Interview with Tom Ammiano

The full transcript of SF Weekly's interview with man who would be mayor

JPE: Robert said the best thing besides the phones is the Popeye's across the street

TA: Right. We'll have to talk to them about their health habits.

JPE: Six months ago, did you really want to be mayor?

TA: I wanted to be mayor, but not in the way that it looked like the scenario would work out -- where there would be a nasty campaign and millions of dollars. Intuitively, I felt that it could happen, but I wasn't really clear about how other than the traditional way. So I've never really regretted not doing the filing in August. I was absolutely right, particularly for me. But I'm very happy that it manifested itself in such a way in those two months that a write-in became very appropriate.

JPE: The part about just wanting to be mayor; had it ever been a burning passion? You have your famous reluctant candidate Colin Powell, who said you need to have it but he didn't have it -- the fire in the belly. Do you have the fire in the belly?

TA: I have the fire in the belly now, and I had the embers then. A lot of time for the candidate, it has to be on your terms, too. You have to sort out who you are, your personal life, your personal goals, the idea of being mayor, particularly having to work under Brown and his six appointees. You know I felt that people were anticipating a breaking out of that mold; I knew that they wanted it then, but I was trying to think what would work for me. Certainly the tenacity of the Run Tom Run had an effect, because in the beginning it was interesting, it was flattering, and it gave me fuel for some of the battles we were doing. At least people were recognizing. But then the longevity of it in political terms, you know a few months, really started to penetrate my thinking about 'Gee, maybe that's something I could do, but, well I could never be mayor right now because of the money. Hmmm, being mayor is great, but what about the opposition? You know, I'll never get those endorsements. What about this and that?' There was starting to be a counter balance because of how long the Run Tom Run thing went on. The disappointment at me not running was hard to take, but I understood that I had done the right thing, even with that disappointment. And now I think I've fulfilled both things. I've fulfilled the expectation of those people who wanted me to run, and I fulfilled the kind of campaign that works for me So that's pretty good. As for the outcome on Dec. 14: I'd obviously like to be number one. If I'm not, there will be some sadness and disappointment, but we also feel that what we've done has been great and this is now the foundation for district elections which is really important. And the thing is, I'm not a candidate who came out of nowhere. I'm still president of the board, and I'm still high profile. I'm still going to work on those issues, and will be in a position to really help candidates that I like in the district elections.

JPE: What is the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning?

TA: Mostly reminding myself where I'm at [laughs], not only physically, but in terms of the campaign. And then thinking, I wonder if I'll have any time today to spend with a friend or how late I'm going to go, but mostly schedule, what lies ahead, and how do I brace for it.

JPE: How about before you go to bed at night?

TA: Usually I try to put the campaign out of my mind, and try to think of things that give me peace of mind, which are very personal so I'm not going to tell you. But they involve... [laughs]. I'm usually so tired, so that's good.

JPE: This is the anniversary month of Harvey' Milk's death. Do you think of him?

TA: Well sure. A lot of times because November has that cache for me because my lover died November 3, so we had the fifth year, and then of course when you do the altar we do this tribute and Harvey's picture is always there. And then of course because of the connection to Harvey and some similarities, he gets brought up a lot. And also there's a movie on Showtime that's going to premier on Nov. 28 called Execution of Justice; I'm in it as myself but it's a dramatization of the murders ...so it's all on the front burner that way.

JPE: How do you feel about that comparison to him, or the carrying of the torch?

TA: Well I like that, and I think there's something very obvious about that. And at the same time we are, and were, different. But a lot of the people who are still around, who worked closely to Harvey, keep remarking 'Harvey would love this' and draw that comparison in their comments. Which I believe, because I knew him when he was starting and the gay establishment was against him, and he was made fun of, and I knew all that underdog stuff about him -- and he did prevail, even with his shortcomings. So I can see why they see him in me. The murders were a terrible interruption of what might have happened, and even though it's been 21 years, it's been internalized and it's easy to invoke with this candidacy that feeling of incompleteness, that feeling of could-have-been. I think it's wakened up those feelings and the whole issue of hope, and if in fact the victory is not there in terms of the election, I don't think it's saying to people that you got your hopes up again and you were dashed. It was that the hopes were encouraged by this candidacy and there may not have been a win, but wow wasn't it a great ride, and now there is somebody to continue this since I'm still going to be around.

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