What can you learn in one minute? Quite a lot.

Candidates for San Francisco’s Mayor, Sheriff, and District Attorney are all over town and on SFGovTV talking in what the politically weary would call soundbites.  With dozens of mayoral candidates, four candidates for Sheriff, and five people vying for the District Attorney position, the format for candidate forums tends toward one-minute response limits.  Mind you, the questions might go on for much longer, particularly the question is posed by a thoughtful, highly verbal constituent.  But responses tend to be restricted to one minute.  What can one glean about a candidate in one minute? 

Quite a lot.  Particularly when the candidates present their public selves in a series of single minutes.  Of course the responses are scripted.  These people have been making their case to the voters for years (that’s you, Phil Ting and Leland Yee) or at least months.  As smart, talented people with experienced advisors, the candidates have developed messaging that is well-tested.  That is good news:  this close to the election, voters are seeing the candidates at their best. 

And how do they sound at their peak?  How consistent are a candidate’s positions in terms of civil liberties?  Compassion?  Who seems to have a sense of the real world (listen to answers to questions about the homeless).  Who understands that fulfilling a City’s responsibilities requires funding (listen to the many – but not all – non-answers to this one).  Who repeatedly emphasizes endorsements and who races to describe extensive, relevant experience before the one-minute Stop sign is raised.  Who answers Yes or No to the lightning round question about your hot-button issue, such as the death penalty or the Chinatown subway.  Note how questions for mayoral candidates are pointed to the men, and decide whether the women should be voiceless and ignored – or that you will look closer at these candidates by spending quality time at their websites or participating in one of their solo-appearance Q&As around the City. 

See for yourself that a one-minute statement can be a meaningful statement, particularly when it is part of a series.  Watch the candidate forums now playing on SFGovTV.  I predict you will develop a sense of the individual candidates as they will perform for San Francisco if elected.  Then delve deeper for those whom you hear may have the City’s best interests at the forefront, all things considered.  Look more closely, too, at those who create a disquieting feeling in you for whatever reason. 

This election – choosing Mayor, Sheriff, and District Attorney – is a defining election given the times we face.   Let’s give however minutes it takes to listen, learn, reflect, and cast an informed vote.  Voter registration ends October 24.  You must re-register if you have moved since the last election.

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