State and National Candidates

Affecting that outcome, however, might require a sophisticated vote. The charter awards the presidency to the top vote-getter among all the candidates. Hence, voters seeking to elevate either Bierman or Kaufman may want to leave one or the other off their card, even if they support both.

Handicapping the race, political consultant Robert Barnes, former president of the Alice B. Toklas Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club, says Democratic Party voter turnout could be key in a race too close to call. "If liberal Democrats feel President Clinton is in trouble and get out to vote," says Barnes, "it will help Sue." A heavy female vote, however, might boost Kaufman; she has distinguished herself of late by pushing S.F. judges to be more exacting in punishing perpetrators and protecting victims in domestic violence cases.

With Bierman and Kaufman shoo-ins, the race for the last four seats on the 11-member board is competitive. A trio of challengers -- prostitutes-rights activist Margo St. James, former S.F. School Board President Leland Yee, and Police Commissioner Jose Medina -- are giving two mayoral appointees to the board, Leslie Katz and Michael Yaki, a serious run. One of these five will be the odd man or woman out.

St. James, alone, stands out. Unlike Katz and Yaki, who literally owe their seats to Brown, and Medina and Yee, who worked to elect the mayor, St. James personifies Do-It-Yourself style. If nothing else, she'd be expected to keep her own counsel on the board.

Brown-appointed incumbents Katz and Yaki are striving to move out from the mayor's shadow. Former Community College Board member Katz has undertaken a nuts-and-bolts project to coordinate Public Works, electrical, cable television, Water Department, and Municipal Railway maintenance schedules to eliminate waste and minimize street noise and traffic disruptions. Yaki, Rep. Nancy Pelosi's former district manager, has laid claim to youth-related issues.

Interestingly, Yee is talking child-related issues, too. It's a natural for Yee, a child psychologist, and serves to crystallize his competition with Yaki, who is the other major Asian-American candidate. Meanwhile, Medina is a longtime S.F. civil rights and Latino community activist. A union representative by day, Medina can speak with authority on the stump about social-justice issues.

Moderate Donna Casey, a former library commissioner, and progressive Victor Marquez, a civil rights lawyer, join Carolene Marks, wife of retiring state Sen. Milton Marks, in a second tier of dark-horse prospects. With Marks trying to parlay voter familiarity with her name into a serious campaign, Marquez and Casey look to be setting themselves up for future runs. But remember, in a six-seat race among 28 contenders, anything can happen.

Municipal Court Judge, Office No. 1
The runoff election for Municipal Court judge boils down to a simple matter of qualifications, in the eyes of the San Francisco Bar Association: Kay Tsenin is qualified; Matthew Rothschild is not.

Politically, this is a choice between two apparently similar candidates -- both are Democrat, liberal, and gay. But the surface is where the similarities end. Tsenin's experience is mostly legal, Rothschild's is primarily political.

Tsenin, 49, has extensive legal credentials and courtroom experience. A neighborhood lawyer in S.F. for 22 years, Tsenin has also served as a Municipal Court judge pro tem for 10 years. She has been endorsed by Roberta Achtenberg and the Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Club, among others. Her resume shows a roster of volunteer work as well, from serving as counsel to California NOW (the National Organization for Women) and as director of the AIDS Emergency Fund to founding the Marin Abused Women's Services.

By contrast, the politically well-wired Rothschild's legal experience is much more amorphous. The 37-year-old deputy city attorney -- and former chair of the city's Democratic Central Committee -- lists 10 years of civil litigation on his resume. But he has never conducted a jury trial. (Rothschild counters by listing other San Francisco judges who also were not trial lawyers.) Among his other qualifications, he lists "attorney for fair housing" at HUD -- though he admits he held the job for only one month. His endorsements include Mayor Willie Brown and the Alice B. Toklas Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club, where he was president in 1993 and 1994.

The winner of this race will succeed Judge Lillian Sing, who left the Muni bench for a Superior Court judgeship earlier this year. Sing's successor will rule on civil matters with $25,000 or less at stake, including evictions and all parking and traffic violations. Municipal Court judges also preside over preliminary hearings for cases ranging from fraud to murder. If plans to consolidate the Municipal and Superior courts ever go through, this Municipal Court seat would be even more important. Under a merged judicial system, Muni Court judges could preside over Superior Court cases, and would rule on larger civil and criminal cases ranging from probate and family law to the death penalty.

The Board of Education
Few issues evoke as much passion as those involving children. In the case of public schools, large sums of money and sizable numbers of jobs help raise the stakes. With 64,000 pupils, a budget of $530 million, and a payroll of 4,138, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has all the ingredients for political controversy. And the seven-member Board of Education controls all three elements.

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