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To make sure that they would reach the magic number, Davis put a "pre-voter" plan into effect. He located pro-Jordan citizens who don't regularly vote and asked them to vote early by absentee ballot. Though Agnos won at the polls on Election Day, Jordan's 13,000 absentee ballots delivered him the victory -- the first time in city history that such a thing had happened.
But elections are not just about winning, Davis adds: They're also about smashing the opponent, and getting voters to nix your foes.
"I believe there is a yin and a yang to winning voter approval," says Davis. "Inherent in the voting pro-cess, you vote for someone and at the same time you vote against someone."
Twenty blocks away, in a three-story, 19th-century red brick building, Jordan consultant Clint Reilly, who in the past 20 years has managed campaigns for everyone from Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan to gubernatorial hopeful Kathleen Brown, has exactly the same words for the process. "You create a yin and a yang," he says.
Reilly's Sansome Street office sits on a block built when San Francisco fortunes were made by men who outfitted adventurers headed for the gold mines. Reilly's considerable fortune -- he recently bought a $20 million building from magnate Walter Shorenstein -- has been built in much the same way, outfitting political adventurers and getting candidates to pay top dollar for his services. Today, his services include plans to "yang" Willie Brown's chimes but good.
Reilly describes Brown as a man in a popularity bubble. He says Brown has temporarily benefited by the recent fight to retain his 15-year-old post as Assembly speaker.
"Just a couple of months of pounding and the bubble's going to break," Reilly says. "Day in and day out, getting the shit pounded out of you. ... To me, he's never been in a tough fight," says Reilly.
"Roberta is a factor," Reilly continues. "In my mind, it's possible that Willie Brown will not even make the runoff. I think we can beat Roberta.
"Willie is viewed as supereffective, I mean, Mr. Power Broker, so the obvious sort of message of his campaign is that 'I am the strong bold leader who is going to take all the factions of the city and force them into a room and get this city moving forward again,' " Reilly says.
But he stands by his man. "Jordan is actually doing far better on effectiveness than the insiders realize. His job rating has dramatically improved," Reilly boasts.
"Willie's got serious problems on crime," he says, and the public "doesn't think he's much of a fiscal guardian. I think once you sort of start to puncture the image up here of sort of the charismatic leader, and people start thinking about who could cut crime better, or who can balance the budget better, Jordan wins on all those fronts."
But the issue du jour, says Reilly, is integrity.
"Let me just be totally clear with you," says Reilly. "In my view, if we have a debate on who's more honest, Frank Jordan or Willie Brown, we're gonna win the election. That's what the debate is. We'll have this debate any day of the week, and we'll win the election on this issue."
Angela Alioto's jaw drops at Reilly's notion that integrity will be the defining issue of the campaign.
"Clint says integrity?" she asks incredulously. "Frank will beat Willie Brown on integrity? Did Clint Reilly give his definition of integrity?"
On one issue she agrees with Reilly: Alioto describes Brown as the insider's candidate, the choice of those who want access to whomever is mayor -- and who have no particular ideological agenda. Alioto says she knows what that's all about. She says she was talked into the race by politicos who hated Agnos and saw her candidacy as a way to defeat him. The people "were there because they had another agenda that I was not privy to."
Similarly, she says, Brown is "being used by everybody to get what everybody else wants, and the citizens in my opinion have been totally lost in the transition."
But eventually, she predicts, the race "will be fought on the basis of who is the best fighter for the interests of the people of San Francisco, of who's going to step up to the bat every time for the people of this city, and not for themselves and not for special interests," says Alioto. "Both Frank Jordan and Willie Brown are bought off by special interests. ... The people are going to vote for somebody who will fight for them."
But if people have been "totally lost in the transition," how will they know how to distinguish the "best fighter"? How will they know what issues to consider?
"I think this campaign, with Clint Reilly and Willie Brown," Alioto says, "will be the most non-issue-oriented campaign in a long, long time."
Roberta Achtenberg has pledged to do all that she can to ensure that issues are debated in this campaign. She was willing to challenge old friends' arrangements to do so, and she has kept pushing forward despite efforts to get her out of the race.