San Francisco's only Green Party supervisor expressed reservations Friday morning about Ralph Nader's campaign for president.
Speaking to a group of about 20 students, journalists and university officials in town for the Hearst National Writing Championship, Boards of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez said that it's time for other candidates beside the 70-year-old consumer advocate to challenge the two parties.
"I'm not that enthusiastic about his campaign primarily because I think we've already been there a couple of times," he said, referring to Nader's bids as the Green candidate in 1996 and 2000./ "I would like to see somebody else run."
Gonzalez said he would favor activist and former California gubernatorial candidate Peter Camejo, though he added that he might change his mind if Nader , now running as an independent, starts pushing more policies Gonzalez supports.
One of those policies is instant-runoff voting, also known as rank-choice voting. In an instant-runoff system, voters rank their choices of candidates instead of picking just one. The two candidates with the most first-place votes advance, and voters who picked anyone else have their votes assigned to whichever of the two remaining candidates they ranked highest.
This system would allow third-party candidates to run without "spoiling" elections for the major-party candidates they favor, Gonzalez said. He blasted Democrats for only blaming Nader for their loss in the 2000 election and not trying to change the system.
"The Democratic Party has spent three years not working for this reform," he said.
San Francisco voters passed a measure in 2002 that will take effect this year, mandating instant runoff voting in municipal elections.
Gonzalez also voiced support Friday for allowing non-citizens in San Francisco to vote in local elections, citing the centuries-old American value of "no taxation without representation."
The U.S. Constitution's silence on the matter should be taken as a sign that states and cities can make their own rules about whether non-citizens can vote, Gonzalez said. If a majority of supervisors support the idea, it would go before the voters of San Francisco for a final decision.
Allowing non-citizens voting was one of the key items on Gonzalez's platform when he ran for mayor last year. Though he lost a December runoff with Gavin Newsom, 53 percent to 47 percent, Gonzalez said his strong showing has given the more moderate Newsom the ability to take progressive stances without alienating some of his conservative supporters.
"He's really able to look at them and say, 'Would you have preferred Gonzalez?' None of them are going to answer 'yes' to that question," he said. "If my role in the mayor's race was simply giving him that cover, then I'm glad to do it."
The failed attempt at the mayor's office will be his last election for a while, Gonzalez said. He will not run for a second term and said he will return to his former profession as a lawyer before considering other political posts.
"The Green Party has always seen as one of its values the idea of the citizen politician," Gonzalez said, "somebody who's willing to be in and out of politics rather than seeing it as a professional career."