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Ready, Set, Vote:
Activists and Shoppers Gear Up for November 2
By Erin O'Briant
With proJohn Kerry dog T-shirts, Bush voodoo dolls, and signs decrying the "loonies" in mostly liberal Noe Valley, locals of all political stripes are gearing up to support their favorite candidates in the Nov. 2 presidential election.
Just for Fun, a gift and stationery store at 3982 24th Street, greets customers with a humorous display of mostly antiPresident Bush paraphernalia near the entrance. A hot item is the Bush voodoo doll, giving Democrats a chance to vent a few frustrations. But a more practical alternative is the book of bumper-sticker postcards: You simply pull one out and send it as a postcard; the recipient then peels off the sticker attached to the card. Popular slogans include "Bring Back Monica Lewinsky" and "No Billionaire Left Behind." An employee of the store, Jena Frassanello, helped create the book.
The goods are proving popular. "I'm finally making money on George Bush," jokes Just for Fun co-owner David Eiland.
He'd include some pro-Bush items if he could, he says, but few are available. "I always make sure everyone understands my store is not political.... The store and staff aren't taking a stand. There's almost nothing anti-Kerry out there, but if there were, I'd give it equal time."
A National Embarrassmint
Just down the block at 3927 24th Street, Panetti's window boasts a blow-up "Bop Bush" doll, offering yet another way for those troubled by the current administration to express themselves (though at press time the store had sold out of all but the floor model).
Marjory Panetti, who owns the gift store, has also stocked up on items made by the Unemployed Philosophers Guild, including a tin of breath mints imprinted with Bush's face and the words "National Embarrassmints."
They're selling, too. "People really seem to love them," Panetti says with a big smile.
Lest anyone think Noe Valley is exclusively pro-Kerry, the owner of Twin Peaks Properties, located on 24th Street near Castro, has festooned his window with signs decrying the liberal politics of "Looney Valley" and promoting President George W. Bush. One of Harry Aleo's hand-lettered signs reads, "Welcome to an oasis of traditional values in a desert of left-wing liberal loonies (pardon the redundancy)." Another announces, "English spoken here."
Dog Spoken Here
Down at the corner of Church and Cesar Chavez streets, the folks at Noe Valley Pet Company have an innovative way for dogs and their owners to share their views. Customers are panting for their pro-Kerry dog T-shirts, printed with the words "Democratic Dogs Vote John Kerry for President."
"They're doing really, really well. We're selling two a day," says Pet Company co-owner Celia Sack. A portion of the sale of each $25 shirt goes to the Kerry campaign. "A few people have gotten them to send to dogs in swing states. One person bought one for a dog in Texas."
Of course, a few customers ask why pro-Bush shirts aren't available. "I say, if you want to pay rent for the window, then you can have the Bush T-shirts," Sack laughs.
Rock the Vote
While some stock their shelves with goodies from local stores, others have raised funds for Kerry over the summer and are now taking to the streets--including the highways.
Members of the Noe Valley Democratic Club raised $20,000 for the Kerry Campaign through "house parties," those held in private homes, says Club President Rafael Mandelman. Mandelman also notes that 24th Street's Bliss Bar hosted a "really successful" fundraiser, which included a visit from Supervisor Bevan Dufty. In addition, members of the club sponsored a Bash Bush party at Le Zinc café and a Kocktails for Kerry soirée at the Valley Tavern bar.
If you've been stopped by a stranger on 24th Street lately, chances are good it was a Noe Valley Demo hoping to register you as a voter. Now that their official fundraising period for the Kerry Campaign has passed, members of the local club are joining with the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) to help with voter registration.
Says DCCC member Scott Weiner, who lives just outside Noe Valley at 19th and Collingwood streets and has helped organize the 24th Street registrations, "We've had a really good response."
His organization set out to register 10,000 Democratic voters in San Francisco for the election, and passed the 5,000 mark in July. "This has been our most successful voter registration year in recent memory," Weiner says.
And since the presidential election largely rests on the votes of "swing" states, where it's not clear which candidate will prevail, the Noe Valley Democratic Club is helping out with phone banking. Some members are even driving to Nevada, a swing state, to promote Kerry and to register voters.
He's No Ronald Reagan
When asked if he's campaigning for Bush, Republican Aleo says, "I don't do any of that crap. It's just the 'Looney Valley' people who do that. They fall for that stuff. The Kerry lovers do that because they have to."
In Aleo's opinion, Bush's election is a sure thing, and he feels that the Bush-Cheney sign in the window of his storefront office is sufficient activism.
Plus, while Aleo says he will certainly vote Republican in the election, he's not Bush's biggest fan. "He's no Ronald Reagan, let's put it that way," he says. "But he's much more qualified than Kerry to lead this country."
Green Party member Medea Benjamin, who owns Global Exchange at 4018 24th Street, is working to defeat Bush in swing states, but says her store can't carry any partisan items because it's a non-profit.
"We are doing voter registration through our stores," Benjamin says. As she spoke, she pointed out her T-shirt emblazoned with "November 2," which is currently on sale at Global Exchange.
How to Get Involved
Local political parties welcome volunteers. To attend a meeting of the Noe Valley Democratic Club or link up with the DCCC, e-mail Rafael Mandelman at email@example.com, call him at 648-4010, or visit sfdemocrats.org.
To find out more about the San Francisco Green Party, visit www.sfgreenparty.org or call 701-7090. Interested in the San Francisco GOP? Look up the Repubs' web site at www.sfgop.org, or phone 989-1259.