S.F. mayoral candidate hops toward race

One of San Francisco’s more colorful mayoral candidates is facing an uphill race, following a month he calls “Septerror,” during which he was arrested five times and lost his taxicab license.

“Grasshopper” Alec Kaplan was due to appear before the Taxicab Commission Tuesday for a hearing on the future of his Passenger Vehicle Permit, which was suspended after he allegedly pushed a woman out of his cab. The hearing was continued while criminal charges against Kaplan are outstanding, but the mayoral candidate says the damage is done.

“The problem with the campaign, as such, is that I keep getting arrested,” Kaplan said. “I haven’t been able to run much of a campaign.”

Kaplan is one of a field of 11 candidates challenging Mayor Gavin Newsom — none of whom are considered a serious threat to the popular mayor. Homeless, Kaplan sleeps in his van-taxicab in such locations as the drivewayof recently suspended Supervisor Ed Jew’s 28th Avenue home.

He has been arrested a number of times, and said he paid the $3,000 filing fee for the mayoral election with money made as a taxi driver.

Kaplan was arrested at Jew’s house for trespassing on Sept. 9, then again for assault based on a complaint from a fare.

He was taken into custody a third time for violating a restraining order during a Board of Supervisors’ meeting, then again at a meeting of the San Francisco Tenants’ Union, he said, and was recently picked up when he participated in a “die-in” at the federal building.

But the hearing at the Taxicab Commission focused on an incident on July 17, in which Kaplan allegedly drove erratically on a run from San Francisco International Airport, ranting to his fare and calling her a “rich b—-,” before threatening to commit suicide with her in the cab and then physically pushing her at a Chevron Station on Van Ness Avenue.

Kaplan categorically denies the charges. He said Tuesday that he never called the woman a name but rather said, “the Marina” after she gave her address.

He said she was on a cell phone during their ride and, “I’m pretty sure she wasn’t hearing the words I was saying.” Kaplan said that, when they got to the Chevron station, he told her to leave the cab, but never placed a hand on her.

After that complaint came in, San Francisco Taxicab Commission Deputy Director Jordanna Thigpen performed an audit of Kaplan’s business and Director Heidi Machen decided to suspend him.

Kaplan accused taxi commission officials of working from political motives.

“These people who shut me down are Gavin Newsom appointees … these shutdowns flow directly from Gavin Newsom,” he said.

Kaplan has issued a standing challenge to Newsom for any kind of physical contest, including, “a swim, a bike a walk across the street, whatever he wants.”

Meanwhile, Kaplan is due in court Monday for a trial on the trespassing charge. Other charges against him are on the calendar that day as well.

amartin@examiner.com

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