Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 50 / 14 December 2017
 

Two unknowns, sex worker seek Dufty's supe seat

NEWS


m.bajko@ebar.com

District 8 supervisorial candidate Rebecca Prozan, right, makes a point during a forum Monday with fellow candidates, from left, Rafael Mandelman, James Boeger, Laura Spanjian, Scott Wiener, and William Hemenger. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
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Joining the race to replace Supervisor Bevan Dufty are two largely unknown gay men and Starchild, a bisexual sex worker who is making his third stab for the board's District 8 seat.

Starchild twice ran against Dufty and, both times, came up short. During the 2006 campaign he was fighting solicitation of prostitution charges after the police arrested him in 2005 at a Fremont hotel during an undercover sting operation. A jury eventually acquitted him of the charges in 2007.

Born Chris Fox, he legally changed his name to Starchild in 1998. The 38-year-old escort and erotic dancer also lost bids for school board and state Assembly. A Libertarian, Starchild espouses a less-is-more approach to government. His campaign slogan is "Let's try freedom."

"I am not a career politician. I am running because I believe in freedom," he said.

William Hemenger quit his job with Oracle in order to seek the District 8 seat, which represents the Castro, Noe Valley, Diamond Heights, and Glen Park neighborhoods. The 40-year-old business professional has been with his partner, Franke Lambetecchio, for eight years.

While new to politics, he told the Bay Area Reporter that he intends to spend the next nine months meeting voters throughout the district. He believes his pro-business ideas will help propel him to frontrunner status.

"We have a really good message to get out in the next nine months," said Hemenger, who joined the race in January.

Another long shot candidate is James Boeger, 57, who lists his occupation as a therapist. While he has pulled papers to declare his intent to seek the office, it is unclear if Boeger will meet the August filing requirements to officially enter the race.

He has not been able to afford the $500 fee nor collect enough signatures to waive the financial cost of entering a city election during past attempts for public office. Asked by the B.A.R. if he thought he would be successful this time out, Boeger laughed before saying he wasn't sure.

"If you don't bet, you don't win," he replied. "If I don't put my name in the hat then the chances are zero. If I do put my name in the hat, who knows? If it is destiny it might happen."

The threesome faces a quartet of well-known gay and lesbian opponents who are seen as the ones to beat in the race. Assistant district attorney Rebecca Prozan and Laura Spanjian, an assistant general manager with the city's Public Utilities Commission, are trying to make history by being the first woman elected in District 8.

Standing in their way are deputy city attorney Scott Wiener and local lawyer Rafael Mandelman. They both want to follow in the footsteps of Dufty and state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the two gay men who have served in the seat since it was created back in 2000 when supervisor seats reverted from being elected citywide back to by district.

The four leaders within the city's political circles and gay Democratic clubs have largely overshadowed the other three candidates in the race. Their underdog status was on full display this week during a candidate's forum held at the Harvey Milk Recreation Center in Duboce Park.

Right from the start the debate's moderator demonstrated the difficulties the three male contenders face connecting with voters when she called Starchild the wrong name.

"Starfire," said Barbara Taylor, a longtime City Hall reporter for KCBS radio, at first before correcting herself. "Starchild, excuse me."

Starchild told the standing-room only audience of roughly 100 people that he wants to do away with most government codes and restrictions and believes property owners should be given carte blanche in terms of developing their properties.

"All the rules and regulations pit us against each other," said Starchild, who unsurprisingly, also wants to see the city's laws against prostitution lifted. The money saved from prosecuting sex crimes, he said, would be "better used for paving the streets."

He also promotes capping city employee salaries at $99,900 a year; allowing bathhouses to reopen in the city, and using the money spent on homeless services to instead build small homes for those living on the streets.

He not only would welcome chain stores into the city but also wants to eliminate the sales tax.

"Why are we charging people extra to shop in San Francisco?" he asked.

While fully acknowledging that he

Starchild is again running for District 8 supervisor. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
is "definitely the outsider" in the race, Hemenger said his experience in the corporate world has been that oftentimes the "people who don't look good on paper" are the best ones for the job.

"We have got to get the right people in office and the right people working for this city," he said. "We need to manage this city in a business-like situation."

Having paid his way through college by working in retail and at restaurants, Hemenger earned a bachelor's degree in business in 1991 from Northwood University in Michigan. He then went on to work for Quaker Oats in Ohio and eventually landed a job with Oracle in its Washington, D.C. office.

He then moved west and put his skills to use helping startup tech companies before returning to Oracle. His pitch to voters is that the Board of Supervisors needs people with business acumen, particularly as the city faces its worst budget deficit in decades.

"I want to see and grow the business sector here and the job market here. I think I can do that," said Hemenger, who also sees no reason to block national retailers from opening in the Castro or Noe Valley. "Chain stores bring foot traffic and recognition to the neighborhood and jobs."

He said one of his main goals as supervisor would be to court Fortune 500 companies back to San Francisco. Increasing jobs and businesses in the city is the best way to deal with the budget deficit, argued Hemenger.

"They would bring jobs, money and taxes to our coffers," he said.

Adding comic relief to the race, which Spanjian predicted would be "grueling" over the next year, is Boeger, who appears to have more one-liners than any real policy goals or ideas on city issues. During much of the forum Boeger had the crowd in stitches with his deadpan replies to questions.

Asked about maintaining the Castro's neighborhood character by the forum's sponsors, Boeger said, "neighborhood character changes so what can you say?"

He could not name any of the current supervisors that he supports, when asked to do so by Taylor, other than Dufty because, for the most part, he said he tries to avoid dealing with City Hall.

"It is so boring," he said of supervisor meetings.

In response to a question on if he supports public power, Boeger said, "I like to turn on my lights. I guess that is my answer." When questioned about a plan to raise Muni passes for seniors, Boeger replied, "As we grow older we tend to have more problems. We need to get over our fear of death."

Boeger grew up outside of Chicago and came to San Francisco in 1971 "searching for hippies in Haight Ashbury." Finding that they had already left town, Boeger said he moved back to the Midwest only to return two years later when he moved into a flat on Castro Street still "firmly in the closet."

He slowly came out but then moved to Miami. In 1982 he returned once again to the city by the bay and spent the next seven years living in various single-room-occupancy hotels. He said he has never paid more than $300 a month for housing and has "no idea what is going on" when it comes to the cost of owning a home in San Francisco.

"I am quite aware of the homeless issue. If nothing else, I could help with that," he said.

In terms of running for supervisor, he said it is "kind of a rush to be applying for a job that pays more than $30,000 a year."

He is firmly against building any more housing in the city, saying the construction of any more units "is not on my list," particularly since San Francisco lies on top of a fault line. He would prefer to "spread the people out more where it is safer."

"We have to decide how many people do we want to have in San Francisco to be comfortable. Otherwise, it is not going to work," said Boeger.

The next District 8 candidate forum is scheduled to take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 11 at Alvarado Elementary School on Douglass between 22nd and 23rd streets in Noe Valley.






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