- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 3, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — On paper, the job of San Francisco mayor is nonpartisan.

In practice, it has been more than four decades since voters elected anyone other than a Democrat to run the city, where the political spectrum seems to run from left-of-center to liberaler-than-thou.

But now, a Democrat is facing an unexpectedly tight runoff election Tuesday against a Green Party candidate, and the mayoral race is attracting unusual attention from national Democrats still bitter over losing the governor’s office to Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In a sign of the Democratic Party’s anxiety, former Vice President Al Gore was scheduled to attend a fund-raising reception and campaign event yesterday for mayoral candidate Gavin Newsom.

“I think there is an enormous amount at stake,” Mr. Newsom said. “We lost the governor’s office, and now our last bastion, Northern California, is at play.”

Matt Gonzalez, president of the city’s board of supervisors, would be the nation’s most prominent elected Green Party member if he became mayor.

Yet Mr. Gonzalez, a former Democrat who switched parties in 2000 while in a runoff, has sought to downplay his affiliation.

“We want Matt Gonzalez to be a great mayor first and a great Green second,” said Ross Mirkarimi, a Gonzalez spokesman. “Most progressive Democrats have more in common with Matt than they do a conservative Democrat like Gavin.”

Mr. Newsom secured 42 percent, or 87,196 votes, in general elections last month, emerging as the top vote getter but failing to secure the majority needed to avert a runoff. Mr. Gonzalez came in second with 20 percent, or 40,714 votes.

A poll released last week found Mr. Newsom leading 47 percent to Mr. Gonzalez’s 39 percent, with the margin shrinking from a week earlier.

Both young, ambitious and camera-friendly, the two candidates differ greatly in style and substance.

Mr. Newsom is the son of a retired state judge who counts billionaire Gordon Getty as a family friend and owns several upscale restaurants.

Mr. Gonzalez spent a decade as a public defender and enjoys hanging out with struggling artists and musicians. He has raised $401,000, much of it through quirky campaign events.— featuring names such as “Yoga for Matt” — that speak to his bohemian lifestyle.

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