Black, Orthodox Republican ponders run for S.F. mayor

“San Francisco needs a mensch!”

With that in mind, Mark “Moshe” Hardie — a black, Orthodox Republican — is eyeing a run for mayor of San Francisco.

Claiming word-of-mouth pledges of $500,000 from the California Republican Party, Hardie says he’s in the perfect position to unseat Mayor Willie Brown.

He’s got ambition and guts. But without name recognition, and with Republican backing in a largely liberal city, can Hardie stand a chance in November’s election?

He thinks so.

“I’m the front runner,” said the 27-year-old Hardie.

An attorney and former special assistant to Gov. Pete Wilson, Hardie hasn’t tossed his hat in the ring just yet, and the $500,000 isn’t in his pockets.

He’s nervous about accepting the money, saying he won’t be “a pawn for either Republicans or Democrats. San Francisco is mostly Democratic and if I accept that money, it might short-circuit my campaign. I want people to contribute to me because they believe in me.”

Born into a poor family in Long Beach and currently living in San Francisco’s Marina district, Hardie says his identity covers nearly all the voter bases. He also speaks six languages, including Spanish and Afghani, holds a degree from Hastings College of the Law and says he’s community-minded.

Hardie dubs himself “a Kennedy Republican,” intent on melding the goodwill liberalism of John and Robert Kennedy with a faith in big business inspired by Ronald Reagan.

“Reaganomics and Camelot are two sides of the same coin,” Hardie said. “I believe that government should open the doors of opportunity to all, while demanding responsibility from all. Some people are left wing, some are right wing; but you need both to fly.”

Hardie recently formed an exploratory campaign committee to test the mayoral waters. At the same time, he’s also testing out how his personality and leadership ability float in the city.

And so far, he likes what he has found.

“I know the Jewish community is behind me. I know people in the Marina are behind me, as are people in the Tenderloin, Spanish-speaking people in the Mission and [those] in the Richmond District.”

Such a diverse network makes a powerful support block, he said. “A lot of people are saying Hardie is the one to lead us into the 21st century. I don’t owe a lot of political debts and that’s a good thing. I’m a fresh face, an outsider and a man of compassion.”

So where does Hardie stand on the issues? How will he help the homeless?

“We need to use free-market solutions. We should give the homeless more job training, teach them how to start a small business, help them fund the business and run the business. We need to form partnerships in the Financial District with homeless advocates to make this happen.”

How to get Muni, the city’s public transportation system, on track?

“Market Street from Civic Center to Embarcadero should be closed to cars and private vehicles. Also we need to offer cash incentives to Muni drivers who consistently perform on time, who are efficient and don’t show up late. I’m going to ride Muni every day and find a way to fix it.”

The mayor’s controversial record and low popularity?

“I’m trying to make it as a positive campaign. I’m not anti-Willie Brown. What’s on my agenda are ideas, not personal attacks.”

Hardie also has a handful of new issues to balance out his platform. For starters, he wants to turn San Francisco into the world’s first “cyber city,” putting a free computer and a free e-mail account in every home.

To fund those services, Hardie wants to partner with major Silicon Valley corporations, which would donate computers and e-mail services in return for an automatic client base for advertising and software sales.

To round out the cyber city, Hardie wants to begin by installing 40 public Internet machines, set in kiosks funded by private companies.

He also wants to transform the blighted Tenderloin District, crushing crime, adding housing and upscale shops, and giving the neighborhood a positive new name.

Perhaps, it could be renamed the “Kennedy District,” he suggested. “I want to change the whole ethos of the Tenderloin and associate it with Camelot rather than crime.”

In an embrace of Judaism, Hardie pledges to make Jerusalem the primary sister city of San Francisco. He wants to open a trade office with Jerusalem and lead a delegation of local business and technology leaders to invest in Israel.

The kippah-wearing Hardie, who converted to Judaism in 1995, said his religion drives him to help others. “Being a Jew means being compassionate. My ideas aren’t based solely on intellect; I want to create change based on compassion, sensitivity and empathy.”

In a sure sign that Hardie is prepared to take his run at the mayor’s seat seriously, he’s already honed his 30-second agenda summary, which President Clinton said every politician must perfect.

He is steadfastly upbeat. “I am a young person focused on the future and breathing new life into San Francisco. Similar to Israel, this city should be a light unto the nation.

“It’s not just about me, it’s about a movement,” he said. “We need to bring a sense of accomplishment to the city of San Francisco.”


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