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Steve Francis said today that he did not regret spending an unprecedented $4.7 million on his unsuccessful mayoral campaign, but also said that spending any more would not have made a difference.
In a sit-down talk this afternoon, Francis described his future uncertainly. He said he wanted to spend more time on business-related issues and working on several boards he serves on. And he wants to take a vacation.
“I’m not going to go away,” he said, promising to rally around Sanders. “At this juncture, it’s a good idea to step back and not be critical of the mayor. He won the race fair and square. I’m not going to criticize him from the sidelines.”
Francis ruled out any run for elected office in the short-term, and similarly said he would not ever run for City Council or the state Assembly. He didn’t rule out a future run for mayor or the county Board of Supervisors, but said it was way too early to consider another election.
Francis didn’t fault his campaign for the loss and said he wouldn’t have done things differently. Instead, he blamed the result on low voter turnout. He said his campaign’s polls had put Sanders in the mid-40 percent range before last night; Francis had been polling in the low 30s. But Francis said the news shifted toward Sanders in the waning weeks of the campaign, as voters increasingly believed Sanders had the city on the right track — the result of the city’s restored credit rating and his Sunroad exoneration by the state Attorney General.
In the end, the undecided voters that Francis had actively sought turned to Sanders. Charles Gallagher, Francis’ campaign manager, said the campaign had hoped to capture two-thirds of the city’s undecideds. They did not.
Francis credited the campaign with educating him and renewing his interest in a wide swath of issues. During the race, he focused on progressive issues, a shift that opened him up to criticism of being a “flip-flopper” after having run a strictly right-leaning race in 2005. Some labor unions and progressive groups did not endorse Francis because of concerns that he was not genuinely a champion of those issues.
He acknowledged that perception may have affected some voters. But he largely dismissed such criticism as “inside baseball” that did not resonate with most poll-goers.
He said he believed he still had a good relationship with the Republican Party and its leaders. Running against Sanders, a fellow Republican, wasn’t a miscalculation, he said. While he may have had the chance to garner the GOP endorsement in a 2012 election — without Sanders in the picture — he said he felt compelled to run now to help solve pressing issues at the city.
Francis said he was willing to help Sanders in any way he could. At the same time, he said he had absolutely no expectation that the mayor would seek any counsel.
I asked Francis what advice he would offer the mayor, what three things he believed the mayor should focus on in his new term. He initially demurred — he said there was no chance the mayor would be calling him — but addressed the question hypothetically.
He picked one issue. The mayor needs to address the city’s structural budget problems, Francis said. “Now they have to start doing the really heavy lifting,” he said. “It’s time to level about cuts or revenue increases. Get it out there, and start dealing with it. If he doesn’t, that’s a terribly missed opportunity for him.”