35 Years Ago Today, Jello Biafra Came In Fourth In the S.F. Mayoral Race

Here's an Election Day tidbit you probably won't see on C-SPAN: Thanks to a post from his nearly 35-year-old record label Alternative Tentacles, we'd like to take this opportunity to remind you youngsters and Bay Area transplants that on this date in 1979, San Francisco residents turned out in relatively high numbers to try to vote Dead Kennedys frontman and general rabble-rouser Jello Biafra into office as mayor of our fair city.

[jump] Running with the campaign tagline (and registered Jell-O advertising slogan) “There's always room for Jello,” Biafra later said he entered the race after bandmate Bruce Slesinger (better known as Ted) told the singer, “Biafra, you have such a big mouth that you should run for mayor.”

At the time, Biafra's platform, which he wrote on a napkin while attending a Pere Ubu show, included planks such as:

  • Requiring businessmen to wear clown suits within city limits
  • Holding elections in which police would be voted into office by the neighborhoods they patrolled
  • Tearing down Pier 39
  • Legalizing squatting in vacant, tax-delinquent buildings
  • Paying the unemployed to panhandle in wealthy neighborhoods
  • Banning cars citywide, and
  • Erecting a statue of Dan White (who assassinated former Mayor George Moscone and Sup. Harvey Milk the previous year) and having the parks department sell eggs, stones, and tomatoes with which to pelt it.

Among Biafra's opponents in the race was current Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who had been serving out the rest of Moscone's term, and who, over the course of her (eventually successful) election campaign, courted publicity by sweeping the streets of the Tenderloin for a few hours. In response, Biafra staged a stunt in which he vacuumed leaves off Feinstein's lawn. 

Feinstein went on to win the race, of course, and served as mayor of San Francisco for the next 10 years. Biafra, who came in fourth with 3.79 percent of the vote, went on to champion First Amendment rights after being prosecuted for obscenity, ran for president as a Green Party candidate in 2000 with Mumia Abu-Jamal as his running mate, made a whole bunch more music, and generally continues to be a left-wing, loudmouthed civic treasure

Oh yeah, and today he says: Get out and vote! 

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