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George Richard Moscone (November 24, 1929November 27, 1978) (Template:PronEng) was an American attorney and Democratic politician. He was the mayor of San Francisco, California, USA from January 1976 until his assassination in November 1978. Moscone served in the California State Senate from 1967 until becoming Mayor. In the Senate, he served as Majority Leader.


Moscone was born in San Francisco, California. His father was a San Quentin State Prison guard and his mother a homemaker. Moscone attended University of the Pacific and then Hastings College of the Law, where he received his law degree. While in college, Moscone befriended John Burton, who would later become a US Congressman. During this time Moscone also met and married his wife, Gina Bondanza. The Moscones would go on to have four children.


Early politics

John Burton's brother, Phillip, a member of the California State Assembly recruited Moscone to run for an Assembly seat in 1960 as a Democrat. Though he lost that race, Moscone would go on to win a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1963. On the Board, Moscone was known for his defense of the poor, racial minorities and small business owners.

California State Senator

In 1966 Moscone ran for and won a seat in the California State Senate, representing the 10th District in San Francisco County.[1] Moscone was quickly rising through the ranks of the California Democratic Party and became closely associated with a loose alliance of progressive politicians in San Francisco led by the Burton brothers. This alliance was known as the Burton Machine and included John Burton, Phillip Burton, and Assemblyman Willie Brown. Soon after his election to the State Senate, Moscone was elected by his party to serve as Majority Leader. He was reelected to the 10th District seat in 1970 and to the newly redistricted 6th District seat, representing parts of San Francisco and San Mateo Counties, in 1974. He successfully sponsored legislation to institute a school lunch program for California students. In 1974 Moscone briefly considered a run for governor of California, but dropped out after a short time in favor of California Secretary of State Jerry Brown.

As a heterosexual, Moscone was considered ahead of his time as an early proponent of gay rights. Because of his unwillingness to compromise on his position, he is an iconic martyr to the GLBT community.

In conjunction with his friend and ally in the Assembly, Willie Brown, Moscone managed to pass a bill repealing California's sodomy law. The repeal was signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown.

Mayor of San Francisco

Moscone decided in 1975 to run for Mayor of San Francisco. In a close race in November of that year, Moscone placed first with conservative city supervisor John Barbagelata second and moderate supervisor Dianne Feinstein coming in third. Moscone and Barbagelata thus both advanced to the mandated runoff election in December where Moscone narrowly defeated the conservative supervisor. Progressives also won the city's other top executive offices that year as Joseph Freitas was elected District Attorney and Richard Hongisto was re-elected to his office of Sheriff. Moscone's first year as Mayor was spent preventing the San Francisco Giants professional baseball team from moving to another city and advocating a city-wide ballot proposition in favor of district election to the Board of Supervisors. Moscone was the first mayor to appoint large numbers of women, gays and lesbians and racial minorities to city commissions and advisory boards. One of his most controversial appointments was that of the Reverend Jim Jones, head of the Peoples Temple, to the city's Housing Commission. The People's Temple would later be discovered to be a thinly-veiled cult headed by the demagogic and mentally unstable Jones. Moscone also appointed liberal former Oakland Police Chief Charles Gain to head the San Francisco Police Department. Gain (and by extension Moscone) became highly unpopular among rank and file San Francisco police officers for proposing a settlement to a lawsuit brought by minorities claiming discriminatory recruiting practices by the police force.

During his tenure, Moscone adamantly opposed the construction of the proposed Yerba Buena convention center, arguing that the massive structures would displace hundreds of longtime working class residents from the SOMA neighborhood. Ironically, the convention center, one of the largest in the United States, currently bears his name.

In 1977 Moscone, Freitas and Hongisto all easily survived a recall election pushed by defeated Moscone opponent John Barbagelata and business interests. That year also marked the passage of the district election system by San Francisco voters. The city's first district elections for Board of Supervisors took place in November 1977. Among those elected were the city's first openly gay Supervisor, Harvey Milk, single mother and attorney Carol Ruth Silver, Chinese-American Gordon Lau and conservative fireman and former police officer Dan White. Milk, Silver, and Lau along with John Molinari and Robert Gonzales made up Moscone's allies on the Board, while Dan White, Dianne Feinstein, Quentin Kopp, Ella Hill Hutch, Lee Dolson, and Ron Pelosi formed a loosely organized coalition to oppose Moscone and his initiatives. Feinstein was elected President of the Board of Supervisors on a 6-5 vote, with Moscone's supporters backing Lau. It was generally believed that Feinstein, having twice lost election to the office of mayor would support Kopp against Moscone in the 1979 election and retire rather than run for the Board again.

Support for Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple

Moscone was a supporter of controversial Bay Area political figure Jim Jones. During the difficult 1975 Mayoral election, Moscone held a meeting with Jones and Peoples Temple member Mike Prokes requesting Peoples Temple volunteers for campaign work.[2] After work by the Peoples Temple and votes by Temple members were instrumental in deliverying a close victory for Moscone, Moscone appointed Jones as Chairman of the San Francisco Housing Commission.[3] Moscone attended functions at the Peoples Temple, including the 1976 testimonial dinner for Jim Jones.[4]

After Jim Jones fled to Guyana following an article published in New West magazine alleging criminal wrongdoing, Moscone's office issued a press release stating "The Mayor's Office does not and will not conduct any investigation" because the article was "a series of allegations with absolutely no hard evidence that the Rev. Jones has violated any laws, either local, state or federal."[2]


Late in 1978, Dan White resigned from the Board of Supervisors. His resignation meant that Moscone would choose White's successor, and thus could tip the Board's balance of power in Moscone's favor. Recognizing this, those who supported a more conservative agenda talked White into changing his mind. White requested that Moscone re-appoint him to his former seat.

Moscone originally indicated a willingness to consider, but more liberal city leaders, including Milk, lobbied him against the idea, and Moscone ultimately decided not to re-appoint White. On November 27, 1978, White went to San Francisco City Hall to meet with Moscone and make a final plea for re-appointment. When Moscone uttered his famous final words, "I'm sorry Dan, what's right isn't always popular, and what's popular isn't always right. My decision is final." White shot and killed Moscone, then went to Milk's office and shot him dead as well.

Dianne Feinstein, President of the Board of Supervisors, was sworn in as the city's new mayor and in the following years would emerge as one of California's most prominent politicians.

White later turned himself in at the police station where he was formerly an officer. Years later White confessed to having premeditated on the killings, and also confessed to planning to shoot two others as well, one being Assemblyman Willie Brown, who later became Mayor of San Francisco. The term "Twinkie defense" has its origins in the murder trial that followed, in which Dan White was convicted of the lesser crime of manslaughter.

Although Bay Area Congressman Leo Ryan (a friend of Moscone), NBC reporter Don Harris and two others died in the tragedy at Jonestown only nine days before Moscone's murder, no connection between the shooter Dan White and the Peoples Temple has ever been proven.


Moscone is interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California. His grave often has a Rainbow flag present, and new flags are placed there every November 27. Today, both he and Milk are mourned as martyrs of the gay rights movement.

Moscone Center, San Francisco's largest convention center and exhibition hall, and Moscone Recreation Center are named in his honor.

Moscone and Milk also have two schools named after them. George Moscone Elementary and Harvey Milk Elementary.

In 1980, sculptor Robert Arneson was commissioned to create a monument to Moscone to be installed in the new Moscone Convention Center. The bust portraying Moscone was done in Arneson's typically crude and expressionistic style and was considered acceptable by San Francisco's Art Commission. However, the pedestal which the former Mayor's head rested on was deemed inappropriate and Arneson was asked to change it. At issue were references to Harvey Milk, the assassinations, the "Twinkie Defense," the White Night Riots, and Dianne Feinstein's mayoral succession that Arneson had included on the surface of the pedestal. Arneson refused to make alterations to the work, returned the commission, and later resold the sculpture.

In popular culture

  • The Dead Kennedys' version of "I Fought the Law" contains numerous references to Moscone's murder.[5]


  • Wolfgang Saxon. "George Moscone, a Firm Mayor Who Stressed Anticrime Effort." The New York Times. November 28, 1978. B12.
  • Wallace Turner. "San Francisco Mayor is Slain; City Supervisor Also Killed; Ex-Official Gives Up to Police." The New York Times. November 28, 1978. A1

See also

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