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Stateside: San Francisco Mayoral Candidate Forum

Stateside with Rosalea

San Francisco Mayoral Candidate Forum

One thing I find really frustrating about TV news here, is that they're so lazy about putting things in a time context. Either they don't put a "from file" tag graphic on images or they'll leave a "live" tag on, so that you're continually at a loss to know the significance of the image you're seeing.

But one of the worst instances of a lack of time context was this morning on the local ABC channel which screened a forum for some of the candidates in the San Francisco mayoral race. If I hadn't by chance seen a snippet of the forum in an evening news bulletin earlier in the week, there was no way I would have known it was pre-recorded on a weekday.

That's important because the presenters said one of the candidates, lawyer Angela Alioto, could not be present because of a court case she was working on. Knowing when the forum was recorded would have put that in context; as it was, how many people might wonder why she'd rather work on a court case on a Sunday morning than participate in the forum?

I suppose the deeper question is: how many people watched the broadcast? I'm certainly glad I did. Although each of the local stations have been doing pieces on the candidates in their regular news bulletins, I don't always get to see those. So, it's nice to have a focused forum in which the candidates speak for themselves and give a brief account of their accomplishments, intentions, and their stands on various issues.

There's a lot to choose between with these candidates. They all seem to have had experiences that fit them for different aspects of being mayor, and there's plenty to differentiate them from each other. Although local races are non-partisan in the sense that parties aren't fielding candidates, party affiliation is part of what voters use in deciding who to vote for.

No doubt the Republicans are hoping to see history repeat itself by having a former San Francisco police chief get through to the December run-off and maybe even win, like Frank Jordan did in 1991. The SF Republican Party endorsed Tony Ribera way back in July, so it'll be interesting to see how many votes he gets, and if he can leapfrog over the other contenders.

Matt Gonzalez specifically mentioned his membership of the Green Party as marking him out a as an "independent" - which is, I guess, the default status here in the States if you're not plugged into either the Democrats or the Republicans. "Independent of what?", would be my question. Not being a card-carrying member of the ruling duopoly doesn't automatically qualify you as an independent thinker. But Gonzalez may be one to watch.

Susan Leal, the city treasurer, acquitted herself creditably on the forum. The daughter of Mexican immigrants who never even graduated high school, she re-tooled the Schwarzenegger "California has been good to me" theme to fit San Francisco, while at the same time saying how proud she was that SF voters had rejected the recall by such a high margin.

The two most well-known faces in the forum were Tom Ammiono - who almost became mayor in 1999 - and Gavin Newsom, whom pundits are saying almost certainly will become mayor this year. Again, those two candidates gave solid performances with no surprises, but each - I suspect - appeals to a different constituency. Ammiano has to worry about votes for him being split with Alioto and Gonzalez; Newsom with Leal and to some extent Ribera.

The conventional wisdom is that none of the candidates will get sufficient votes to become mayor outright on Tuesday.


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