Victory Goes to the More Conservative of Two Liberal Candidates

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

( - A liberal Democrat defeats a liberal Democrat in San Francisco: Mayor Willie Brown won a second term Tuesday in a 2-to-1 victory over Tom Ammiano, the write-in candidate who hoped to become the first openly homosexual mayor of a major US city.

Brown claimed victory wearing a cap that read, "Still Da Mayor." He told supporters, "You just have no idea how relieved I am. I've been in political campaigns now for 35 years. I've been in every kind of campaign that you can think of. This one, however, absolutely takes the cake."

Brown faced an unexpectedly strong challenge from Ammiano, who materialized as a write-in candidate just weeks before the November election. With strong grass-roots support, Ammiano defeated two "established" candidates, finishing a strong second and forcing Brown into a runoff.

He distinguished himself from Brown by focusing his campaign on the flip side of San Francisco's economic boom.

Some say Ammiano made Brown look like a conservative, by advocating a tax on stock transactions, a plan to raise the city's minimum wage to $11 an hour, and accusing the mayor of catering to big business. Even San Francisco's Republican Party joined the Democratic machine in supporting Brown.

In the end, say political analysts, Ammiano's willingness to levy new taxes may have done him in at the polls. But some credit Ammiano with forcing Willie Brown to pay attention to issues that they say he's ignored.

Ammiano, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, told his supporters, "My heart swells. I am verklempt," the latter word a spoof of a Yiddish term made famous on the "Saturday Night Live" television show.

Ammiano called himself " a voice for the people who are traditionally shut out and we will be shut out no longer." Indeed, some of his followers - immigrants, renters, and young people among them - say Ammiano didn't just run a campaign - he launched what one supporter called a "pro-democracy movement."

"Every journey starts with a very small step," Ammiano told his supporters Tuesday night. And we have started on a very big journey," suggesting that, although he lost this election, his political career is not over yet.