Anemic debut for public mayoral financing - Page 2

Only two of the candidates made the deadline -- and one has since dropped out

"Once you get into the ring, you're a serious player — and they're going to treat you seriously," Lynn said, noting how complicated it is to meet all of the standards for public financing.

Even if no mayoral candidates make it over the public financing hurdles this time around, Lynn believes such funds are essential if San Francisco wants to nurture its grassroots activism — and with it, the people who may have original solutions to the same old problems.

"The function of the grass roots isn't to win elections but to present the agendas of folks who differ from the Chronicle," Lynn said, noting that of the $7 million in public funds available this year, any money not used will be available in 2011, when more people are expected to run and qualify for funds.

"It was understood that this year there wouldn't be as many people running," St. Croix said, "because the incumbent is running, but that there will probably be more in 2011, by which time we will have more experience of public financing and the mayor's race."

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, who authored San Francisco's public financing legislation, said the goal of the law is to "equalize the opportunity" of running a campaign.

"It does help if you have name recognition and advanced preparation, but this isn't about cutting corners," Mirkarimi told us. "It was designed to reward people for organizing efforts that are commensurate with an organized campaign."