voters linked with declined to state voters.

That's why Congressional Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein will be making robo-calls for Gavin Newsom to defeat Matt Gonzalez. Like a California wildfire, it must be stopped before it grows beyond the city limits of whacky left coast city, San Francisco.

Write to Arthur at bruzzone@rightturns.com


Arthur Bruzzone has written over 250 political articles for national and regional media, and has commented on political and urban issues for American and European television and radio networks.  He is an award-winning public affairs television producer/host.His articles and columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Campaign & Elections Magazine, among other publications. Mr. Bruzzone holds a Masters Degree in Philosophy from C.U.A in Washington , D.C., and a M.B.A. in real estate. He is a returned Peace Corps volunteer serving two years in the Kingdom of Tonga, and the former chair of the San Francisco Republican Party. He served as a California state commissioner on a major environmental regulatory agency. He presently is president of a real estate investment company headquartered in San Francisco, CA.

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