San Francisco today is known as a hotbed of left-wing politics and it seems to only continue to be moving that direction. The election of Chesa Boudin, a far leftist who once worked for Hugo Chavez as District Attorney as well as the renaming of schools named after Abraham Lincoln and Dianne Feinstein of all people stand as some of the latest far left advancements in the city. However, San Francisco was not always such a lefty place. In the 1950s, their assemblyman was none other than Ronald Reagan’s future Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, and one of their two representatives was William S. Mailliard (1917-1992), who had defeated liberal Democrat Franck Havenner in 1952 through anti-communist campaigning.
Mailliard’s district didn’t entirely consist of San Francisco, rather it consisted of the areas that connected the Golden Gate Bridge. The suburbs of Marin County and the western middle-class areas of San Francisco made up his district, making it the type of district that would elect Republicans back in the day. Despite his anti-communist campaigning, Mailliard was a moderate: his lifetime MC-Index score stands at a 54%, lifetime ACA score is also a 54%, while his adjusted lifetime ADA score stands at 45%. He was socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and a through-and-through internationalist. This translated to him being a strong supporter of civil rights legislation, voting frequently for domestic budget cuts, opposing a school prayer amendment, and voting against the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964. Another apt descriptor of him is “Eisenhower Republican”.
Although Mailliard won reelection easily in 1968, the Nixon Administration was not proving popular in San Francisco. In 1970, for the first time, he won reelection by eight points, the first time in his Congressional career he won by single digits. In 1972, Mailliard won by only four points in a good year for the GOP. His support for Nixon’s approach to the Vietnam War may have contributed to his declining popularity in the district and by 1974, a court-ordered redistricting added black and university neighborhoods, making reelection unlikely for him. He resigned his post to be ambassador to the Organization of American States, before the “smoking gun” evidence was released in the Watergate scandal. Mailliard left the post with the end of the Ford Administration in 1977. He suffered a heart attack on his 75th birthday at Dulles International Airport in 1992 and died at the hospital. Mailliard served in a different time, in which San Francisco had a vibrant middle class who could vote Republican. However, even the areas he represented in San Francisco are now about as liberal as anywhere else in the city and even those voters at that time, like Mailliard, possessed socially liberal sensibilities.
Lydon, C. (1974, June 3). Democrat Favored to Win House Seat in San Francisco Area in Special Election Tuesday. The New York Times.
William Mailliard Dies. (1992, June 12). The Washington Post.