Matt Gonzalez

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Matt Gonzalez
Matt gonzalez.png
Gonzalez in December 2007.
Member of the
San Francisco Board of Supervisors
from District 5
In office
Preceded by Election was not district specific
Succeeded by Ross Mirkarimi
Personal details
Born (1965-06-04) June 4, 1965 (age 51)
McAllen, Texas
Nationality U.S.
Political party Independent
Other political
Peace and Freedom Party (affiliated non-member)
Alma mater Stanford University, Columbia University
Occupation Lawyer, activist

Matthew Edward Gonzalez (born June 4, 1965) is an American politician, lawyer, and activist. He was an important figure in San Francisco politics in the years 2000–2005, when he served on San Francisco County's Board of Supervisors and was president of the Board. In 2003, Gonzalez, running as a member of the Green Party, lost a close race for mayor of San Francisco to Democrat Gavin Newsom. In the 2008 presidential election, Gonzalez ran for vice president as the running mate of candidate Ralph Nader. He currently works in San Francisco’s Public Defender's Office.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Matthew Edward Gonzalez was born in McAllen, Texas. His father, a division chief for the international tobacco company Brown & Williamson,[3] moved the family to New Orelans, Baltimore, and Louisville, Kentucky, before resettling in McAllen when Gonzalez was eleven years old. After graduating from McAllen Memorial High School, he attended Columbia University, from which he graduated in 1987. In 1990, he obtained a degree to practice law from Stanford Law School.

Gonzalez began working as a trial lawyer at the Office of the Public Defender in San Francisco in 1991.

Politics and public service[edit]

Gonzalez served one term on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the years 2001-2005. He was elected president of the Board in 2003. After losing the mayoral election in 2003, he chose not to seek re-election.[4]

Run for District Attorney[edit]

Gonzalez entered politics when he ran for San Francisco District Attorney in 1999. He campaigned to halt political corruption and marijuana prosecutions.[5] Gonzalez lost to incumbent Terence Hallinan. In a field of five candidates, he finished third with 20,153 votes (11 percent of the total).[6]

Board of Supervisors[edit]


In 2000, a system of electing supervisors by district rather than citywide took effect. At the urging of Supervisor Tom Ammiano, Gonzalez moved from his home in the Mission District to run for supervisor in newly made District 5.[7] In early November, shortly before the run-off election, Gonzalez switched party affiliations from the Democratic Party to the nascent Green Party.[8] His opponent, Juanita Owens, tried to capitalize on many Democrats' ill feelings toward the Green Party in the wake of Ralph Nader's involvement in the acrimonious 2000 presidential election,[9] but Gonzalez won the run-off election. He was part of a slate of candidates who wanted to change the direction of city policy, in opposition to the "Brown machine," a Democratic Party political machine that had dominated local politics for over 30 years behind Mayor Willie Brown, the Pelosi family, and other Democrats.[10] His supporters saw his election as a turning point in local politics.[11][12]

On the board[edit]

Gonzalez's critics considered him a stubborn and willful ideologue. When the Board put forth a resolution commending San Franciscan Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi for being elected House Minority Whip and being the first woman to hold that position, Gonzalez was the only board member who voted against it. Gonzalez said that supervisors should not issue commendations for winning partisan political positions and that he had written a personal note to Pelosi congratulating her, as she had done him for being elected board president.[13][14] Gonzalez refused to meet with Brown during his first two years on the Board of Supervisors, saying he did so to avoid being subject to Brown's influence rather than as a matter of disrespect.[15] Two sources reported that Gonzalez defied Brown by walking out of the mayor's State of the City address in 2002.[16][17] However, Gonzalez later told SF Weekly that he was never in attendance.[18]

As board president[edit]

In January 2003, Gonzalez was elected president of the Board of Supervisors after seven rounds of voting, most of which had Gonzalez vying for a majority vote with supervisors Aaron Peskin and Sophie Maxwell. When Peskin dropped out Gonzalez emerged the winner, counting among his supporters conservative Board member Tony Hall, who said when asked why he voted for Gonzalez, "Gonzalez is a man of integrity and intelligence who will carry out his responsibilities fairly and impartially."[19][20][21]

Gonzalez hosted monthly art exhibits in his City Hall office. At the last reception, graffiti artist Barry McGee spray-painted "Smash the State" on the walls of the office as part of his exhibit."[22] Gonzalez told the press that he knew his office would be repainted for the next occupant.

Campaign for Mayor[edit]

In August 2003, Gonzalez ran for Mayor of San Francisco in a bid to replace outgoing two-term mayor Willie Brown.[23] On a ballot with nine candidates, Gonzalez finished second in the primary election on November 4 behind Gavin Newsom, a Democrat and fellow member of the Board of Supervisors who had been endorsed by Brown. Gonzalez received 19.6 percent of the total vote to Newsom's 41.9 percent.[24] Because none of the candidates received a majority, a run-off election was held on December 9.

Gonzalez faced a difficult run-off election; only 3 percent of voters in San Francisco were registered to his Green Party the party to which he belonged.[25] Although Gonzalez was endorsed by several key local Democrats, including five members of the Board of Supervisors, national Democratic figures, concerned about Ralph Nader's role in the 2000 presidential election, campaigned on Newsom's behalf.[26][27] Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson, Dianne Feinstein, and Nancy Pelosi all campaigned for Newsom. Gonzalez said about his candidacy, "They're scared, not of a Green being elected mayor, but of an honest person being elected mayor."[28]

Newsom won the runoff race by a margin of 11,000 votes, capturing 53 percent of the vote to Gonzalez's 47 percent[29]

Return to private life[edit]

Gonzalez at a Day Without an Immigrant rally in San Francisco

Following the mayoral contest, Gonzalez announced he would not seek re-election to the Board of Supervisors. Explaining his decision to retire from politics, he said:

I like the whole idea of disengaging from politics for a while and looking at things from the outside. I think the world would be a better place if politicians returned to private life from time to time... Hey, you've got to follow your instincts, you know. That's how I got into politics in the first place, joined the Green Party, ran for the board presidency and later for mayor. What am I supposed to do now? Not listen to myself?"[30]

Gonzalez left office when his term ended in January 2005. He was succeeded by Ross Mirkarimi, a Green Party member and community activist who had also worked on Gonzalez's campaign.[31] Gonzalez then opened law offices with fellow Stanford University alum Whitney Leigh. In May 2005 Gonzalez sought unsuccessfully to overturn the contract of San Francisco school Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.[32] His law firm brought suit against a San Francisco hotel for not paying its workers the minimum wage;[33] two wrongful death suits against Sacramento police for using tasers; against the city of San Jose and Ringling Brothers Circus for interfering with free speech rights of protestors; and against Clear Channel in a naming rights dispute over the locally owned San Francisco Warfield Theatre. It has also been involved in examining the New Year's Eve attack on the Yale a cappella group The Baker's Dozen in Pacific Heights.[34]

2008 presidential race[edit]

Nader-Gonzalez 2008 yard sign

In January 2008, Gonzalez, along with several other prominent Green Party members, launched Ralph Nader's 2008 Presidential Exploratory Committee to support a possible Nader candidacy.[35] On February 28, 2008, only four days after announcing his presidential bid, Nader named Gonzalez as his running mate for the 2008 presidential election.[36]

In 2008, Gonzalez left the Green Party and changed his registration to decline to state. "I expressly said to Nader that I would not run with him if he sought the Green Party nomination," Gonzalez said. "The question after the campaign was: is there a reason to go back to the Green Party?" Among the reasons he cited for the party's slide were infighting, inadequate party-building work, and the party's failure to effectively counter criticisms of Nader's 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns. "We were losing the public relations campaign of explaining what the hell happened," he said.[37]

Nader announced that he and Gonzalez would not seek the Green Party nomination but would run as independents. On March 4, 2008, Gonzalez announced that he had left the Green Party and had changed his voter registration to independent.[38] The change, he said, was to accommodate states, including Delaware, Idaho and Oregon, that do not allow members of political parties to run as independents.

On October 18, 2008 Gonzalez and Nader also held a large protest on Wall Street following the passage of the government bailout bill.[39] Their opposition to the bailout was a key issue of the Nader/Gonzalez campaign, in contrast to the Democratic and Republican Party candidates who supported the bill.

Gonzalez participated in the third party vice-presidential debates, along with Constitution Party vice-presidential candidate Darrell Castle and Libertarian Wayne Allyn Root, held in Las Vegas, on November 2, 2008.[40] The event was hosted by Free and and Free & Equal Elections (FREE), an organization of political parties, independent citizens and civic organizations formed to promote free and equal elections in the United States.[40]

In San Francisco, Gonzalez received fewer votes citywide when he ran for vice president in 2008 (3,682)[41] than he received in District 5 (12,743)[42] when he ran for supervisor in 2000. Will Harper, editor of the SF Weekly, wrote:

"Eight years ago, 24,819 San Franciscans voted for Nader, according to Department of Election records. Of course, we've all had eight years to realize that throwing away our vote on a third-party candidate can do a lot of damage, so Nader's poor showing this time was not entirely unexpected. But Nader supposedly had one thing going for him in San Francisco that other candidates did not: A running mate from the city, former supervisor and Green Party pinup boy Matt Gonzalez. Obviously, having a hometown guy in the race didn't make a difference for S.F. voters sick of Republican rule of the White House".[42]

Public Defender[edit]

In February 2011, Jeff Adachi appointed Gonzalez chief attorney in the Public Defender's Office [1][2]


  1. ^ a b Coté, John (23 February 2011). "Gonzalez is defender's new No. 2". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  2. ^ a b "San Francisco Public Defender's Office Leadership". Retrieved 12 April 2011. 
  3. ^ Guthrie, Julian. Guthrie, Julian (December 6, 2003). "Gonzalez: Giving back in San Francisco after childhood of privilege.". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2006-05-10.  The San Francisco Chronicle Sunday, December 7, 2003
  4. ^ Hampton, Adriel (March 29, 2004) "Supe Walks Away." San Francisco Indybay. (Retrireved 10-21-2015.)
  5. ^ Fintz, Stacy, (October 20, 1999) "Challenger Says He'll Fulfill Hallinan's Goals / Gonzalez to halt death penalty prosecutions" San Francisco Chronicle
  6. ^ City & County of San Francisco, Dept. of Elections. Election Results 1999. (Retrieved 10-20-15.)
  7. ^ Anderson, Lessley and Jack Cheevers (October 8, 2003) "The Great Left Hope." SF Weekly. (Retrieved 2-3-2016.)
  8. ^ "Why I Turned Green". San Francisco Bay Guardian. 2000-11-15. Archived from the original on 2005-03-05. Retrieved 2008-10-20. 
  9. ^ Epstein, Edward (November 18, 2000) "Supervisor Candidate Turns Green: Gonzalez's move costs him Democrats' support San Francisco Chronicle.,
  10. ^ Shaw, Randy. Beyondchron (January 3, 2005), "Matt Gonzalez's political legacy.". Retrieved 2006-05-10. 
  11. ^ Reed, Christopher. The Guardian, December 7, 2003. Reed, Christopher (December 7, 2003). "Democrats face fresh votes blow.". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2006-05-10. 
  12. ^ Wildermuth, John. The San Francisco Chronicle December 16, 2003, Wildermuth, John (December 16, 2003). "Fall of the machine.". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2006-05-10. 
  13. ^ Wildermuth, John; Gordon, Rachel; Chronicle Political Writers; November 12, 2003)"Mayoral hopefuls come out swinging in debate—Gonzalez questions Newsom's spending" San Francisco Chronicle
  14. ^ Mayoral Runoff Debate (November 11, 2003) "Mayoral Debate"Commonwealth Club Archives
  15. ^ Suzanne Herel (January 3, 2005). "Forever the rebel with a cause, Gonzalez exits left at City Hall:Idealist energized young liberals in strong run for mayor". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-02-29. 
  16. ^ Gordon, Rachel (October 22, 2002). "Brown speaks on State of the City". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-10-18. 
  17. ^ "Why Newsom is our choice". San Francisco Chronicle. December 7, 2003. Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
  18. ^ Mary Spicuzza (February 13, 2008). "Wikipedia Idiots: The Edit Wars of San Francisco". Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  19. ^ Bay City News (8 January 2003). "Gonzalez named new prez of S.F. Board of Supervisors". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  20. ^ Gordon, Rachel (9 January 2003). "Green Party scores a win on S.F. board / Gonzalez's election as president shocks Democratic leaders". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  21. ^ Feinstein, Mike Summer 2003. "Matt Gonzalez Elected President of San Francisco Board of Supervisors" Green Focus
  22. ^ Lelchuk, I. Lelchuk, Ilene (December 10, 2004). "Last word on government: Graffiti installation in Gonzalez's office gets mixed reviews.". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2006-05-10.  San Francisco Chronicle on the web, 10 December 2004.
  23. ^ Gordon, Rachel (9 August 2003). "Gonzalez joins race for mayor / 9 candidates now vying for S.F.'s top post". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  24. ^ Rob Wrenn (December 19, 2003). "Absentees Proved Crucial in Newsom's Victory". Berkeley Daily Planet. Retrieved 2008-02-29. 
  25. ^ Norman Solomon (December 11, 2003). "Breakthrough And Peril For The Green Party". Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. 
  26. ^ McCarthy, Kevin. The Nation, December 5, 2003. "Gonzalez for Mayor". Retrieved 2006-05-10. 
  27. ^ Dean E. Murphy (December 7, 2003). "Left Faces Left in San Francisco Runoff Vote for Mayor". New York Times. 
  28. ^ Sappenfield, Mark (December 9, 2003)"Poets and Yogis: Green Party mayoral candidate taps the city's distinctive culture." Christian Science Monitor.
  29. ^ Gordon, Rachel et al (December 10, 2003) "Newsom: The Time for a Change Is Here." San Francisco Chronicle. (Retrieved 10-6-2016).
  30. ^ Hampton, Adriel (March 29, 2004) "Supe Walks Away." San Francisco Examiner.
  31. ^ Matier, Phillip; Ross, Andrew (2003-11-05). "Gonzalez: He must take buzz citywide". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  32. ^ Woodward, Tali. "Cutting the Golden Parachute". Retrieved 2006-05-10.  See also Knight H., "Lawsuit filed to toss school chief's raise." San Francisco Chronicle, June 23, 2005, accessed April 8, 2006.
  33. ^ Hogarth, Paul (January 3, 2007) "Gonzalez Law Firm Scores Minimum Wage Victory" Beyond Chron
  34. ^ Matier, Phil; E. Ross (January 17, 2007) "Yalies' case – not mayor's race – brings Gonzalez back to spotlight." San Francisco Chronicle.
  35. ^ Ralph Nader for President in 2008 — Join with us today
  36. ^ Alexovich, Ariel (2008-02-28). "Nader Announces Pick for Vice President". The New York Times. 
  37. ^ "Green Party's Nadir". San Francisco Bay Guardian. 2010-03-11. Retrieved 2010-04-22. 
  38. ^ Thomas, Luke (2008-03-04). "Matt Gonzalez leaves Green Party Increasing ballot access for presidential run cited". Fog City Journal. 
  39. ^ Nader Leads Wall Street Protest, Green Left, October 18, 2008
  40. ^ a b Ball, Molly (2008-11-03). "Third-party candidates for vice president debate". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 2008-11-05. 
  41. ^ City and County of San Francisco, Consolidated Presidential General Election (November 4, 2008). Election Summary, November 4, 2008. (Retrieved 11-12-08.)
  42. ^ a b Harper, Will (November 10, 2008) "Nader Gets No Love From S.F. Voters.". SF Weekly.

Further reading[edit]

  • Carlsson, Chris, ed. (2005) The Political Edge, City Lights Foundation Books: San Francisco, CA. ISBN 1-931404-05-4.
  • Walter, Nicole (2004) Go Matt Go! Hats Off Books: Tucson, AZ. ISBN 1-58736-346-1.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Janice Jordan
Peace and Freedom Party vice presidential nominee
2008 (a)
Succeeded by
Cindy Sheehan
Preceded by
Election was not district specific
Member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors
District 5

Succeeded by
Ross Mirkarimi