1971 San Francisco mayoral election

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1971 San Francisco mayoral election

← 1967 November 2, 1971 1975 →
Candidate Joseph Alioto Harold Dobbs
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 95,744 68,637
Percentage 38.6% 27.66%

Candidate Dianne Feinstein Fred Selinger
Party Democratic Nonpartisan
Popular vote 53,911 13,902
Percentage 21.8% 5.6%

Mayor before election

Joseph Alioto

Elected Mayor

Joseph Alioto

The San Francisco mayoral election of 1971 was held on November 2, 1971, with incumbent Joseph Alioto being re-elected with 38.6 percent of the vote, from among 11 candidates, there being no provision for a runoff.


The three major contenders—Mayor Joe Alioto; Harold Dobbs, former member of the Board of Supervisors; and Dianne Feinstein, president of the Board of Supervisors—tried to outdo one another as advocates for law and order. Alioto challenged Dobbs to commit to keeping Police Chief Donald Scott and accused Feinstein of wanting to create a civilian review board to investigate police conduct. Dobbs would not commit to a particular police chief but did plan to appoint a new police commission. Feinstein planned to "serve notice on the pusher, the mugger and the thief" and "break the back of crime", while denying advocating a civilian review board but wanting a "strong and independent police commission."[1]

Feinstein, the only woman in the race, charged her opponents with distorting her positions, especially her position on school busing, which the two other main contenders, Alioto and Dobbs, opposed. The issue was raised as the result of an unpopular court order forcing the S.F. school district to begin busing to achieve ethnic balance in elementary schools.[2]

Former newspaper editor Scott Newhall proposed staging a world ecology fair and replacing California's water plan by importing icebergs, and imputed little difference between the top three contenders, whom he lumped together as "Joe Dobbstein".[2]

Alioto was a slight favorite to win in spite of being scheduled to go on trial the following January on federal charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, and using the mail to promote bribery of a public official. As of November, Dobbs, the only Republican in the race, had passed Feinstein in polls and was gaining on Alioto.[2]


The result of the November 2 election was the re-election of Alioto by a 3–2 margin over his nearest challenger. Alioto quoted Jackie Gleason—"How sweet it is!"—at a victory celebration and referred to his federal indictment as an attempt by the "national administration" to "knock out a mayor".[3]

Among other races on the ballot was Richard Hongisto's surprise victory for sheriff over incumbent Matthew Carberry.[3]

On the ballot was a referendum limiting new-building heights to six stories, which was defeated.[3]

A referendum to make the school board an elective one, it being the only appointive such board in the state, passed. The school-board measure was regarded as a reaction to busing initiated by the school board under court order.[3]

Another measure approved was to keep cable car service at no less than current levels.[3]

San Francisco mayoral election, 1971[4]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Joseph Alioto (incumbent) 95,744 38.6
Republican Harold Dobbs 68,637 27.7
Democratic Dianne Feinstein 53,911 21.8
Nonpartisan Fred Selinger 13,902 5.6
Nonpartisan Scott Newhall 8,534 3.4
Nonpartisan Tony Serra 2,724 1.1
Nonpartisan Nathan Weinstein 1,541 0.6
Nonpartisan John C. Diamante 1,477 0.6
Nonpartisan Stanley Lee Cotton 670 0.3
Nonpartisan John Gardner Brent 661 0.3
Nonpartisan Jeffrey R. Chaskin 304 0.1

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lembke, Daryl (October 30, 1971). "Major S.F. Mayoral Hopefuls Push Law and Order Positions". Los Angeles Times. p. A1 – via ProQuest.
  2. ^ a b c Lembke, Daryl (November 2, 1971). "Woman Says S.F. Mayoral Opponents Distort Her Views". Los Angeles Times. p. A3 – via ProQuest.
  3. ^ a b c d e Lembke, Daryl (November 3, 1971). "Alioto Reelected, High-Rise Limit Defeated by S.F. Voters". Los Angeles Times. p. A1 – via ProQuest.
  4. ^ "San Francisco Mayor Race - November 2, 1971". Our Campaigns. Retrieved April 7, 2018.