A jubilant and confident Mayor Dianne Feinstein, who easily beat back a recall attempt with a resounding 80 percent of the vote, today said she expects a challenge to her bid for reelection in November, but added, "I think anyone who does is going to get creamed."
Tuesday night, at a campaign headquarters victory celebration, Feinstein told her supporters: "I asked you to take a lemon and make lemonade. Tonight it appears you've made champagne."
She defeated the recall attempt by 127,043 votes to 29,269, with another 5,000 absentee ballots expected to be counted by the weekend. About 45 percent of the city's eligible voters turned out.
The recall was led by a radical, pro-gun fringe group known as the White Panthers, renters' organizations and homosexual factions. The White Panthers were angered by her backing of a gun-control ordinance that the courts struck down.
So overwhelming was her victory that some political observers expressed doubt that she would be challenged in her bid for another four-year term. Some, caught up in her lopsided victory, went even further.
"Right now, she's got the springboard" for an entry into national politics, said Democratic state Assemblyman Art Agnos, a friend and protege of the late Rep. Phillip Burton (D-Calif.).
Agnos, referring to the 1984 Democratic National Convention here, said, "This election, and next year's convention, will make the nation take a look at her. The convention will showcase a very strong and very attractive politician for the nation to take a look at."
Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, concurred.
"I'm sure her opposition didn't intend for this to happen but it gives her a shot in the arm that in no way she ever could have done," he said. "Her opponents did the exact opposite of what they tried to do."
Feinstein said that her only ambition was to continue as the city's "hands on, seven days a week" mayor.
"I'm not a candidate for national office," she said.
There were a couple of negative notes, however.
Richard Hongisto, a supervisor who often is at odds with Feinstein, said the Board of Supervisors is "in danger of losing its independence" in the face of her new political strength.
One Feinstein supporter at the victory party was not certain he would support Feinstein's reelection.
He is Randy Stallings, president of the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, which is one of the most powerful activist homosexual organizations in the city and opposed the recall. Other homosexual groups had supported the recall, but gay community support for the "Dump Dianne" movement never really jelled, in spite of their anger at the mayor over her veto of a measure that would have given homosexual partners the equivalent of a marriage license.
Stallings said that Feinstein "definitely" emerged from the recall in a stronger position politically than she has ever been. He said he believed Tuesday's election "shows that although many people in this city don't agree with some of the moderate policies of the mayor, you don't recall someone just for being a moderate."
Stallings said he believed it "very possible" that Feinstein would be unopposed in November, but asked if he would again support her, he responded, "Reelection is not the same as a recall. San Francisco is a very volatile and dynamic city. Anything could happen."