Sunday, January 09, 2011

Rafael Mandelman Thank You Party at the Blackbird Bar: Who Lost District 8?

Nick Cooper, Christopher Yee, Carole Migden and Rafael Mandelman

The Blackbird Bar was the intense vortex for the volunteers, staff, and supporters of San Francisco Supervisor District 8 candidate Rafael Mandelman on Jan. 6.

A crush of earthy under 30 year olds made up the majority of the party that consumed over one third of the space, with no one more than two feet away from each other, and all speaking heatedly about the recent campaign. By contrast the rest of the bar was full of other young people speaking quietly over cocktails in mostly male/female couples seated in the usual six foot distancing.

Carole Migden, of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, was excitedly speaking with the young politicos, and bisexual activist Maggi Rubenstein spoke to Matt Dorsey from the City Attorney’s office about his endorsements.

Carole Migden and Rafael Mandelman

Popular restaurant La Méditerranée catered the soirée and a large box of Noe Valley Bakery’s excellent fruit rugelach pastry was emptied within minutes.

Mandelman emotionally thanked his campaign staff that included Stephany Ashley, Nathan Albee, Tim Durning, and Mitchell Lester. There was a cascade of applause for them from the throng.

Rafael Mandelman with campaign staff Mitchell Lester, Stephany Ashley, and Nathan Albee

Mayoral candidate Matt Gonzalez defeated Gavin Newsom in the Castro District, but the extent of progressive ideology in the other District 8 neighborhoods in 2010 is still a subject of study. There were many activists that assumed that Mandelman would win and that he just had to get the district’s supposed majority of progressive voters to the polling stations.

Mandelman spoke loudly from a table top about Scott Wiener, the winner in the race, who began with a 20 point lead that was narrowed to five percent by election day. Mandelman said that he only lost Noe Valley by 250 votes, but it was pointed out that he had been the president of the Noe Valley Democratic Club, which should have given him a power base for victory.

Mandleman also spoke about Wiener’s greater name recognition and visibilty. While Mandelman had been elected to the Democratic Central Committee and serves as its vice chair, Wiener had been its chair, a co-chair of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, a rescuer of the San Francisco LGBT Community Center while on its board, a president of the Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, a board member and honoree of the Human Rights Campaign, and a founder of the neighborhood self-defense organization Castro Community on Patrol.

Mandleman and his workers also were chastised for low-key campaigning by experienced political operatives such as Cleve Jones, while Wieners’ campaigners did not flinch from interrupting café and bar patrons to make a pitch. Neighbors of Mandelman said that they were not aware of his run for office, there was a scarcity of posted campaign signs and ironing board volunteers, and at one debate when every candidate spoke about job creation, Mandelman spoke about helping the homeless, which discouraged his more pragmatic fans.

Wiener campaign consultant David Latterman spoke fervently and often about Wiener as an unusual moderate candidate who actually was a neighborhood denizen, in contrast to such candidates as an Alioto who ran against board president David Chiu. And the progressive swarm of hundreds of activists that elected four of their kind to the previous board did not materialize in the numbers needed to sweep Mandelman into City Hall.

There will be future studies by political analysts to determine if negative mailers by the nurses’ union and tenant groups who favored Mandelman and negative mailers from the Wiener campaign helped or hurt their candidates, and the question of money, its sources and its usage will also be an obvious question for dissection.

There was a key moment at Mandleman’s bar event when a clipboard appeared. It was not the usual sign-up sheet for a street fair booth. The top of the page said District 8 Democratic Club, a new organization. This should send a cold chill down the necks of the district’s conservatives when they realize that Mandelman has doubled the size of his power base, and that his supporters are not joining the current post-activist trend.

Mandelman was demonized by his opponents’ fringes as another fanatical Fidel Castro who planned a radical left Havana-by-the-Bay, and now they will be agitated to learn that he continues to rally his supporters for future political action.

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