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The six million dollar mayor:
Why the 2007 mayor's race will be so different

(Part 2 of a 5 part series)

Mayor Gavin Newsom
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Joe Lynn

February 20, 2007

Editor's Note: Part 2 of a 5 part series by elections and ethics expert Joe Lynn. Lynn explains that scandals aren't all that will reduce Mayor Gavin Newsom's campaign fundraising

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's personal revelations will have an adverse effect on his relationship to his principal campaign donors. That effect, combined with new campaign finance laws that limit the overall amount of money that the Mayor can raise, will mean this year's race for Mayor might not be the coast to reelection that his campaign had hoped for.

The Scandal Hurts Most among the Demographics of His Donor Base

The Mayor's campaign-contributor demographics are interesting. The scandal will hurt the Mayor most among the very populations that make up his contribution base.

Donors outside of San Francisco. We have read that the Mayoral scandal is a bigger deal outside of San Francisco than in what we once called Baghdad by the Bay. 43% of Newsom contributors are from outside the City according to his last report, a lower percentage than in previous reports.

News coverage of the scandal by media outside of town is much different than the local spin at the Chronicle. The LA Times reports that even before the scandal "Mayor Gavin Newsom's Camelot has been crumbling."

Jay Leno has been merciless making a laughing stock out of the Mayor:

"The mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom, who had sex with the wife of his campaign manager, he announced he's going into alcohol rehab. How insulting is that for the campaign manager? Not only did he have sex with your wife but he had to be drunk to do it."

Even Dan Savage, the gay sex columnist, has taken aim at Newsom. In a story last week on Ted Haggart's rehab, that miraculously turned him straight in about three weeks, wrote:

"Yippee! I'm completely heterosexual, too! And as everyone knows, once you're completely heterosexual, all your troubles are over. Just ask San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom."

The Mayor no longer has the same image outside of San Francisco

This will affect his ability to make a pitch for money. Even he conceded before the scandal broke that he has no hope of higher office now, an important factor for out of town contributors.

Whereas donors might once have contributed on the basis of his chances for higher office, he has lost his political sex appeal. He may have become the Britney Spears of politics.

- The Man Code. If we are to believe in the validity of the Chronicle's purported Man Code, ("Thou shalt not covet thy best friend's wife"), we'd expect that male donors, which made up the bulk of his contributors, will contribute less money or contribute to other candidates as a result of his violations.

- Impact on Gays. How many gay men make up his male contributors? Surprisingly there isn't much evidence to support that he has done well in fundraising appeals to gays. Many observers predicted, following the February 2004 gay weddings in City Hall, that he would be able to retire his 2003 debt rather easily.

But the first six months that year, he could only raise $194,745.00, his smallest take in contributions of any of the 11 reports he filed before closing out his account. This was the six month period when his popularity among gays was sky high. Compare it to the $1,551,848.46 he reported in the same period one year earlier.

So his strength with gay contributors may be more trumpeted than real. Promiscuity isn't necessarily a negative among queers. However, his cavalier disrespect of the institution of marriage may tarnish his image amongst marriage activists.

Further, chinks in his gay support had already begun to surface before news of the scandal broke. For example, his nonchalance in pursuing the homophobic hate crime involving the Yale choir group isn't an easy sell to gay folks.

His rift with Bevan Dufty on police protection in the Castro may grow.

- Conservative donors. Newsom presented himself in 2003 as the more conservative alternative. Folks who contribute $500 to a campaign are generally more conservative than the populace as a whole. We can't measure how many of these donors are social conservatives, but given the large numbers involved, some will be turned off.

Pitching a fundraising appeal to these folks becomes more difficult for a perceived philander.

A Recap

Yesterday, a case was made that new laws will cap the Mayor's fundraising this cycle at $4 million. The problems caused by scandal to his fundraising base may make even $4 million a goal that won't be reached.

To come: more aspects of the scandal's effects on fundraising will be examined along with an overview of the fundraising picture this year, and - finally - lessons for good government advocates will emerge.

Joe Lynn was the campaign finance and budget officer of the San Francisco Ethics Commission from 1998 to 2003. From 2003 to 2006, he served as one of the five Ethics Commissioners. The San Francisco Examiner called him “the backbone of the Ethics Commission.” While on staff, he received numerous awards and has been a speaker at many conferences on Good Government. He maintains an active interest in good government laws. Email Joe at joelynn114@hotmail.com


Editor's Note: Views expressed by columnists published on FogCityJournal.com are not necessarily the views or beliefs of Fog City Journal. Fog City Journal supports free speech in all its varied forms and provides a forum for a complete spectrum of viewpoints.



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