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Dog Bites 

Wednesday, Apr 17 1996
Matthew Rothschild, Right-Winger?
Matthew Rothschild -- model Democratic Party op and lieutenant of party lights John Burton and Carole Migden -- finished first in the three-way March 26 race for Municipal Court seat. Why? Because the city's most conservative precincts threw him the bulk of their support.

Whether Rothschild will continue his expedient, rightward shift for the Nov. 5 runoff against Kay Tsenin is anyone's guess. Post-election analysis by local pollster David Binder shows that Rothschild took 40 percent of all votes in the city's six most conservative neighborhoods. This compares favorably to the 36 percent total he reaped. His second highest vote -- 49 percent -- came in the Excelsior District, Dan White territory. Tsenin polled an average of 33 percent in the same areas. On the city's liberal east side, Rothschild got 31 percent of the vote. Tsenin earned 37 percent of the vote in those same areas.

His greatest support came from black neighborhoods, where his endorsements by Willie Brown, John Dearman, and Doris Ward helped him poll 49 percent.

What's ironic about Rothschild's conservative showing is that he portrayed liberal opponent Ron Albers as a conservative by posting signs in liberal nabes reminding voters of Albers' endorsement by the Republican Party Central Committee. (The endorsement was based on Albers' experience, not his ideology.) Signs reading "The Republican Party endorses Ron Albers" went up all over the Castro, the Haight, the Mission, and Noe Valley the day before the election.

Meanwhile, Rothschild bought his way onto three Republican slate cards. A separate Rothschild-produced mailer contained big pictures of two prominent Republicans -- Judge Carlos Bea and former U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello -- and informed voters that he had earned their endorsement. (Russoniello recently pulled his endorsement of Rothschild.)

San Francisco Republican Party Director Vara Karamandian says the slate cards were the product of political consultants, not the Republican Party. "It was a complete fraud," says Karamandian. "He wasn't wooing voters. He was fooling them."

Now isn't that encouraging behavior from a man who wants to be judge.

Now entering -- the Willie District
Mayor Willie Brown worked behind the scenes before taking office to stop plans for district elections from reaching voters; now he's telegraphing his support for district elections.

"Mayor Brown has been a supporter of district elections in the past and he still is," says P.J. Johnson, the mayor's spokesman.

To that end, Brown met in March with Supervisor Tom Ammiano and other proponents of district elections. Last week, the board approved Ammiano's request for a May 14 hearing on district elections.

"The mayor indicated that we need to come up with one coherent plan for district elections," Ammiano says, and not jeopardize the seats of any current supervisors.

In 1994, voters approved Prop. L, a measure calling for district elections. But the board blocked four district plans presented by an elections task force last December. The Chronicle reported that Mayor-elect Brown lobbied several supes to defeat the measures. Influential political consultants, fearing district elections would reduce their power and profits, also worked to stall the plans.

"[Political consultant] Robert Barnes was a key player in defeating the plans last time, but the mayor definitely has the power to push a plan through this time around," says Gwenn Craig, who leads the elections task force. "That's why we were very encouraged after talking to [Brown]."

By George Cothran, Gordon Young

About The Authors

George Cothran


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