Green Party candidate Terry Baum is angling to become San Francisco’s first out lesbian mayor. But in a city dominated by Democrats with no elected lesbian officeholders, the Castro resident and celebrated playwright is fully aware her bid is a long shot.
Yet, at the same time, Baum argues the obstacles she faces in capturing Room 200 at City Hall come November could also be advantageous. Voters, she argues, can help her not only make history as being the city’s first mayor from the LGBT community but also ending Democratic dominance at City Hall.
“There are a lot of problems in San Francisco and Democrats have been governing a long time. They have to take responsibility for those problems,” said Baum, 64, in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter. “We have a one-party city. It is not healthy for North Korea being a one-party state and it is not healthy for San Francisco.”
City Hall is awash in cronyism, contends Baum, who argues electing her mayor would bring that to an end.
“The best way to break that up and bring some fresh air in would be to elect a Green mayor,” she said. “People feel disconnected from politics because there aren’t enough voices.”
Due to ranked-choice voting, Baum argued she can’t be tarred and feathered as a spoiler candidate, as Green candidates have been blamed in the past.
“There is no issue of throwing away your vote,” said Baum. “People are free to vote for me as their number one and put the person they think has a better chance of winning as their number two.”
This is Baum’s second bid at public office; she ran for Congress againstNancy Pelosi (D) in 2004 as a write-in candidate (she lost a legal battle to be listed on the ballot). There were 6,132 write-in votes that year; the results do not disclose the names people wrote down.
Seeing a lack of true progressive candidates running to be mayor (before District 11 Supervisor John Avalos pulled papers), Baum decided to join the fray.
“Running for mayor and putting out my ideas, it is a good thing for San Francisco to have my voice in the race,” said Baum, a Los Angeles native who moved to town in 1975 and has lived in the Castro for 33 years.
She is the second LGBT candidate to attract attention in the race. But unlike gay former District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty , Baum is not seen as one of the top contenders in the race and has yet to be invited to any candidate debates.
She called Dufty, whom she did not vote for as supervisor, “great at the pothole level” but the wrong fit for mayor, as he is a product of the Democratic machine.
“If every single person who agreed with the Green Party over the Democratic Party voted for me, I would have a chance of winning,” insisted Baum.
While she is not a current or former politician and hasn’t raised “obscene amounts of money,” like the top nine mayoral candidates, Baum said that should not preclude her from taking part in candidate forums.
“I am the only Green. We should have a range of opinions in debates,” she said.
Support for artists like herself is one of her main campaign platforms. She is part of the Crackpot Crones, a sketch comedy and improv act with a “feminist and lesbian perspective.”
Her ideas include launching an annual mural festival to attract tourists and paying artists to repair murals that are damaged. Baum also would promote nightly arts walk events around the city and wants to see housing dedicated for artists.
The city’s arts program along the Mid-Market corridor doesn’t go far enough, said Baum. She would push to see blighted and vacant spaces be given over to artists and arts groups for performance spaces and studios.
“The interests of artists, I feel, are taken for granted by the institutions of San Francisco,” said Baum.
Having lived in Amsterdam for five years, Baum would like to foster a squatters movement similar to what she experienced in the European city. Vacant buildings would be used as housing until the property owners made use of them.
“As mayor I would support the nascent squatting movement that is now underground,” said Baum.
Another major issue is seeing a public transit system “so great you don’t ever need your car.” She proposes a Downtown Transit Assessment District that would help fund running Muni buses every 10 minutes from 6 a.m. to midnight and every 30 minutes during late-night hours.
She also would halt the Muni’s central subway “boondoggle” project, which will bore a tunnel from the ballpark to Chinatown.
“I would stop that if I could and use that money to fund buses,” she said.
Having raised less than $20,000 to date, Baum is focused on collecting enough signatures to defray the $5,000 filing fee to get on the ballot.
From noon to 3 p.m. this Saturday, July 23 she and her “Baum Squad” of supporters will be at the 24th Street Whole Foods in Noe Valley, and during the same time Sunday, July 24 she will be at the Stonestown Farmers Market.
For more info visit her campaign site at http://terryjoanbaum.com/.