Nader taps former Supervisor Gonzalez for running mate

If Matt Gonzalez harbors new ambitions for public office, his newfound role as Green Party candidate Ralph Nader’s presidential running mate could hurt him.

Gonzalez, the Texas native who took Mayor Gavin Newsom the distance in a 2003 mayoral race before losing 53 to 43 percent in a runoff election, said he accepted Nader’s invitation to bring expertise to “the most important issue with a Ralph Nader candidacy, which is election reform,” he told The Examiner on Tuesday.

“The system as it’s set up right now allows the president to win the contest without getting over 50 percent of the vote,” Gonzalez said.

Nader, a longtime consumer advocate, who also ran in the previous three presidential races, is commonly blamed by the media and pundits for taking votes away from former Democratic candidate Al Gore during the 2000 White House race in which George W. Bush was declared the winner.

“I think I have the responsibility, if given a chance, to make sure the dialogue of this election season be a little bit different than it was before,” said Gonzalez, 42, the former president of the Board of Supervisors.

Newsom, speaking Thursday, cautioned Democrats and others not to underestimate Gonzalez’s ability to “strengthen” Nader’s campaign, and cautioned progressive voters against repeating “a mistake in the past.”

“We cannot afford to once again support a candidate in lieu of a Democrat and watch a Republican walk into the White House,” the mayor said.

Local political observers said they did not think Gonzalez was trying to put his name back out into the public for any other future political office — adding that any part his role as a vice presidential candidate has in spoiling the Democratic contest would negatively affect any other political plans he might have.

Gonzalez, since losing to Newsom in 2003, started a private practice law firm.

“If (Nader and Gonzalez) are effective in keeping (the Democratic presidential nominee) from the presidency, that will be very problematic for any future local run in San Francisco,” political consultant Alex Tourk said.

Jim Stearns, a consultant who has handled progressives’ campaigns, said of Gonzalez, “this is a step that I wish he wouldn’t take.”

But Gonzalez said he liked the unexpected. “I like to surprise people from time to time,” he said. “I’m trying not to lose that.”

dsmith@examiner.com

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