SAN FRANCISCO
02/28/2013 08:38 pm ET

Harvey Milk Airport: Poll Finds Majority Of San Franciscans Oppose Renaming Airport After Gay Icon

San Francisco residents oppose a proposal by Supervisor David Campos to name San Francisco International Airport after slain gay rights icon Harvey Milk by a two-to-one margin, according to a poll commissioned by the city's Chamber of Commerce.

The poll found that only 31 percent of likely voters supported the change, while 61 percent opposed. The chamber of commerce has publicly come out against the idea.

That opposition to ran across virtually all demographics in the city, even those that might appear to be likely allies. Only 45 percent of respondents who identified as LGBT supported the idea. In San Francisco's District 8, where Milk was elected as the first openly gay public official in the United States, the support barely cracked 50 percent.

By targeting "likely voters," the poll's sample skews a good bit older and more conservative than the city as a whole. Nearly two-thirds of respondents were over the age of 50, and 85 percent were reached on land lines. Of those reached on cell phones, 58 percent supported renaming the airport.

"[We find the poll] to be reflective of voter turnout, not necessarily the entire demographic of the city," explained Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President Jim Lazarus.

Taking the temperature of people who might actually go to the polls is important because the issue may end up in front of San Francisco voters in November's election.

Campos has estimated that renaming the airport would cost between $50,000 and $250,000.

"[Milk] is the most important figure in the history of the LGBT community, and he played such a critical role in modern San Francisco politics," Supervisor Scott Weiner, who represents Milk's old district and co-sponsors Campos's bill, explained to the San Francisco Chronicle. "San Francisco has always been at the forefront of the fight for LGBT equality, and so people come here from around the country and around the world because of that, and for 40 million people a year to land at Harvey Milk International Airport sends an incredible message to the world."

The San Francisco Examiner's Melissa Griffin is a little less idealistic in her assessment of the motives behind the name change:

Six months after the Milk airport ballot measure, Campos himself will likely be on the ballot in the primary to take over Tom Ammiano’s seat in the state Assembly. Ammiano is termed out, and Campos has made no secret of his interest in running to represent Assembly District 17.

By keeping the Milk airport proposal as a ballot measure instead of a simple ordinance, Campos will be able to raise unlimited amounts of money for a campaign that is ostensibly supporting a beloved city figure, Harvey Milk, but that shows Campos’ own name and face. Campos will thus increase his citywide recognition right before his bid for Assembly and do so without campaign contribution limits.

A Change.org petition organized by Milk's nephew Stuart has generated over 20,000 signatures and a recent rally on the steps of City Hall drew about 100 supporters.

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