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Issue 34, January 1999

Left gains in San Francisco

THE SAN FRANCISCO results saw the Progressive Left Slate (PLS) emerge as the main left opposition to the one-party political machine controlled by Democratic mayor Willie Brown and state senator John Burton.

The Progressive Left Slate is an alliance between Labor Militant, the Immigrant Rights Movement (MDI), the monthly political-cultural alternative newspaper SF Frontlines, and several other organizations - as well as individual members of the Labor Party, the Green Party, the Peace & Freedom Party and tenant, immigrant, neighborhood, student and labor activists. The slate ran five candidates for city-wide local offices who got between 11% and 26% of the vote.

PLS candidate Lucrecia Bermudez, a member of the Immigrant Rights Movement (MDI), polled 24,000 votes (14%) in her race for the Board of Supervisors, the city council. Also standing for the Board of Supervisors was Carlos Petroni, editor of SF Frontlines and a member of Labor Militant - the US section of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) - who got 18,000 votes (11%). There were 17 candidates in this race competing for five seats.

PLS School Board candidate Maria Dolores Rinaldi won 18,000 votes (13%). There were 12 candidates vying for three School Board seats. The PLS candidates for the College Board were Tom Lacey, a member of the executive committee of the Golden Gate Labor Party Chapter and the Peace & Freedom Party, who got 37,000 votes (28%), and Chris Finn, a former vice-president of the Associated Students at City College and a member of Labor Militant, who polled 33,000 votes (24%). There were seven candidates competing for three seats in this race.

The PLS also endorsed the campaign of Dan Hamburg and Sara Amir, the Green Party candidates for Governor and Lt Governor of California. Hamburg got approximately 8,000 votes in San Francisco (100,000 statewide) and Amir 27,000 votes (around 300,000 at state level). At 13% of the San Francisco vote, Amir came close to getting more votes than the Republican candidate for Lt Governor in the city.

  In the working class neighborhoods of the Mission, Excelsior, Bernal Heights and other areas, the slate's candidates got between 28% and 40% of total votes cast. On average, the slate's results doubled the numbers of votes they obtained in the two previous elections of 1996 and 1997, indicating the consolidation of an effective and growing local electoral alternative. The PLS ran on a comprehensive platform that addressed the political, economic and social issues facing the city - calling for free transport, environmental justice, solutions for the homeless population, universal health care, a revolutionary model of multicultural education, housing and jobs for all, and extending the right to vote on local issues to non-citizens. It also called for progressive taxation of big corporations.

Over 100 volunteers worked on the campaign, visiting around 30,000 households and distributing over 160,000 pieces of literature, including 20,000 copies of its platform. The candidates participated in more than 60 community forums in neighborhoods and unions and during the campaign some of the candidates participated in the strike actions of City College staff.

The PLS also participated actively in the union Labor Council meetings and plenaries where they fought for the labor movement to dump the Democratic Party candidates and endorse independent, progressive and left candidates. A small but important number of labor leaders and activists endorsed the slate as a result of this campaign.

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