Paper Trails

Next to Achtenberg, "Don't Know" was the only other choice for mayor that saw a substantial gain among voters -- which nearly doubled from 8 percent to 15 percent.

Before wading into speculation (or even into relevant facts), some quick caveats: No candidate has spent money talking to real voters, few voters pay attention to elections six months before the fact, and the campaign has yet to surface the issues that will cause voters to coalesce solidly for (or against) a candidate. This poll is not a fail-safe predictor for the future.

But the poll does tell us scads about voter reaction to what they've seen so far. Lesbian and gay voters were basically split between Achtenberg and Brown two months ago (Achtenberg 36, Brown 31). Today 53 percent of lesbian and gay voters name Achtenberg as their choice, while Brown has fallen off to 19 percent. Since lesbian and gay voters account for as much as 17 percent of the total vote, the shift here means viability citywide.

Although Achtenberg is a favorite of the community, the Binder poll has surprised many with her ascension in the face of the challenge from Savior Brown. But she had to overcome the perception that she couldn't win and reach rank-and-file voters on her own (since leaders like Supervisor Carole Migden were hitting the bricks and phone lines for Brown). It also helped that Brown stumbled some, most notably when he allowed anti-gay Rev. Eugene Lumpkin onstage with him at his kickoff.

Achtenberg had to solidify her base before putting resources to work elsewhere. Prior to the poll, she had distributed more than 1,000 house signs and registered 1,000 new voters, according to her campaign.

Achtenberg's gain hasn't been limited to lesbian and gay voters. Today she also leads other mayoral candidates among renters and among voters in the 20-30 and 30-40 age groups. Among straight Democratic women, Achtenberg is now in a dead heat with Brown and Jordan.

Meanwhile, Jordan and Brown appear to be sinking under the weight of their mud fight -- though Jordan seems to be the worse off for it. In the four-way primary poll, Jordan dropped five points, to 28 percent, while Brown dropped half that much, to 26 percent.

Jordan's problems show even clearer in a matchup with Brown. Two months ago, it was Brown 49 percent and Jordan 40 percent. Now it is Brown 47 percent, Jordan 34 percent.

As if the poll weren't enough bad news for Jordan, now comes word that his Chinese backers may defect to the likely candidacy of Ben Hom. Hom, you remember, was ousted from his slot as Redevelopment Agency commissioner by Jordan on charges of misconduct because he sought contributions for the Jordan campaign from Redevelopment Agency contractors. Among Chinese voters, Jordan has a seven-point lead over Brown; Hom's entry would take more votes from Jordan than from the other candidates.

"The effect of this is to potentially diminish Jordan's lead to the degree that he ends up tied with Brown and eventually Achtenberg if trends continue," says Binder. "We could be looking at a situation close to a three-way tie. The news is that Roberta could be in the runoff and Frank could be out of it."

Binder also warns that if progressives batter sufficiently, we'll be treated to a repeat of the '91 runoff.

"We're already seeing signs of some of those people saying they'll stay home, and that's what's going to decide whether Jordan is re-elected in a runoff," says Binder.

Some 12 percent of Achtenberg's voters say they won't vote for either Brown or Jordan in a runoff, and an identical 12 percent of Brown's voters say they won't vote for either Achtenberg or Jordan in a runoff.

Most disturbingly, the breakdown of those "won't show" voters is along racial and sexual-orientation lines.

Lesbian and gay voters (11 percent) are the largest category who say they won't vote if their candidate, Achtenberg, isn't in the runoff. African-American voters (21 percent) are the largest category who say they won't vote if their candidate, Brown, isn't in the runoff.

"It's a real issue that has to be dealt with," says Binder.

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