Right celebrates San Francisco's ouster of mayor But many don't see liberal reversal

December 22, 1991|By Jane Meredith Adams | Jane Meredith Adams,Special to the Sun

SAN FRANCISCO -- In this city where liberal politics are as much a part of life as the fog rolling in, conservatives celebrated last week when a former police chief was elected mayor, defeating an incumbent backed by the city's liberal power structure.

"It opens people's eyes," said state Sen. Quentin Kopp, a conservative who supported Mayor-elect Frank Jordan. He equated Mr. Jordan's victory over incumbent Mayor Art Agnos to the demise of the city's liberal machine and predicted that more moderates and conservatives would run for office.

Others were not so quick to assume a shift to the right. They pointed out that the approval rating for Mr. Agnos had sunk to 30 percent before the election.

"This is not a liberal-conservative shift," said Michael Terris, a media consultant for the Jordan campaign. "I think this is an anti-Art Agnos vote and to some extent an anti-incumbent vote."

While the tenor of the Jordan administration remains unknown, at the very least his election rattled perceptions about this city. Politics hitherto has been epitomized by the staunchly liberal stands of the 11-member Board of Supervisors.

"We had to overcome the notion that no police chief could get elected in a liberal city like San Francisco," said Clint Reilly, a Jordan campaign consultant.

Mr. Jordan, a moderate who is the son of Irish immigrant parents, drew his base of support from the well-groomed neighborhoods in the western part of the city, home to Irish-American and Asian-American families. Conservatives in those neighborhoods rallied around him.

"San Francisco is so fed up with all of our liberal ideas," said a white-haired Jordan supporter. "We needed a change. It's turned from a beautiful city into a slum."

The key to Mr. Jordan's 52 percent-48 percent victory, a difference of 6,400 votes, came in his ability to win votes in the crucial middle ideological range.

"He was able to cross over and get voters of moderate political ideology and Asians and even yuppie homeowner-types," said David Binder, an independent pollster.

In a bitter campaign, Mr. Agnos tried to paint Mr. Jordan as a conservative who would restrict opportunity for blacks, Latinos and gays. But Mr. Jordan, who has the quiet demeanor of a parish priest, was able to deflect the charges. In his first news conference as mayor-elect, he sought to reassure those constituents by promising to reach out to all residents, "regardless of culture or life style."

At one point in the campaign, Mr. Agnos disparagingly called Mr. Jordan "a nice guy," implying that he did not have the toughness for the job. That remark was turned around by Jordan supporters to suggest that their candidate would be more reasonable than Mr. Agnos, who is known for his strident personality.

"There's nothing wrong with being a nice guy," Mr. Jordan said in an interview after the election. "I would call it a quiet strength."

Mr. Jordan, 56, joined the police department in 1957. He was appointed chief by Dianne Feinstein, who preceded Mr. Agnos as mayor and has been touted as a moderate role model for the Jordan administration.

As he prepares to take office Jan. 8, Mr. Jordan maintains he is not as conservative, politically or socially, as has been perceived. He admits to riding on the back of a red motor scooter piloted by his girlfriend, Wendy Paskin, a 37-year-old vice president at Wells Fargo Bank.

Ms. Paskin also has been responsible for sprucing up his wardrobe.

After 33 years in a police uniform, Mr. Jordan said, "I've started getting into 20th-century clothes."

Perhaps most significantly in this city with a reputation for hipness, on a dare from a radio host, Mr. Jordan was able to name three of the five Rolling Stones rock group.

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