A S.F. mayoral debate — without Newsom

The first mayoral debate of the election season will be held today, organized by several candidates who are challenging Mayor Gavin Newsom for his City Hall seat — but Newsom won’t be attending.

“The mayor is happy to participate in debates, but he will skip this particular ‘happening,’” said Eric Jaye, Newsom’s campaign manager, who dismissed the idea that the planned event constituted a formal debate.

Granted, the event is being held on the lawn in front of City Hall at 5 p.m., and with no permit yet secured for amplified sound, the event will compete with the din of cars circling the Civic Center area.

Nonetheless, some of the candidates who planned to attend the event said a Newsom no-show would be just another slap in the face to their candidacy, having already been dismissed by some media outlets as noncontenders and ridiculed for bringing such professional experience to the table as nudist activist, showman and sex-club owner.

“I’m frustrated that the media is making everyone’s decision for them,” said candidate John Rinaldi, known in San Francisco art circles as Chicken John.

Political analysts contacted by The Examiner, however, say Newsom is unbeatable due to his high popularity rankings, strong fundraising, and his advantage as the incumbent.

Newsom’s challengers say to expect the unexpected.

“I feel there’s at least six serious candidates that are running in this race,” said candidate and freelance journalist Josh Wolf, who made headlines when he was thrown in jail last year for refusing to hand over video he took of a San Francisco protest to law enforcement. “None of them have the war chest that Gavin Newsom does, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have good ideas.”

Newsom’s campaign has raised more than $1.5 million for his re-election bid, according to financial statements recently filed.

The next highest fundraiser is former supervisor Tony Hall, who brought in just over $40,000 after announcing he was running in May of this year.

“I wouldn’t be in it if I didn’t think I could win,” Hall said.

Physician Ahimsa Porter Sumchai said she believes she has enough support to raise the $25,000 necessary — 250 $100 donations from people who live in San Francisco — to qualify for matching public financing of her campaign.

Likewise, Lonnie Holmes, a Juvenile Probation Department manager for the city of San Francisco, also thinks there are enough voters dissatisfied with Newsom to give his candidacy a chance.

“I have been heartened in the past three months by the broad-based interest in a new direction for San Francisco,” Holmes said.

beslinger@examiner.com

Each day until voters go to the polls Nov. 6, The Examiner lays odds on local figures beating Mayor Gavin Newsom. Check out our exclusive blog: San Francisco's Next Mayor?


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