After nine months as acting elections chief, Tammy Haygood was finally fired April 23. She'll be best remembered for overseeing two elections racked with irregularities (including hundreds of lost ballots and having the tops of ballot boxes spotted floating in the bay), exceeding her department's budget by more than $5.6 million, and paying public relations consultants as much as $225 an hour to polish her image.
Mayor Willie Brown, however, insisted that Haygood's firing was motivated by racism.
“If they had done something like this in the South, the Justice Department would have stepped in,” Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle. (Haygood referred to her ousting as an “electronic lynching.”)
The four elections commissioners who voted to fire Haygood are not the first racists the mayor has called out during his time in office. In fact, a surprising number of Brown's detractors and political opponents are racists, according to the mayor.
What follows is a far-from-complete list of some of the “racists” Brown and his supporters have uncovered since his 1995 campaign. Some we knew about all along; others we never would have guessed without the mayor's guidance.
Supervisor Tom Ammiano: Ammiano opposed Brown's appointment of Planning Commissioner William Fay, an Asian-American. Said Fay: “He's against Willie Brown, who is African-American, he's against [Planning Director] Gerald Green, who is African-American. He has a history of this type of racial bias.”
Supervisor Matt Gonzalez: Gonzalez wanted to take over the malfunctioning Housing Authority. As a result, according to one member of an SFHA support group led by Brown ally Sulu Palega, Gonzalez had “brought racism to a high point.”
Clarence Thomas: Brown called the conservative Supreme Court judge a “shill for racism.”
The Biotic Baking Brigade: After this trio hit the mayor in the face with a pie to make a statement about homelessness, a parade of Brown supporters — including Supervisor Amos Brown and the Revs. Arnold Thompson and Cecil Williams — decried the pieing as a racist act. “As African-Americans we have suffered humiliation enough, and here we are with a black mayor being humiliated again,” said Williams.
Radio host Bernie Ward: The liberal talk show host fielded some racist calls and didn't cut them off quickly enough. Even after Ward apologized, Brown said “[Ward] allowed a first-class vicious racist to use racial terms to vilify me.”
People who wonder about the mayor's ethics: “It's my lifestyle,” Brown told SF Weekly in 1995 when asked why people think he's unethical. “I'm black and flashy. You can't do that in this system. It's unacceptable.”
The San Francisco Chronicle: The paper ran a series focusing on the Brown administration's well-documented patronage policies. Amos Brown, a mayoral appointee to the Board of Supervisors, led protesters in choruses of “We Shall Overcome” and “We Shall Not Be Moved,” changing the lyrics of the latter to “The Chronicle is our enemy/ It shall be removed.”
Frank Jordan's mayoral campaign: Jordan's people distributed a 24-page leaflet of newspaper clippings on Brown titled “Mistrust,” which Brown said was “code for ex-shoeshine boy.”
The FBI: When the agency began investigating Brown ally Charlie Walker during an election year, Walker charged that it was a racist ploy to embarrass Brown. “Once white people [elected Brown, they] put him in a white position, and he's supposed to totally ignore his black friends and be like Amos and Andy,” Walker told the Examiner. “And the minute he doesn't, you go on a rampage, 'We got to find out something on that n–!'”
Brown ally Charlie Walker: Brown's take on Walker's defense of him: “He was racist and bombastic.”
Republican strategist Ed Rollins: During a 1995 roast of Brown, Rollins used the term “hymie.” “Rollins' whole presentation was in pretty bad taste. It was laced with racist overtones,'' Brown said.
David Duke: The former KKK-er got involved in the anti-affirmative action fight of 1996. Brown called him out as an “honest racist.”
The National Basketball Association: After Golden State Warriors guard Latrell Sprewell was suspended for attempting to choke his coach, Brown suggested the NAACP should investigate, because the suspension was racist. “His boss may have needed choking,” Brown said. “It may have been justified.”
The Asian Law Caucus: The advocacy group tried to help Asians facing harassment in public housing. Brown said: “When you file a lawsuit and do it for one class of people, I think you're practicing racism in the worst way.”
Political cartoonists: In a Chronicle interview, Brown press secretary P.J. Johnston bemoaned how the mayor is occasionally drawn with caricatured features by cartoonists.
The Wall Street Journal: Appearing on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect television show, the mayor took issue with the paper's coverage of Asian campaign donors in 1996, calling it “racist.”
Term limits: After a voter-approved measure forced him out of the Assembly speakership after 15 years, Brown said of its backers: “It was, frankly, easier for them because of the residual racism that exists in this society.”
And, of course, SF Weekly, which in 1998 featured a cover image of two sworn enemies of Brown holding his head on a platter. This earned vigorous cries of racism from Brown cronies Warren Hinckle and Joe O'Donoghue. “The issue,” Hinckle said, “is whether the cloak of press freedom was used for a racist cover.”