Debra J. Saunders

I talked with a few undecided voters before the debate, and some clearly were sidetracked. "Care not Cash" passed a year ago, one man said, but it didn't improve city streets (because the supervisors stonewalled it). Some voters were turned off when Mayor Willie Brown -- a Newsom backer -- said that Gonzalez has "some kind of defect in his head that makes him believe African Americans aren't qualified." (But that rant reflects reflect poorly on Brown, not Newsom.) Former Supervisor Angela Alioto's endorsement of Newsom -- with her statement that Newsom discussed making her something like a "vice mayor" -- hurt Newsom.

OK, so what is more embarrassing: Da Mayor's big mouth or the gantlet of crude panhandlers lining Market Street? What is more damaging to the city's reputation: Newsom cozying up to Alioto or citizens holding their noses to avoid the stench as they walk downtown?

Others say Newsom's too slick, too tailored, too scripted -- his persona violates the city's bohemian conceits.

I wonder. Is the Special City's reverence for nonconformity so strong that voters are willing to say that if someone defecates on their doorstep that's OK because the homeless should have choices while taxpayers have none?

Debra J. Saunders

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