Life After Political Death

I'm not a great reader of obituaries, but I happened to see that Joe Freitas, the former district attorney of San Francisco, died last Wednesday. ...
by | April 24, 2006

I'm not a great reader of obituaries, but I happened to see that Joe Freitas, the former district attorney of San Francisco, died last Wednesday.

Freitas was the city's top law enforcement official during a particularly tumultuous time, the era of the mass suicides at Jonestown and the assassinations at City Hall of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the nation.

It was the latter case that ended Freitas' political career. Moscone and Milk had been shot to death by Dan White, a former supervisor. White got off with a light sentence, triggering the White Night riots and outraging more peaceful citizens as well.

In the spirit of blogging, I might note that I was attending a Bay Area junior high school at the time and hosted a "Twinkie Festival" in rueful tribute to White's defense that too much junk food -- so-called Twinkie insanity -- had driven him to pull the trigger.

At any rate, Freitas bore the political brunt of voter outrage, losing his job at the next election and ending his previous hopes of climbing the political ladder. "The public needed to have a boil to lance, and they took it out on the D.A.," Freitas said years later.

But the moral of the story, as is more often the case than is widely credited, is that Freitas' life did not end with his political defeat. As with many derailed politicians, he lived arguably better once he was done with public life.

He remarried and, as the San Francisco Chronicle obituary points out, "They divided their time between a home in Paris and an apartment in San Francisco until her death last year." It's not statewide office, but it doesn't sound too bad.