Brownell, Gordon: Moscone in Assembly


Gordon Brownell: George was by far – he wasn’t the president of the Senate – was the dominant democratic leader of the Senate. Leo McCarthy was the Speaker of the Assembly and that was very much Speaker McCarthy’s domain. He was not the strong proponent of SB (Senate Bill) 95 that Moscone was, that Willie Brown was. A lot of other San Francisco democrats including McCarthy and John Foran supported the bill, but when the bill came up for a vote in the Assembly there were several votes that we were counting on that we didn’t have. The dynamics of just what happened is really only known to those involved most closely on the democratic side. We didn’t have the votes the first time around and the Speaker took the position “Well, told ya you should wait.” I was not around George Moscone as much as members of his staff were and people that worked with him for many, many years – although I did work with him two or three years on the marijuana legislation – but I had never seen him as furious as he was the day that that bill went down in the Assembly. He was on the Assembly floor at the time, and he felt it was an absolute betrayal. That something very bad had happened, and that it had happened in a way that he felt very blind-sided by it. We all did. We knew that the Speaker did not want the bill to go forward that day. You could make political reasons why another day woulda been better. Not just the consenting adult bill, but John Knox who was a leading liberal democrat from the Bay Area. He was in Europe at the time. The Speaker said “If you have the vote on another time then John Knox would be here, that’s one less freshman democrat that you need to put up there.” But the votes were there, but they didn’t happen. When George went back to his office after the Assembly vote, he said for a while “We’re done with this. I’m not dealing with them anymore. The bill is finished.” He was just furious at what had happened. Jon Rubin: How long did it take for him to cool off and [ ] himself? Gordon Brownell: Well we were talking the next day about going forward again. I don’t know how long it took him to really cool off, and I don’t think we had meetings with the Speaker and the Assembly leadership after that. I don’t think George ever meant that it was over, but he was so angry. And he did feel that it was just completely unnecessary, and that basically the Speaker had caved into John Briggs and let the republicans win in their own game. That Briggs and the republicans had basically gotten done what they wanted to get done and the democrats let it happen.


Media is loading



Date Original



The Moscone oral history interviews are part of the George Moscone Collection, MSS 328.

Contributing Institution

Holt-Atherton Special Collections and Archives, University of the Pacific Library

Rights Information

To view additional information on copyright and related rights of this item, such as to purchase copies of images and/or obtain permission to publish them, click here to view the Holt-Atherton Special Collections policies.