Template:Infobox Politician Matthew Edward Gonzalez (born June 4, 1965) is an American politician, lawyer, and activist prominent in San Francisco politics. Gonzalez was a member and president of San Francisco County's Board of Supervisors.[1] He was also one of the first Green Party candidates elected to public office in the Bay Area. In 2003, Gonzalez ran for mayor of San Francisco but lost in a close race to Democrat Gavin Newsom. He was announced on February 28, 2008, as the running mate of presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

Early lifeEdit

Matthew Edward Gonzalez was born in McAllen, Texas, to a Mexican mother, Oralia, and Mexican-American father, Mateo. Gonzalez spent his first four years in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Gonzalez family moved to New Orleans, Louisiana; Baltimore, Maryland; and Louisville, Kentucky, before the family returned to McAllen when Gonzalez was 11 years old.

In an interview with the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle, Gonzalez described his father as a salesman who initially started out selling "cigarettes from the back of his car in south Texas" in the late 1950s or early 1960s, and later started an import/export business selling medical and dental supplies.[2] A profile in the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Gonzalez's father was a division chief for the international tobacco company Brown & Williamson.[3]

"Eddie", as Gonzalez was called in his youth, was an Eagle Scout and the president of his senior class. He discovered a talent for debating at Memorial High School, from which he graduated in 1983.[3] Gonzalez said about his childhood in South Texas: "The Mexican-American–LatinoChicano culture in California is different than my experience in Texas. I grew up in a town that is majority Mexican and Mexican-American. In McAllen, we didn't refer to ourselves as Latinos or Chicanos. We referred to ourselves as Mexican. There's a different feel in that border area."[4]

Gonzalez earned a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in 1987, and a Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School in 1990. At Columbia, he studied comparative literature, political theory, and was a member of the debate team.[5] While attending Stanford, he was an editor for the Stanford Law Review and member of the Stanford Environmental Law Journal. He worked on immigration issues at the East Palo Alto Community Law Project, pending death penalty cases at the California Appellate Project, and "gender discrimination and religious clause issues" as a research assistant to the Dean of the School, constitutional law scholar Paul Brest.[5]

In 1991, he began working as a trial lawyer at the Office of the Public Defender in San Francisco. He represented and won eight out of nine life in prison cases (the ninth was later won at appeal) and was named "Lawyer of the Year" by the San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association in 2000.[5][6]

Politics and public serviceEdit

Gonzalez entered politics when he ran for San Francisco District Attorney in 1999. He campaigned in a field of five candidates, including incumbent Terence Hallinan. His campaign focused on cleaning up alleged political corruption, prosecuting environmental crimes, and fighting illegal evictions.[7][8][9][10] Hallinan won the race but the campaign raised Gonzalez's profile. He finished third with 11 percent of the vote, or 20,153 votes.

Switches from Democratic Party to Green PartyEdit

Gonzalez switched to the Green Party in what he called "a political or moral epiphany." Gonzalez was attending a rally at the offices of KRON-TV in San Francisco to protest the absence of Green Party senatoral candidate Medea Benjamin at a debate between Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, and her Republican challenger Tom Campbell. Gonzalez described his conversion to the San Francisco Bay Guardian: Template:Cquote

Board of SupervisorsEdit


In 2000, a system of electing supervisors by district rather than citywide took effect. At the urging of Supervisor Tom Ammiano, Gonzalez ran for supervisor in newly made District 5 (besides Hayes Valley, District 5 comprises the Haight-Ashbury, the Western Addition, Alamo Square, and the easternmost part of the Sunset District).

In the run-off election, Gonzalez's opponent, Juanita Owens, tried to capitalize on many Democrats' ill feelings toward the Green Party in the wake of Ralph Nader's involvement in the acrimonious 2000 presidential election,[11] but Gonzalez won the run-off election. Like all municipal elections in San Francisco, elections for supervisor are nonpartisan, but some Greens saw the election of their candidate as a significant achievement because, for the first time, a Green Party member had been elected to an important position in San Francisco.

He was elected on a slate of candidates who wanted to change the direction of city policy, in opposition to the "Brown machine", a Democratic Party political machine that had dominated local politics for over 30 years behind Mayor Willie Brown, the Pelosi family, and other Democrats.[12] His supporters saw his election as a turning point in local politics.[13][14] According to San Francisco State University political science professor Richard DeLeon,

"The beginning of the end probably was in 2000, when San Francisco returned to district elections.... The results brought in Gonzalez and other new supervisors not beholden to Brown. It opened the door for a new wave of young neighborhood politicians who didn't need the type of citywide support political leaders like Brown and [John and Phil] Burton had provided over the years."[14]

On the boardEdit

On the board, Gonzalez worked to enact legislation promoting animal rights (he prohibited the San Francisco Zoo from keeping elephants), enacted campaign and election reforms (he sponsored a voter-approved measure to implement instant run-off voting), and promoted a living wage (he campaigned to raise the local minimum wage to $8.50 an hour). He also passed legislation to prevent gentrification (it protected small businesses from competition from chain stores),[15][16] opposed selling the naming rights to Candlestick Park,[17][18] and helped write a ballot measure giving San Francisco control over its municipal electric utility system (the measure, Proposition D, failed in 2002).

When the Board put forth a resolution commending San Franciscan Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi for being elected House Minority Whip and being the first woman to hold that position, Gonzalez was the only board member who voted against it. Gonzalez said that supervisors should not issue commendations for winning partisan political positions and that he had written a personal note to Pelosi congratulating her, as she had done him for being elected board president.[19][20]

Gonzalez refused to meet with Brown during his first two years on the Board of Supervisors, but said it was to avoid being subject to Brown's influence rather than a matter of disrespect.[21] According to one newspaper, he walked out of Mayor Willie Brown's State of the City address in 2002[22] in protest of Brown's practice of naming individual supervisors during the speech without giving them a chance to respond,[23] although he told another paper that he had simply not attended.[24]

As board presidentEdit

Two years later, Gonzalez was elected president of the Board of Supervisors against the opposition of Mayor Willie Brown and many local Democrats, including former Board president Tom Ammiano. After seven rounds of voting, the tie-breaking vote came from an unlikely source, conservative Board member Tony Hall, who said, "Gonzalez is a man of integrity and intelligence who will carry out his responsibilities fairly and impartially."[25][26][27]

Gonzalez hosted monthly art exhibits in his City Hall office. At the last reception, graffiti artist Barry McGee spray-painted "Smash the State" on the walls of the office as part of his exhibit."[28] Gonzalez told the press that he knew his office would be repainted for the next occupant.

Campaign for MayorEdit

In 2003, Gonzalez ran for Mayor of San Francisco, in a bid to replace outgoing two-term mayor Willie Brown. On a ballot with nine candidates' names, Gonzalez finished second in the initial mayoral election on November 4 behind Gavin Newsom, a Democrat and fellow member of the Board of Supervisors who had been endorsed by Brown. Gonzalez received 19.6 percent of the total vote to Newsom's 41.9 percent.[29] Because none of the candidates received a majority a run-off election was held on December 9, gaining national and international media coverage.

Gonzalez faced a difficult run-off election; only three percent of voters in San Francisco were registered to his Green Party,[30] and the Democratic Party, dominant in San Francisco, was opposing his candidacy. If elected, Gonzalez would have been the first Green Party mayor of any large American city. Although Gonzalez was endorsed by several key local Democrats, including five among the Board of Supervisors, national Democratic figures, concerned about Ralph Nader's role in the 2000 presidential election, became involved on Newsom's behalf.[31][32] Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson, Dianne Feinstein, and Nancy Pelosi all campaigned for Newsom. In the left-leaning political newsletter CounterPunch, Bruce Anderson wrote, "If Matt Gonzalez, a member of the Green Party, is elected mayor of San Francisco, it will be a dagger straight into the rotted heart of the Democratic Party... He wants to represent the many against the fortunate few the present mayor has faithfully represented for years now."[33]

The candidate, however, saw the election in different terms. "They're scared, not of a Green being elected mayor", he said, "but of an honest person being elected mayor."[34] Many volunteers worked on Gonzalez's campaign in the run-off. "He's the indie-rock Kennedy", one supporter said of Gonzalez.[35] Said Rich DeLeon, professor of political science at San Francisco State University, "The Gonzalez campaign was truly a mobilizing campaign. It really attracted young people who had not been involved — who were perhaps cynical and apathetic — into the active electorate."[36]

Progressives championed Gonzalez as an alternative to a more centrist Democratic mainstream: Template:Cquote In an interview in January 2005 on his last day in office as a Supervisor, Gonzalez said of his campaign, "After getting in the runoff, literally the day after, as I heard Mayor Brown and others start attacking me for being a communist and racist, well, I started thinking I was going to lose in the very landslide I had foreseen for other candidates. Naturally, I worked hard to represent progressive ideas and win the race. By the end, we started thinking, hey, maybe it’s possible."[37]

Newsom outspent Gonzales $4.4–4.9 million to $800,000–900,000.[38] Gonzalez sought to tighten spending caps and expand public financing, and accused Newsom of campaign improprieties and spending limit violations.[39][40][41][42][43][44][45] Newsom won the election by 133,546 to 119,329 votes.[46]

An unorthodox politicianEdit

Newspaper accounts from the San Francisco mayoral election noted that Gonzalez slept on the uncushioned slats of a futon frame because "it's more comfortable", wore Doc Martens shoes and baggy suits (some of which were given him by former San Francisco mayor Art Agnos[47]), and did not wear a watch,[48] even though he owned a Rolex given him by his father.[23] The "floppy-haired, slump-shouldered champion of the counterculture", as the Christian Science Monitor called him,[49] never married or owned property. He gave away his 1967 Mercedes-Benz sedan because, he said, he found it easier to get around on public transportation.[50]

He is fond of chess and poetry. In 1997, at his own expense, he published a collection of poetry by Beat poet Jack Micheline called Sixty-Seven Poems for Downtrodden Saints. He served on the Board of Directors for Intersection for the Arts, a non-profit organization, and in 2004 taught a course called "Art & Politics" at the San Francisco Art Institute. Gonzalez played bass guitar in a rock band (called John Heartfield) and still plays occasionally with his brother Chuck and his law partner Whitney Leigh.[51]

Return to private lifeEdit


Following the mayoral contest, Gonzalez announced he would not seek re-election to the Board of Supervisors. Explaining his decision to retire from politics, he said:


Gonzalez left office when his term ended in January 2005 and was succeeded by Ross Mirkarimi, a Green Party member and community activist who had also worked on Gonzalez's campaign.[52] Gonzalez then opened law offices with fellow Stanford University alum Whitney Leigh. In May 2005 Gonzalez sought unsuccessfully to overturn the contract of San Francisco school Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.[53] His firm brought suit against a San Francisco hotel for not paying its workers the minimum wage;[54] two wrongful death suits against Sacramento police for using tasers; against the city of San Jose and Ringling Brothers Circus for interfering with free speech rights of protestors; and against Clear Channel in a naming rights dispute over the locally owned San Francisco Warfield Theatre. It has also been involved in examining the New Year's Eve attack on the Yale Glee Club in Pacific Heights.[55]

Gonzalez worked as a guest host for several months in 2005 on Pacifica Radio station KPFA, substituting for Larry Bensky as the anchor of the weekly public affairs program Sunday Salon.[56]

Gonzalez is also an artist; in the spring of 2007, an exhibit of his collages was displayed at the Lincart gallery in San Francisco.[57] Gonzalez also makes a brief uncredited appearance in the 2004 documentary Let's Rock Again!, interviewing Joe Strummer after his performance at Amoeba Records.

2008 presidential raceEdit

In January 2008, Gonzalez, along with several other prominent Green Party members, launched Ralph Nader's 2008 Presidential Exploratory Committee to support a possible Nader candidacy.[58]

On February 28, 2008, Nader named Gonzalez as his running mate for the 2008 presidential election,[59] only four days after announcing his bid for president. Nader announced that he and Gonzalez would not seek the Green Party nomination but would run as independents.

On March 4, 2008, Gonzalez announced that he had left the Green Party,[60] by changing his voter registration to independent. The change was to accommodate states including Delaware, Idaho and Oregon, which do not allow members of political parties to run as independents.



External linksEdit

Articles written by GonzalezEdit


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