Burton, John: Moscone start in politics
John Burton: Well, George got active in politics in a weird way. He was a playground director working Sundays over at JP Murphy. I used to go over – having nothing to do I guess – and talk to George. We’d play 3-on-3, Hutch, and that, and he asked me how somebody became a judge because he was upset about some court decision. I don’t know what the hell he was talking about. And I said, “I don’t know. I’ll ask my brother.” So I ask my brother. I said, “My friend George wants to know how one becomes a judge.” Parenthetically, George would have been a great Supreme Court Justice. Anyway Philip says, “Well you give a lot of money or you get active and you run for office.” So I setup a meeting at Compton’s Cafeteria on Venice and Market. They met, and Philip started asking George these questions: where he was on the death penalty, where he was on lawyer [leodes], where was this, where was that? What was his background? And then he had talked to George about running for the State Assembly in the 21st district which was the only republican district in town, which was Pacific Heights, the Richmond, kinda northwest part of town. And at that time there was a fella named Ed Blain, who was also running a democratic primary who had run two years before that and lost. I remember my brother just thinking, he goes “Blain, Moscone, Blain, Moscone.” Like which name would catch a thing. He encouraged George because it gave a vote on the County Committee – which in those days was important to us – four vote in the State Central Committee – which was less important. George knew he was going to lose, and I tell that today to candidates who are running in district they can’t win. He ran, he lost, but he was very photogenic, and he got a following. That was in 1960. In 1962, he wanted to run again and he put his eyes on the Supervisor. Leo McCarthy asks George, “Why don’t you run for the Congress?” George said he didn’t want to run for Congress – which he wouldn’t have won. So he got out for Supervisor in a lot of the Democratic clubs, and people were supporting him. Gene McAteer who was a state senator was going to run for mayor in 1963, but he didn’t. Bill Malone and these other people said, “You wait your turn, Congressman Shelly is going to run.” So when McAteer dropped out, Leo – who had tied his thing to McAteer; in fact went to work for McAteer with my brother’s suggestion – jumped into the supervisor race, and looked like he had all of the money. Clubs were kind of split with him, and it was like he was going to win and George didn’t have a chance. Al Bacarri who was also an Italian running out of North Beach plus Doctor Ortola; so he had of Italians running. George ran out of the headquarters at 22 something Steiner, right next to – it used to be the patio bar – right off of Lombard. His headquarters was Gina, some woman – I can’t remember her name right now – Michelle, Jim, and a handful of people because when all of a sudden when Leo got in George didn’t have a chance. George went out and just campaigned his rear end off. Philip had got George the endorsement of the Longshoreman’s Union, the Building Service Union which was is now SEIU, the retail clerks and some of the unions close to him, and I think that he actually did get the Labor Council endorsement – I’m not sure. When there was a poll taken, George was doing pretty good on the right side of town, and not that good on the east side of town. So my brother said, “You just keep going campaigning out there, and I will send in a mailing in this district for you, and we’ll see how that works.” It did. We got down to the last two weeks of the campaign. There was not enough money to send out a mailing. So I went to a couple of people who knew George, and we borrowed the money. Got Jack Yanoff and David Rapkin, and we got the money for the signing note which I could pay for the last mailing. Basically, George won, but he just never stopped campaigning. He’d be up at the bus stops in the morning. He’d go until ten or eleven at night, and was the best campaigner that I ever saw. Jack Morrison was good, but George was better on the streets. And he had a pretty family. At that time it was just Rebecca and Jennifer, and they had a pretty picture postcard from Roberts over in Berkeley, and those went out. Anyway, he got elected and I stopped at a place on Divis and Eddy or something, went in and bought a bottle of champagne. I went into headquarters and dumped it on his head. Gina got very upset because it was a brand new suit, but I thought it was worthy of the thing. Then he had to pay off the deficit, and that’s when I got the idea that we would do a New Year’s Eve fundraiser in the theory that everybody goes out on New Year’s Eve. Nobody really wants to go out. We raised the money to pay off the deficit. I think George’s campaign costed under thirty thousand then. I think it was even under. His brochure was “The Logical Choice.” Where he got that, who the hell knows?
The Moscone oral history interviews are part of the George Moscone Collection, MSS 328.
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Rubin, Jon and Burton, John, "Burton, John: Moscone start in politics" (2009). Moscone Oral Histories. 35.