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San Francisco Mayor's Race Offers Drama, but No Suspense

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom faces no serious challenger in today's ballot despite his admission of having an affair with a married aide. A homeless taxi driver and a nudist are among his opponents.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom faces no serious challenger in today's ballot despite his admission of having an affair with a married aide. A homeless taxi driver and a nudist are among his opponents. (By Ben Margot -- Associated Press)

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By Karl Vick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 6, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 5 -- Less than a year after admitting to an affair with his appointments secretary, a woman married to the campaign manager who was also his close friend, Gavin Newsom stands before the electorate of San Francisco on Tuesday, all but certain of winning a second term as mayor.

Handsome, Democratic and routinely described as "hot," Newsom, 40, handled his indiscretion with Ruby Rippey-Tourk with savvy professionalism and impressive gloss -- qualities increasingly used to describe the city itself.

The question is how to describe the other candidates on the ballot.

There is a homeless taxi driver named Grasshopper who sleeps in his cab. There is an elderly advocate for nudism whose candidacy prompted the League of Women Voters to write a bylaw requiring clothes at their debates.

The man in the fuzzy purple top hat would be Michael Powers, proprietor of the Power Exchange sex club.

And, here, on the roof of the building he was fortunate enough to buy before real estate prices drove almost everyone he knows out of Baghdad by the Bay, stands Chicken John Rinaldi, in full rant.

"I'm running for mayor for the idea of San Francisco," Rinaldi said.

And as an idea, San Francisco is as irrepressible as Tuesday's ballot.

Grasshopper Alec Kaplan lived five years in a ladies' room at 16th and Mission. "Both toilets were broken. I put a half fridge on top of one of them," said Kaplan, who chose to stand for election after being run off by new neighbors with a pit bull.

"I'm very agitated, and that is a prime quality for a candidate," said H. Brown, another candidate, who blogs about politics from a single-room-occupancy hotel in the Tenderloin, a section of downtown where wide-eyed tourists can encounter junkies with needles actually dangling from their arms.

"I know what it takes to run this city, but I can't do it," Brown said. "I'm way too abrasive."

George Davis, 61, often ventures buck naked from his home on lower Nob Hill to spread the word that clothes should be optional in Golden Gate Park, "like the great urban parks of Europe." He signs correspondence "Naturally" and is frequently detained by police.


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