On March 15, Gavin Newsom formally launched his re-election campaign website
with a mass e-mail, inviting San Franciscans to “be a part of this great conversation.” But with all the talk that the Mayor is unbeatable because he is so popular and has “expanded” his political base, Newsom’s campaign website does not reflect the diversity of support that one would expect him to have. While a popular incumbent with no declared challenger could afford to run a positive campaign message of unity, Newsom’s website is replete with divisive attacks on the Board of Supervisors – with a strange focus on Municipal Wi-Fi. Meanwhile, the website links to alternative media sources like Beyond Chron with a derisive but back-handed compliment – “mean but interesting” – showing once again that the Mayor's Office is deeply sensitive to any criticism.
For the past four years, Newsom has been blessed with high approval ratings that would be the envy of any Mayor. While he’s lately been under fire for a variety of reasons, conventional wisdom says that Newsom sealed his re-election by gaining the loyal support of two constituencies with proven vote-getting ability – gays and labor. While he hasn’t done much lately
for the LGBT community, many more will vote for Newsom this time around because of his bold stand in February 2004 for marriage equality. Newsom’s visible support for the striking hotel workers has also earned him solid support in the labor movement, making it difficult for any progressive to run a grassroots campaign against him this year.
So it’s curious that there is no mention on the campaign website about workers’ rights. And besides a short blurb about how more Californians support same-sex marriage, the website says nothing about other issues that are important to the LGBT community.
The campaign website includes a series of blogs from his various supporters – as a means of demonstrating the breadth of support that Mayor Newsom has. But none of the bloggers are from the labor movement. And while some of the bloggers might be gay, none of them are active in LGBT issues or write about issues that are central to that community.
A closer look at who the individual bloggers are shows how narrow of a base Newsom has assembled for his re-election campaign. Marsha Garland, who does “blogging from North Beach,” is the President of the North Beach Chamber of Commerce and advocates the repeal of district elections. Two of the bloggers who cover environmental issues are “green business” owners – as opposed to transit activists.
Mike Sullivan, who blogs on housing issues, is the Chair of Plan C – an organization that has advocated Ellis Act evictions and TIC conversions as a means of “creating homeownership” for those who can afford to buy real estate. And while Newsom is running to represent the City of San Francisco, one of his bloggers is a self-proclaimed “white chick from the suburbs.”
The website is called “Act Locally,” and implores San Francisco residents to get more involved in civic affairs. But the main focus right now seems to be on pressuring the Board of Supervisors to approve the Mayor’s Wi-Fi proposal. Five of the main articles on the front page (including the top three) are about this proposal, and the website even re-publishes a Chronicle Editorial calling the Supervisors the “Board of Obstructionists” for blocking the Google-Earthlink deal.
Wi-Fi is an important policy issue, but it’s baffling to see why it would take precedence over the city’s homicide crisis, the cost of housing, the universal health care plan, problems with the Police Department, or Muni’s chronic delays. In a recent meeting with residential hotel tenants – precisely the type of people who Newsom says would be helped by addressing the “digital divide” – organizers at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic asked them if they wanted to get involved with that issue. None of the tenants were interested, proving that they have more pressing concerns on their mind.
Mayor Newsom continues to be popular, and at this point still does not have a serious challenger in the upcoming election. So it’s curious why he would focus his campaign website on an issue like Wi-Fi where he is at odds with the Board of Supervisors – when there are so many other issues that poll well and Newsom can focus on being a “uniter, not a divider.” But by choosing to take a confrontational approach
, he may end up inviting a candidate to take him on this November.
Personally, Beyond Chron found it amusing and flattering that we were linked from the campaign website (along with the Bay Guardian) under the headline “Mean But Interesting,” while SFist was linked under the headline “Mean But Funny.” Some have said that it shows the Newsom camp has a sense of humor, but I have a different take.
The Mayor is so defensive to any type of criticism that he has to resort to the childish tactic of calling those who criticize him “mean.” We’ve already seen a Mayor who avoids unscripted moments
, and who won’t be bothered by even attending a monthly Board of Supervisors meeting.
So why is Beyond Chron “mean”? Could it be that we called him the biggest loser
in last November’s local election results, even though that was the conventional wisdom? Could it be because we’ve repeatedly called him to attend Question Time at the Board of Supervisors, because it was what the voters wanted? Or maybe it’s because I caught him lying
in public about how often he meets with Supervisor Aaron Peskin.
Back when SFist made fun of Newsom, Peter Ragone, the Mayor’s then-press secretary, posted a comment on the blog that said: “lighten up and just stop hating on Newsom at all times.” That’s consistent with the rationale that any media source who dares to criticize the Mayor is “mean.” And, oh yes, Ragone now works for the Mayor’s re-election campaign.
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