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Naked Ambition 

S.F. taxpayers might be underwriting the nudist agenda of one wacky mayoral candidate

Wednesday, Aug 22 2007
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During one five-week stretch this summer, George Davis was arrested four times while campaigning to become mayor of San Francisco. In fact, the click of the cuffs became so commonplace that Davis penned a curt letter to Mayor Gavin Newsom requesting a reprieve. And ever since then, he hasn't been arrested once.

Of course, ever since then he's started wearing clothes while campaigning.

"If I don't do public nudity, I don't get arrested," says Davis.

The 60-year-old nudist, who is best known as the Naked Yoga Guy at Fisherman's Wharf, is one of 14 people — many of them eccentrics with monikers like Grasshopper and Chicken John — who recently qualified to appear on the November ballot. While none of them stand a nudist's chance at the North Pole of unseating Newsom, one or more may be eligible for tens of thousands of dollars in public funds under the city's new matching program. So, theoretically, taxpayers could help finance Davis' quest to transform Golden Gate Park into a nudist oasis.

In order to qualify for the initial matching money, a candidate must get at least 250 donors to each give him no more than $100 to reach the $25,000 threshold, which would earn a $50K payment from the city. And if Davis raises another $100,000, the city would give his campaign four times that in free public cash. (But if Naked Yoga Guy raises that much dough, I pledge to show up to work naked myself.)

Davis has said that if he gets public matching funds, he intends to promote his campaign with clothing-optional art performances and concerts. That may sound like a dubious use of public matching funds, but John St. Croix, the executive director of the city's Ethics Commission, says it would probably be a legitimate expense under the rules so long as the event promotes Davis' candidacy.

"In the ordinance it says [public matching funds] have to be used for campaign activities, but what are campaign activities? What you can spend on is very fuzzy," says Jim Ross, Newsom's campaign manager in 2003. "They're only limited by the imagination of the candidate. And one thing we've proven in San Francisco is there's no limit to the imaginations of people involved in politics."

Meanwhile, Davis is planning to host his first fundraiser later this month — and, yes, he will give a brief speech while in the nude. "But while I'm greeting people at the door and collecting the contributions, I'll be wearing clothes," he assures voters. "A lot of people are not used to dealing with a naked person when they're making business transactions."

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Bio:
Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more

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