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Supe walks away
Gonzalez decides against re-election.
Supe walks away
Gonzalez decides against re-election.
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By Adriel Hampton
ahampton [at] examiner.com
Published on Monday, March 29, 2004
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In a decision that has sent potential progressive candidates scrambling, Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez says he will not run for re-election in District 5.
In an exclusive interview with The Examiner Sunday, Gonzalez, 38, said he plans to enter private law practice and has no immediate plans for elective office.
Gonzalez's decision follows a dramatic fall campaign where he forced Supervisor Gavin Newsom, 36, into a tight mayoral runoff prompting former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore to fly into town to boost Newsom's campaign. Newsom spent $5.1 million on the race while Gonzalez ran a grassroots effort fueled by hordes of young leftist volunteers who propelled him within a few percentage points of the mayor's office.
Of the seven supervisors up for re-election in November, political watchers had assumed Gonzalez's seat the safest.
But Gonzalez, a former public defender who hosts monthly shows in his City Hall office, said he is ready to re-enter private life.
"I like the whole idea of disengaging from politics for a while and looking at things from the outside," he said.
Bill Barnes, an aide to Supervisor Chris Daly, and Robert Haaland, a labor organizer, are among possible left candidates for the seat, while neighborhood activist Tys Sniffen and former Golden Gate Bridge District member Joe Blue have begun campaigning.
Gonzalez said Planning Commissioner Lisa Feldstein, a Cole Valley resident, may also be a strong candidate for the seat.
Newsom beat Gonzalez in the December runoff, 53 percent to 47, after a heavily contested primary where he emphasized his Democratic Party alliances. Gonzalez, a Green Party member, switched his registration from the Democratic Party in 2000 during a supervisorial runoff.
In 2003, he won a close vote for Board President with the support of Tony Hall, the most conservative member of the board, succeeding Tom Ammiano. He faced Ammiano -- the Board's senior progressive member -- in the general mayoral election after entering in August on the last day to file. It was a decision some progressive activists resented.
Gonzalez said the $8.50 minimum wage, passed at the ballot in November, new restrictions on chain stores, ballot wins for instant run-off voting and reform of the planning, ethics and elections commissions are his most notable efforts on the board.
"I think it's safe to say my fingerprints are on most of the important legislation that's come before the Board the last four years," Gonzalez said. "Even when I haven't been the primary sponsor, I've been in the background helping to deliver the votes."
Gonzalez on the record
District 5 Supervisor and former mayoral candidate Matt Gonzalez has decided against a re-election run. He spoke with The Examiner's Adriel Hampton about his decision and his future plans.
Examiner: You're not running for Supervisor. What then?
Gonzalez: It's true. But let me say I've really enjoyed the job. It's been very good to me and so I don't walk away with any misgivings. Recently though, I've been increasingly approached about getting back into the practice of law and I have to tell you that I've always loved the intellectual challenges the practice of law gives you. So basically, that's the plan.
Ex: Is this it for elective politics?
G: Oh, I don't know. Let's just say I don't have any plans to seek elective office at this time.
Ex: Is there a progressive candidate out there who can pick up the work?
G: Yes, I think there are many who can. Lisa Feldstein, who is on the Planning Commission and lives in Cole Valley, would be great. Obviously Bill [Barnes], who is on the [Democratic County Central Committee] and an aide to Supervisor [Chris] Daly, and Robert [Haaland], who is also on the DCCC and works as an organizer with Local 790 would easily step into the job and could mount formidable campaigns for the seat. And there are others out there too. My shoes aren't that big.
Ex: How can you go from having your face on t-shirts during the mayor's race to being a lawyer?
G: I don't want to be too precious about this. I didn't get into politics to be a career politician, you know?
Ex: Your critics -- friendly and not-so -- say you're a debater, not a legislator. Would you agree with that?
G: Well, just look to the record. Minimum wage, formula business ordinance, instant run-off voting, charter amendments dealing with the appointment of planning commissioners and reforming ethics and elections commissions. You can't get these things done without being a legislator. I think it's safe to say my fingerprints are on most of the important legislation that's come before the in board the last four years. Even when I haven't been the primary sponsor, I've been in the background helping to deliver the votes. On the other hand, I'll concede that I enjoy a good argument. And revealing an opponent's true motivations or lack of logic, well, that's part of the job, too.
Ex: Will you be active in local campaigns?
G: Yes, definitely.
Ex: Will you run for School Board, try to pick up another Green seat?
G: You hear a lot of rumors, huh? No. I'd love to work on school issues, but I don't have any plans to get into that race. I'll let you know if I change my mind.
Ex: A lot of people are going to be surprised that you're not running again. Obviously, you'd be re-elected. Didn't you win 65 percent of the vote in District 5 in the Mayor's race?
G: Well, like I said, I've enjoyed the job, really. It's just that I'm not prepared to commit to four more years of it. And although I'm being coy about future political possibilities, you don't really think I'm going to disappear do you?
Ex: Right. But the Board of Supervisors Presidency is a high profile position that you could mount a future campaign from. It just seems that perhaps, if you try running for future office, you're going to confront the problem that voters have forgotten who you are.
G: Perhaps you're right. But I like the whole idea of disengaging from politics for a while and looking at things from the outside. I think the world would be a better place if politicians returned to private life from time to time.
Ex: How have the people around you responded?
G: Much the same way when I declared I was joining the Green party. Most don't like the idea. But hey, you've got to follow your instincts, you know. That's how I got into politics in the first place, joined the Green Party, ran for the board presidency and later for mayor. What am I supposed to do now? Not listen to myself? You've got to remember, when I jumped into the Mayor's race, most people thought I was crazy.
Ex: Any advice for your successor?
G: Not advice, just my phone number. Call me anytime if you need something.