How slick was Willie’s Newsom nod?

Last week, we learned that President Bill Clinton will be endorsing San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s bid to be California’s next governor. Clinton is still fabulous, as evidenced by his recent appearance on “Larry King Live” in which he basically said that Kim Jong Il kidnapped American journalists so he could have an excuse to hang out with the ex-president. If that’s all it takes to get Clinton to come to your house, my journalist friends should consider themselves warned.

Newsom has been lagging behind state Attorney General Jerry Brown in fundraising and in polls. Adding (e-)insult to injury was the rumor sailing around the Internet last week that Newsom was ready to announce a withdrawal from the race.

I reached out to some political pollsters and consultants to see whether, and to what extent, Clinton’s endorsement of Newsom will affect the race. Their responses ranged from extremely positive to big Technicolor yawns.

“This is huge. The endorsement plus Newsom’s new girl and he has two new assets that could give his campaign the fundraising jolt it needs,” said Ben Tulchin, president of Tulchin Research.

“This could be a game changer. It helps Newsom raise money, make him credible and helps especially in the Hispanic community,” said Rich Schlackman, a partner at MSHC Partners.

“Good score for Newsom, but not only will Clinton have to show a lot of high-publicity face time with Newsom, but almost more importantly Clinton is going to have to help with fundraising and lean on other potential high-profile endorsements. So while the endorsement is swell, Clinton is going to have to do more than simply lend his name in order to sway voters — which I believe is the point of all this,” said David Latterman, president of Fall Line Analytics.

“The immediate benefit of the Clinton endorsement is that it tells voters who really don’t know Newsom that his campaign is viable and that he has the credentials to be governor. And Brown has a pretty easy way to explain away Clinton’s decision to endorse Newsom. [Brown and Clinton sparred mightily in the race to be the 1992 Democratic Party nominee for the presidency.] A plus to help get Newsom’s campaign off the ground? Definitely. But, to the voters, endorsements — even high-profile endorsements — are just a few of the many data points they assemble about the candidates as they try to assess their choices,” said Darry Sragow, longtime Democratic strategist and a partner at Sonnenschein and Nath.

“Great president, but not a game-changing endorsement. Clinton’s endorsement didn’t make the difference for Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial Democratic primary,” said Andre Pineda of Pineda Consulting. [McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, lost to Creigh Deeds in the Democratic primary in June.]


Naming rights fight: For many, Candlestick Park will always be The ’Stick

Candlestick Park was so named because of its location: Candlestick Point, whose namesake is the indigenous candlestick bird. On Nov. 3, voters will be asked to weigh in on Proposition C, which lifts the mandate that the stadium be called Candlestick Park. The text of that proposition also “requires” that at least 50 percent of The City’s earnings from the sale of naming rights be used to pay for recreation center directors. (I use quotes around the word “requires” because, despite what the measure says about paying for those directors, the money can legally be used for any purpose.)

In 2004, The City and the 49ers signed a contract — which is in effect at least until the Niners’ stadium lease ends in 2013 — giving the team limited rights to sell the name of Candlestick Park, with San Francisco receiving half the net revenue from a sale. Monster Cable bought those rights until 2008 and The City netted about $3 million. Also in 2004, voters endorsed Proposition H, which requires that the stadium be referred to as Candlestick Park regardless of who owns the naming rights. Because the 2004 voter initiative is what dictates the title of the park, eliminating that law requires another vote.

As a person who grew up outside Atlanta in the 1980s, I obviously never developed a love of professional football or baseball. Bumper stickers that read, “Go Braves! And take the Falcons with you!” were a very familiar sight. Yet, Bay Area residents are not so traumatized and many people who have long since abandoned the Niners and the Giants still have fond memories of “The ’Stick” (which, I am told, it will forever be called regardless of who engages in the futile act of trying to change its name). “The escalators alone!” exclaimed my best friend and Bay Area native, Beth, when I asked her about the park.

Still, the wheels of progress must lurch ever forward and sentiment does, in fact, have a price. In this case, the 2004-08 contract with Monster Cable netted San Francisco $700,000 a year. This amount may sound like a lot, but with a $6 billion budget — assuming city government operates 24/7 — $700,000 covers little more than one hour of operation.

The problem with Prop. C is that it gives the appearance of raising revenue without really raising much money at all, and it does so at the expense of the title of a landmark many San Franciscans hold dear. Instead of finding ways to stop spending money like a sailor on leave, we are being asked to give the folks at City Hall more money.

If you think the shiny new pot of money will be spent wisely, by all means, vote for Proposition C. The rest of us will stick with The ’Stick.

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