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February 12, 2003




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by jake mcgoldrick
Ammiano for mayor

WITH THE NEW year off and running, so are the candidates for mayor of San Francisco. The foremost progressive in this election is Sup. Tom Ammiano, who has stepped down as San Francisco Board of Supervisors' president to concentrate on his campaign for mayor. Ammiano was the major challenger to incumbent Willie Brown in the last race and with his supporters ran an exhilarating grassroots campaign that ultimately fell short. But times have changed.

Ammiano's 1999 run for mayor generated a sea change in political attitudes that swept across San Francisco. Since then, voters from neighborhoods throughout the city have elected independent, progressive, nonmachine candidates – candidates not handpicked by the old guard.

Ammiano's 1999 opponent, Brown, is a master of political manipulation. In that election, he achieved victory by dividing progressive forces, bringing groups such as organized labor into coalition with the Republican Party. But with term limits, he cannot run for reelection, and that kind of mistake won't be repeated.

Yet progressives can be divided in other ways, and we must not allow this to happen.

There are other contenders, but Ammiano stands as the veteran in the 2003 race, with more than 20 years of government experience. Ammiano is respected citywide, not only for his progressive leadership but also because he earned his position, rather than inheriting or being appointed to it. Also, in these times of economic difficulty, voters gravitate toward leaders with a proven record of putting working people first. "It's the economy, stupid" is a theme that carries even more weight at the local level than at the national one.

Money plays an important role in all elections. But Ammiano has consistently demonstrated that he can win elections without dominating the money race. In the last citywide election, Ammiano won the most votes for the Board of Supervisors, while Gavin Newsom spent the most money and trailed badly on Election Day.

Progressives now control the Board of Supervisors and, unlike the last mayoral race, Ammiano won't have to fight battles at city hall while campaigning for mayor. It is important to remember how much has changed. With support from his peers, Ammiano will be able to showcase his legislative accomplishments.

Another key difference this year will be the way the election is held. Instant run-off voting, the new system that will be used in this mayoral race, eliminates the need for a run-off election. Instead, the run-off selection process is consolidated with the general election. The higher voter turnout in general elections bodes well for progressive candidates.

While history remembers only winners, political insiders know that candidates often run for office more than once before they win. It's a lesson that Ammiano learned many years ago. In his first race for the school board he did not win, but he built the support that carried him to victory in the next election.

Over the years Ammiano has become a formidable force in San Francisco politics. Everything is now lined up for him to take the next step. It's time for history to repeat itself. It's time for Tom Ammiano.

Sup. Jake McGoldrick represents District One. The Tom Ammiano for Mayor Campaign kickoff takes place Feb. 19, 5:30-8 p.m., San Francisco Plumbers Hall, 1621 Market, S.F.