Gov. George Deukmejian called Monday for a special April 7 primary and June 2 general election in the 5th Congressional District, which takes in most of the city of San Francisco. The seat became vacant Feb. 1 with the death from cancer of Democratic Rep. Sala Burton.
Also on Monday there were reports that San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein is now thinking of seeking the congressional seat after originally leaning against running.
Feinstein's two terms as mayor end this year and under city law she cannot succeed herself. She has said she would like to finish her term, but sources familiar with several recent meetings she has held said Monday that she has agreed to consider the advice of aides who argue that the congressional seat would broaden her experience and national contacts while she contemplates a possible run for governor in 1990 or other political office.
Her entry in the race would complicate things for Nancy Pelosi, who was endorsed by Burton just before the congresswoman died. Pelosi and Feinstein both are part of the San Francisco Democratic social and political establishment and would depend on many of the same contributors in what could be a costly race.
But according to consultants in the city, Feinstein would have a major advantage because of her popularity and name identification. Pelosi, a veteran political activist and fund-raiser, is better known to national Democratic leaders than she is to the average San Franciscan.
Until Feinstein began to reconsider, the special election was shaping up as a battle primarily between Pelosi and gay Supervisor Harry Britt.
Pelosi's strengths are her fund-raising ability and her closeness to such powerful figures as Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy and Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, who would be expected to campaign for her. California Sen. Alan Cranston, himself a formidable fund-raiser and campaigner, has already endorsed Pelosi for the 5th District seat.
Britt, who says he would take a leadership position on the AIDS crisis if elected to Congress, believes he can count on a significant bloc of gay votes in the 5th District. That bloc could be magnified if voter turnout is low, as it often is in a special election, and if there are a number of candidates.
Britt's Entry Certain
Britt's political consultant, Dick Pabich, said Monday of the reports about Feinstein, "At this point, Harry is in it no matter what happens." Pabich said he thought Feinstein would decide not to run.
Another San Francisco supervisor, Bill Maher, has already announced that he will seek the congressional seat. He met last week with Los Angeles political consultants Michael Berman and Carl D'Agostino.
San Francisco Deputy Mayor Hadley Roff on Monday denied speculation that Feinstein will soon announce her candidacy for the congressional seat, but he acknowledged that "she is giving it some thought" after saying in January that she had no plans to run.
"Since Sala's memorial," Roff said, referring to services for Burton in San Francisco last week, "there has been a lot of talk about this among her (Feinstein's) aides and the people close to her, and she is considering it. But at this point, there is nothing to announce."
He said she will disclose her decision "soon," but he gave no time frame.
So far most of the speculation about the special election has involved Democrats, who make up 62% of the registered voters in the 5th District.
Under election law, all the candidates will appear on the April 7 primary ballot and Democrats and Republicans can cross over. If no candidate gets a majority, the top vote-getters from each party will run in the special general election June 2.
Contributing to this article was Times staff writer Mark Stein in San Francisco.