Interview with Tom Ammiano

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

JPE: Do you feel any sense of Harvey with you when you are stumping; you said Harvey would love this?

TA: Oh yeah, from time to time, particularly if you're coming before certain clubs and you remember him and feel he is there. As a matter of fact, like being in a room very similar to this one. I remember 20 some years ago he was here in a room like this in a Chinatown restaurant, and his lover at the time had just committed suicide, and it was only a few months after the election. And I remember catching his eye across the room and saying, 'I'm so sorry Harvey about David,' and his face reflected the impact of the death -- he had discovered the body so it was very hard for him -- and then immediately someone came up and shook his hand wanting to talk to about some issue, so he had to transfer, boom! Just like that. And I saw him do all that, so I knew he felt every bit of that death and then as a politician you know, boom, he had to make the instant transition to shaking the person's hand and talking about the issue. I witnessed that.

JPE: How about you? Do you feel Tim [Curbo; deceased partner of 20 years], do you think about him?

TA: Oh a lot. Yeah, in fact last night I had a very impactful dream about him, and the physicality was great; I felt he was present even after I woke up. And there had been a lot of dreams about Tim and this and that, but this one was particularly powerful.

JPE: When you arrived at the first debate, and it was a very circusy atmosphere, I noticed you were able to get into that locker room with the green lockers and cleats...

TA: Yeah, and that overpowering smell...

JPE: But you managed to get a few moments alone. What did you think about as you sat there?

TA: I was just kind of going over in my mind my opening remarks; it was kind of like preparing for a comedy routine before you go on. If you have certain sequences, there's also composure, getting a glass of water, those kind of preparations. I mean it was really minimal; it was only a few minutes -- I don't like a lot of time -- and then I was propelled right into it.

JPE: Some of the people on your campaign have said you were nervous that first night, but hit your stride on the second debate -- is that a fair analysis?

TA: Well I think there was some nervousness both times. It's just like with comedy; it's how you handle it. You like things to go smoothly, you want to get there on time, you want to know that people who are driving you know where they're going. Overwhelmingly nervous to where it detracted? No. the novelty of the debate and the uncharted waters, particularly up against the mayor -- that was on my mind, but I felt pretty collected, even though I wasn't happy with some of the things that happened.

JPE: Do you tend to like to be alone, or do you like to surround yourself with people when it comes to making key decisions and when in moments of crisis?

TA: First, a lot of input and then alone. I've always been that way. The first time I was elected to the school board in 1990, KPOO was the only radio station that actually gave the result; this was pre-internet, so your choice was to be at the department of elections, which I didn't like, or be at home and try to get people to phone you the information. But I had little KPOO on, and they pronounced my name Tom Amminanopon, or something like that, and I kicked Tim out and my friend Ira, and I said, 'No, I'm going to be here alone and I want to get the first results on my own.' It's not quite as graphic now; I can have people around.

JPE: On Dec. 14?

TA: Well I'm sure I'll be initially with a close group. I'll be there wherever it's going to be, but for initial returns I'll be with a small group -- but I'll be around and visible.

JPE: In the last few weeks, what have been some of the higher and lower points of the campaign?

TA: Actually participating in the debates and surviving both of them; that was very good high point. And of course, the announcement of the 44,000 write-in votes -- that was really good. And that night, going to Josie's. But some of the lower points: how the mainstream press has, shall we say, pushed the veneer of homophobia, and seeing how the editorial cartoons were going. You know, that kind of thing with the ridicule and everything. I thought, 'Oh man, I'm going to be in for it.' And then sometime, just the flurry and intensity of the schedule. I remember last Friday night, around 5:30, I looked at what not only what Friday was going to bring -- and I was tired -- but what Saturday and Sunday were going to bring. And I thought, 'Oh no, I'm not going to have time to see my friend, and my daughter's coming back into town,' and I bummed myself about that. And I said, 'You know what, I'm not going to do this one thing -- going to Oakland -- because it's Friday night and it's my decision.' And that made me feel pretty good, so then I had a time to renew a little bit -- it was only a half hour -- but that was helpful. I have to internalize this is what it's going to be like, schedule-wise, and the sacrifices have already happened. And some of these sacrifices are not big; but these are just personal sacrifices. I had tickets to the symphony, I like the symphony, but I'm not going to go. But you get over it. And the other thing, when there are indications that you could win this from time to time, you think, 'Jeez, if I win, then things are really different.' I know that sounds like, 'Well, hello -- no kidding!' But the realization is one thing, and the internalizing of it is another.

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