IN BALTIMORE, Philadelphia, Indianapolis and most big cities having mayoral elections next week, there is little suspense; incumbents are too far ahead to be considered challenged.
But in San Francisco, a three-way race is too close to call. Incumbent Mayor Frank Jordan, just-retired longtime Speaker of the State Assembly Willie Brown and former City Supervisor and Housing and Urban Development official Roberta Achtenberg are bunched. Any two of these Democrats (no Republican of any standing is in the race) could end up in the December run-off.
Mr. Brown is black and Ms. Achtenberg is a woman, but in San Francisco those categories are less important than sexual orientation in political prognostication. Polls break down the vote by "gay" and "hetero." Ms. Achtenberg, an outspoken lesbian, is getting more than half the gay vote but only about a sixth of the heterosexual vote. The gay vote is large enough there to make a candidate who gets it as a bloc a potential winner. Ms. Achtenberg is running as a City Hall reformer, and her support among "hetero" voters of every shade in a multi-ethnic city seems to be growing.
Liberal San Francisco is not the only place where gay candidates and issues are getting increasing and high visibility support. On the other side of the country, in conservative Maine, cautious mainstream Gov. Angus King, an independent, has recently taken to the airwaves to oppose, along with the state's congressional delegation, an anti-gay rights referendum. He emphasizes the importance to all Mainers in supporting such a civil rights stance.
"As governor," he says in a TV spot, "I spend most of my time working to bring businesses and jobs to Maine. If Question 1 passes, it will make my job a lot harder. Imagine the next day's headlines across the country: 'Maine legalizes discrimination.' That will give the state a black eye and make it harder to attract new businesses. Self-reliance, local control: These are Maine traditions. We can keep these traditions -- and keep Maine's economy moving -- by voting no on Question 1."