SF mayoral candidate David Chiu takes lesson on publicity from a Wookiee

Let the Wookiee read: A staffer for mayoral candidate David Chiu dressed as “Chiubacca” receives attention on Muni on Tuesday. He was competing in a race up Market Street using different modes of transportation. (Dan Schreiber/The Examiner)Let the Wookiee read: A staffer for mayoral candidate David Chiu dressed as “Chiubacca” receives attention on Muni on Tuesday. He was competing in a race up Market Street using different modes of transportation. (Dan Schreiber/The Examiner)

Let the Wookiee read: A staffer for mayoral candidate David Chiu dressed as “Chiubacca” receives attention on Muni on Tuesday. He was competing in a race up Market Street using different modes of transportation. (Dan Schreiber/The Examiner)Let the Wookiee read: A staffer for mayoral candidate David Chiu dressed as “Chiubacca” receives attention on Muni on Tuesday. He was competing in a race up Market Street using different modes of transportation. (Dan Schreiber/The Examiner)

Even in defiantly weird San Francisco, a howling Wookiee on the morning bus still grabs a few smiles. Some might call it a cheap campaign gimmick, but Board of Supervisors President and mayoral candidate David Chiu thinks co-opting the “Star Wars” character Chewbacca is a fun way to build name recognition.

With several syllabically similar names among Asian-American candidates in the race, Chiu’s field organizer Ben Kaufman said the campaign was in search of a mnemonic device to avoid confusion with Ed Lee, Leland Yee or Phil Ting.

“It gets confusing,” Kaufman said. “But there is no Yee-bacca.”

“Chiubacca” — also known as Kaufman in a costume — was one of six competitors in a Tuesday race up Market Street from City Hall to the Ferry Building using six modes of transportation — car, bus, taxi, Muni underground, bicycle and the two-foot express.

On his bicycle, Chiubacca won easily with a 10-minute time, a solid 11 minutes ahead of the second-place taxi, according to the campaign. The stunt — which Chiu admits was pilfered from San Francisco Examiner reporter Will Reisman’s Man vs. Muni transit challenge series — was meant to push for more attention on The City’s often-dysfunctional public transportation system.

According to local aficionados, San Francisco has a rich history of political gimmickry, ranging from pithy and harmless to professional suicide. Former Mayor Frank Jordan posing naked in the shower with two Los Angeles radio DJs in 1995 was definitely the latter, they agreed. Although some initially speculated that Jordan had some kind of cover on below the bottom frame of the waist-up photo, political consultant Jim Ross knows otherwise.

“I know more about that than I care to remember. No one wants to see their elected official naked,” Ross said. “Frank had a rocky start to his mayoral administration … and he was running for re-election and the shower thing sort of brought all of that back.”

Mayor Gavin Newsom fell victim in 2007 to marauders in chicken costumes who would show up to public events  and heckle the mayor for his refusal to participate in “question time” with supervisors.

Eric Jaye, a former Newsom consultant who is now working  with mayoral candidate Phil Ting, said Chiu should not make a mockery of the mayoral race.

“While they think politicians are largely a joke, voters take their own issues very seriously,” Jaye said. “They might think, ‘Why don’t you and your hairy friend go down to City Hall and do some work?’”

Ross sympathized with Chiu’s antic and recalled much more vitriolic tactics, like when he campaigned against Mayor Willie Brown by showing how the former defense attorney represented a client caught with hundreds of pounds of cocaine.

“I had interns filling 500 baggies with flour, and then we did a press conference and put it out so everyone could see,” Ross said. “I love a good stunt.”

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsDavid ChiuLocalSan Francisco

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Gov. Gavin Newsom, show here speaking at the City College of San Francisco mass vaccination site in April, faces a recall election due to anger on the right over his handling of the pandemic, among other issues. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Why Gavin Newsom’s popularity could work against him in the recall election

Top pollster: ‘We’re not seeing the Democrats engaged in this election. And that may be a problem…’

Passengers ride the 14-Mission Muni bus on Friday, March 12, 2021. (Jordi Molina/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Transit officials fear Free Muni pilot could hurt already-strained service levels

Supporters say fare cuts could increase ridership, help low-income residents

The vacant property at 730 Stanyan St. in the Haight currently houses a safe sleeping site for the homeless. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Affordable housing project on former McDonald’s site delayed as city adds units

The start of construction on an affordable housing project on the site… Continue reading

(Shutterstock)
SF expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to minors 12 and up

San Mateo County also preparing to begin vaccinating kids next week

A second Hummingbird Place is set to open at 1156 Valencia St. following the success of a facility at San Francisco General Hospital. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner) —
Shelter contract for mentally ill to get five-year, $17.2M extension

San Francisco is expected to give a five-year extension to a pilot… Continue reading

Most Read