Watching City Hall #231, NOVEMBER 14, 2003
Courting the undecided vote -
a war story
Last Tuesdays mayoral election between 9 candidates produced a virtual dead heat between the two youngest male aspirants. Say, huh?? Yeah, I know, you read thatGavin Newsom doubled the vote of his closest competitor, Matt Gonzalez. Thats true and if those numbers had stood up, it would have been a real hill for the young Eagle scout to climb. Lucky for Matt, Newsoms support was so thin, that he lost 6 percent of it within minutes of the time they pulled the lever. Yeah, Elections Vendor, ES@Ss machines had 42% support for Newsom inside the voting booth but pollsters from Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin @ associates found that a full 6% of the people they recorded as voting for Gavin, changed their minds between the voting machine and the parking lot. Almost 30% of the people who had just voted were undecided about who theyd vote for if it came down to a race between Matt and Gavin. Thats a lot of undecided. Those who made a second choice chose Newsom over Matt by one single point! Now thats odd. I pored over the numbers deep into the night, then tossed on my cabretta, took a marine corps shower and and walked the 2 miles to the penthouse apartment my friend, Eileen Left had somehow come to possess. Its a fabulous place. The room she was in must be 10,000 square feet and surrounded by arched windows all the way around. Almost all of the space under the windows was taken up by a continuous drafting table. The place had obviously belonged to an architect or engineer of some kind. Eileen was looking over satellite photos of the Hetch-Hetchy water system and making marks and notations as she went. It was 5 oclock in the morning and she was in a bulky, pink terrry cloth housecoat and wearing what looked like blue fur earmuffs. I stopped at a large table strewn with graphs, poured a cup of the bitter french roast coffee we both prefer and stirred in some cream from a small pitcher. I called out to her:
h. What the hell are you doing?
Eileen: (Glances around, then pulls aside one earmuff of what turns out to be a set of headphones.) Im trying to figure out where 5 billion dollars goes. (presses the knuckles of her closed fist against her lips softly as she stands back to ponder the map) Did you know that water weighs 8.3 pounds a gallon and that 90% of the problem in moving it is about overcoming viscus drag?
h. If I knew it, Id forgotten it. So, how do you improve flow? (I sipped the coffee which was smooth and immediately warmed my throat) Thats great coffee. Who cares how fast water flows?
Eileen: Mostly insurance companies and fire departments and water districts. (she keeps working) You care like hell if the hillside next to your house is on fire. And, you speed the flow by adding polymers. They cut the drag more than in half but they have a drawback that Im working on.
h. Whats that?
Eileen: So far, most of the mixtures have been poison, so you cant put it in any potable water supply. Im convinced a new batch I cooked up at Berkeley last month will solve the problem.
h.: (shaking my head) You are amazing. And, where did you get all these maps and all the data?
Eileen: (slides the headphones from her ears to around her neck and pours coffee - she prefers it black) Ive been seeing an engineer from the PUC. (eyes me as she goes to the stereo and punches the mute button - the room is instantly filled with the Bachs Ode on G) How do you like the coffee?
h.: (looking down at the cup and shrugging) Theres something different, but its good.
Eileen: Great. Its made with my new polymer water.
h.: (I dont think shed hurt me on purpose, but I sniff the coffee - it smells fine) You tested this yourself, I trust?
Eileen: (nods) Oh yeah. Been drinking it and bathing in it for a couple of weeks now. Ive got the hot tub on the deck filled with it. Its like swishing around in warm silk. You wanna soak?
h.: (hmmmm bathe with Eileen? it would only frustrate me - I shook my head, speechless as I followed her out on the deck where she tossed her headphones to a canvas chair and disrobed to reveal a body for the history books - she sprinkled a splash of what looked like plain bath salts into the huge tub and crawled in - her long auburn hair and other parts of her floated) I want to talk about the Fairbank exit poll.
Eileen: (smiling) I told youuu.
h.: Told me what?
Eileen: That theyd cheat.
h.: They cheated!?
Eileen: (laughs as she glides to the far edge of the tub where she takes a prepared joint from a silver tray and lights it takes long draw) I told you a month ago that Gavin would get 32% of an honest vote and that Matt would be around 28%. Well, the exit poll people had it at 31% to 30%. Joe Taggard (ES@S rep) laughed when he told Matt last week that: the cards are in town and ready to go he was mocking him. (replaces joint in tray and lights a cigarette - not a health nut) You wanna know how the system works?
h.: Indeed. I tried to get Matt and Tony to have a public hearing on how these machines count votes and how to validate the machines accuracy.
Eileen: You may be late for that, but you sure as hell better have several separate exit polls set up for the runoff. The fix is simple if you want to cheat. The crook stands and watches as the memory packs from the precincts are fed into the main units downtown. That machine starts straight. Unless theres a phone cord into any of the units, in which case youre gonna get a remote control fixed election. Either remote, or manual its easy. If you dont like the count, you simple choose a card from a stack you have in your pocket and feed it into the machine and voila! Now, when the next memory pack is fed into it, every other vote for Gonzalez gets counted for Newsom. Once your count is locked up, the program you added will erase itself. Its kind of snazzy.
h.: Thats not what I wanted to hear. So, you sound like youre saying we cant win.
Eileen: (snubs out her cigarette and relights the joint) Of course you can win! Leave that up to me. Your part is to go after the undecided voters. Tell everyone to save the stubs from their ballots in case of a recount. Exit polls and ballot stubs, thats all it takes. Just make sure your dip wad elections director doesnt go out and buy another system from a vendor who considers their codes to be proprietary. You gotta have paper ballots and you gotta have an open source code.
h.: Gimme a hit; that smells good. (takes long pull, coughs loudly and continues) Tell me how to go after the undecideds.
Eileen: I told you to relax. This election is in the bag.. Key thing here is that of the 29% undecided, 95% of them knew about Gavin Newsom. And, they didnt vote for him. Downtown has spent 3 million dollars putting Gavins picture on everything but toilet paper and hes better known than any local politician except Willie Brown. Gonzalez has only been a major player for 3 years. Gavin has been societys darling for his entire life. He is not a likeable character.
h.: So, give me the numbers on November 9th.
Eileen: A landslide for Gonzalez, obviously. Id put it at something like 63% Gonzo to 33% Newsom with 4% over the shoulder and into the Bay for good luck.. Newsoms handlers have totally saturated the local market with him and this is the wrong population to spoon feed. They see right past the bull shit image. They see right past the negative ads. I mean, shit man, whose idea was it to try and portray Newsom as the most mature? Did you catch what John Wildermuth of the Chronicle said about Newsom? Newsom has dared to be dull. For Gods sake, hes a programmed robot who can be nothing BUT dull. Hes a friggin spoiled brat. How the hell do you spin it when he turns his back on the Board? I mean this literally. If things arent going his way, he stands up and turns his back to them while the other 10 members conduct the Citys business. Hell, he stood up the other day (according to Matier & Ross) stood up and turned his back on Joe ODonoghue, Knight Templar of the Residential Builders. Turning your back on Joe as an insult is like jabbing a feeding grizzly bear with a hat pin. He did the same routine with Sister Bernie Galvin last year in a debate at the Commonwealth Club. He jumped (verbally) all up and down and all over the non-violent body of an old nun. Think about that. She was defending the poor against his attempt to take away the few nickels they get from welfare and he went after HER!
h.: OK, youre never wrong. So far tell me about the D..s race.
Eileen: Ohhhh, boy. Terence is up to his ass in alligators but you have to remember that this is a guy who once fought Cassius Clay. Honestly, it depends upon how closely he runs with Matt. Probably some of Gonzos people will want him to keep a distance from Terence but that would be nuts. Better to have the Mayor and the D.A. and the police chief on the same side. Toss it at the voters that way. Do they want the same old routine with Willies appointees pulling the strings? You know that Willie appointed both Gavin and Kamala to 3 different positions each before they ran for public office? Shit, if they dont owe him, no one does. And, plenty of people owe Willie. But, Im avoiding your question Terence in another cliff-hanger. Hell, no hill for a stepper, Terences entire life has been a cliff-hanger. I make it Hallinan 52% to 48% Harris.
h.: You never did tell me how to get the undecideds.
Eileen: (Shes raised herself from the tub, turning her neck from side to side to relax the muscles and if a lightning bolt hit me now, Id die happy.) Take notes, Willie Brown wrote the book, so give him credit. There are 3 directions to sway the undecided voter.
1. Lie - Remember the L.M. Boyd axiom: A lie is withholding all or part of the truth from someone who has a right to know it. Soooo, Newsom gets the Chronicle to say that there was a poll that was favorable to Gonzalez, but they dont release the numbers. Instead, they give you charts of numbers that mean nothing to the educated, but seem to make Gavin look inevitable. Remember, a half-truth is a lie. Virtually every media outlet will be nothing but a pack of lies.
2. Cheat - Every election that has ever been held was fixed. I mean, for the Pope and for your class treasurer in 8th grade and the U.S. president and bond issues and public power. All of them are fixed one way or another. The only question is whether the fix is massive. Thats the danger of the new voting machines. The answer will come on December 9th when we correlate the exit polls.
3. Steal - This is about people and combines tactics 1 & 2. You bribe, blackmail, promise, threaten your opponents supporters and potential supporters. You promise the unions youll support their workers rights, while you are eliminating their jobs daily with your Board votes (see laundry workers). This can be pretty handed and Newsoms people are masters at the game.
Thats enough. Ive got a breakfast with the guy from Newsoms campaign and Im scheduled for a massage and a high colonic from Steve Coleman at noon. You go along and do your-sleep-on-the-floor thing. Incidentally, I heard you were talking to Walter Wong. You treat him right cause hes good people. Lots of lazy people are jealous of him. Dont let them poison you. Hes got a hell of a story to tell.
h.: Im looking forward to dealing with Walter. (Eileen is out of the hot tub now and pads noiselessly, leaving wet tracks accross the deep shag carpet. I watch her, then exit while shaking my head and thinking: What would Jesus do?.
OK, now to find an empty phone jack to download this thing into.
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