San Francisco County, CA November 2, 1999 Election
Smart Voter

Martin Eng called for meeting

By Martin Lee Eng

Candidate for Mayor; City of San Francisco

This information is provided by the candidate
Martin Eng calls all lesser candidates for strategy planning.
News Articles:

Minority mayoral candidates want equal treatment

By Gregory Lewis

Martin Eng, a Web master, real estate mogul and one of 14 candidates seeking to unseat Mayor Willie Brown, is pulling together the candidates whom most political pundits are giving a snowball's chance in Hades to win.

"We call ourselves hyenas," says Eng. "You know a pack of hyenas can kill a lion."

The analogy is rather obvious: Brown is the lion.

Candidates Eng, Cesar Ascarrunz, Lucrecia Bermudez, William Felzer, J.R. Manuel, David Martz, A.D. Wyatt Norton, Mark O'Hara, Jim Reid, Joel Ventresca and Max Woods are the hyenas.

While Clint Reilly and former Mayor Frank Jordan -- the candidates most likely to give Brown a run for his money -- aren't considered lions to the group, they, too, are prey in November's election.

"If the three of us are being hunted," quipped Jordan, "I guess it's a matter of which one of us can run the fastest."

Six of the hyenas met Friday in the lobby of the Holiday Inn in Chinatown to "try to see if we can work together to maximize each other's votes," said Eng. "It will make us more powerful on swinging the vote in the runoff."

Jordan and Reilly were not invited to the meeting, Eng said. And neither was the mayor.

It's the blooming of an odd coalition, but you know what they say about politics and strange bedfellows.

While the hyenas have an agreement not to attack each other, each candidate will run his or her campaign in hopes of being the one to unseat Brown on Nov. 2 or meeting him in a Dec. 14 runoff.

Eng said Ascarrunz, Martz, O'Hara and Woods expressed interest in a coalition, but could not make the Friday meeting.

Those who met -- Eng, Felzer, Manuel, Norton, Reid and Bermudez' campaign manager Carlos Petroni
-- want the same treatment in the campaign as Brown, Reilly and Jordan, the candidates they refer to as "The Big Three."

Letter seeking debate

They agreed to sign a letter urging Brown to debate and invite all challengers to participate. They will ask Jordan and Reilly to sign the letter, too. Brown has said he wouldn't debate.

"That's how Elihu Harris lost to Audie Bock," Petroni said, recalling former Oakland mayor's stunning defeat in a recent East Bay Assembly race after refusing to debate the relatively unknown Green Party candidate.

"(Brown) will look like Elihu Harris in the East Bay if he doesn't debate," Petroni added. "Reilly and Jordan are interested in debates. All the candidates should sign the debate challenge."

Tom Pier, spokesman for the Reilly campaign, said his camp would take a "wait and see" position on the debate demand until it receives the letter.

Jordan said the number of candidates would be unwieldy.

"All of the candidates deserve to be heard," Jordan added, "but it's a question of what's practical for the general audience."

Press coverage

Felzer said the candidates should also demand equal media coverage.

"The media have an obligation to present 14 candidates who had the guts to spend their money and their time to attempt to run this city," he said.

"We're running on minimum funds," Felzer said. "But we want to try to convey to people the tremendous talent in these 11 people."

As the moneyed candidates, Brown, Reilly and Jordan are expected to be the front-runners who will garner the most media attention. Brown and Reilly already have either raised or spent more than $1 million. Jordan, a late-comer to the race, has said he will not spend more than the voter-approved voluntary limit of $600,000.

Despite the common goal of unseating the mayor, the coalition's bonding effort wasn't always in sync.

Eng said he believed the coalition could force Brown into a runoff and that the group could endorse the mayor's opponent, whomever that might be.

Others didn't like the strategy.

Not playing for a runoff

"Let's whip him the first time around," said Manuel. "I'm not going to play for a runoff. Forty-four percent (of voters) are undecided and disgusted."

The hyena candidates also debated whether to hold candidate forums and how much time each of them should be given.

But with each discussion, one of the candidates always brought the discussion back to ground zero.

"Our common goal is to remove our current mayor," said Norton.

The mayor's response: "They will not succeed."

But Reid reminded the group that Brown wasn't the only candidate to be hunted."The other big two (Jordan and Reilly) would prefer to debate Willie and not us," he said.

Interviewed after the meeting, Pier said, "It takes a financially viable yet independent candidate to challenge Willie Brown from a position of strength. ... While we wish second-tier candidates all the best, they don't pose a viable challenge to Willie Brown."

Jordan, on the other hand, seemed to be astounded that a group of candidates had "formed a coalition of their own" to challenge the top three contenders.

"It's another first for San Francisco," he said. "I told you it's going to be a very entertaining election."

The Presidio Trust, set up by Congress to plot the future of the former military base, approved a Lucasfilm Ltd. plan to create a digital arts center on 23 acres of the Presidio, beating out a rival plan that would have seen the park become the new home of CNET Inc. (Nasdaq:CNET - news), an Internet media company.

The Presidio Trust board of directors said the plan to turn the Presidio's former Letterman Hospital site into a campus-like base for Lucas' entertainment empire would give San Francisco a "vital, dynamic center of cutting edge technology."

"The Digital Arts Center has the ability to enrich the Presidio with imagination and artistic focus, while embracing the research and education missions supported by the Trust," board chair Tony Rosenblatt said in a statement.

The competing plan, put together by developers Interland Corp. and Shorenstein Co., would have developed the Letterman site as a mix of housing units and office space, with the "anchor tenant" slot going to CNET, one of San Francisco's home-grown Internet success stories.

The U.S. military handed the Presidio -- made up of some 1,480 acres (592 hectares) next to the Golden Gate Bridge -- to the National Park Service in 1993. The Letterman development site, which is expected to bring in at least $5 million a year in rent, is part of a broader plan to help the Presidio earn the estimated $36 million needed.

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