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Chung insists, though, that she is running independently of Denunzio. She plans to spend up to the $75,000 limit allowed for the general election, plus soft money if needed. She might even quit her day job if elected supervisor. In fact, she hopes one day to represent San Francisco in the California state Assembly.
In order to win, Chung must appeal to an electorate that is majority liberal Democrat. Chung's campaign literature is blandly noncontroversial and nonpartisan. Her core political views -- which are not reflected in her campaign literature -- echo a Reagan-era conservatism that normally would not fly in San Francisco. But she is blending in a dose of San Francisco liberalism to make herself more palatable.
Chung supports Bush; says she is pro-choice regarding the right to abortion; and says she opposed the statewide Knight Initiative's gender restriction on marriage as divisive. In the last mayoral election she volunteered for Clint Reilly's campaign, and then voted for Brown in the runoff election. She does not like liberals, and Chung has heard, she says, that Board of Supervisors President Tom Ammiano and District Attorney Terence Hallinan are Marxists. But being a communist does not disqualify someone from holding public office in America, Chung is quick to add.
Whether or not her primary place of residence is San Francisco, Chung did grow up in the city. She is the youngest of five sisters. Her father died when she was a child. Her mother supported the close-knit family as a seamstress; and all the girls helped out with household chores and the sewing. "We were child laborers," says Chung. "When I was about 20," she continues, "I had a natural urge to break out of the household. I plunged into beauty pageantry; and when I was 22, I won the national crown for Miss Chinatown USA."
Chung graduated from San Francisco State University. But it is beauty pageantry that has inspired Chung's life, she says. For 15 years she has produced a prominent pageant called Miss Asian America. Chung says that "competing in beauty contests and running for political office require similar speaking skills, thinking about current issues, thinking about image, spin, and public relations." She remarks that candidates, like beauty queens, must "project an image of trust and sincerity." For instance, she says, "We know we can't trust him, but Mayor Brown is an expert on spin and deal-making and, so, for the people he works with he is trustworthy."
Despite having voted for Brown, Chung is not completely happy with his administration. She claims that Brown rules the city by appointing people who are not independent of him to powerful positions. In a new twist to an old problem, Chung promises to "fix Muni by making sure that the newly appointed transit agency is not a rubber stamp for Willie Brown." In her campaign literature, she promises to fight cuts in the public health system, particularly at General Hospital. She will protect the tourist industry by creating more parking in Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf.
Some of her unpublished positions, however, are less likely to appeal to mainstream San Francisco voters. In a recent interview, Chung said over and over that she is "tough on crime." Chung firmly supports the death penalty and the Three Strikes law. She believes youths should be tried as adults because "they are more criminally sophisticated than they used to be, like the hackers." She insists, "If we are tough, people will pull themselves up by their bootstraps."
Chung supported Proposition E, the recently defeated local ballot initiative to replace General Assistance cash payments with housing vouchers. Chung asserts that 70 percent of San Francisco's homeless people are drug abusers. Chung says that she herself has never used drugs, except one: alcohol.
Chung considers herself to be a "fiscal conservative." She repeatedly stresses that "government should not subsidize poor people who need a hand up, not a handout."
Despite her avowed fiscal conservatism, however, Chung could not say if the budget of the City and County of San Francisco is measured in millions or billions of dollars. Nor did she know the approximate size of the city's debt. Chung had no concrete suggestions as to how to make City Hall more fiscally conservative; but she did say that "the budget should not be cut because San Francisco might need the money in an economic downturn." She also promised to do some "homework" on the budget.
Chung, who pays her property taxes in San Jose, does not fit the conventional mold from which San Francisco's supervisors are normally pressed. She says she is a Christian. She does not read the Bible, but she does study Norman Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking for spiritual guidance. And she is certainly not a feminist, she says, because "feminism carries a connotation of being anti-man." She opines that being a housewife in today's world is both a luxury and a privilege.