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Amid the sorrow and confusion, hasty theories flourished over why both officials had died. One was that the murders might somehow have been connected with the Peoples Temple. Far more plausible was the notion that White, the only supervisor on the board who had voted against a city ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual preferences, had vented his anti-gay feelings in a murderous attack against Milk and the mayor. Moscone had appointed a few representatives of the gay community to low-ranking government offices.
White was a law-and-order conservative who viewed both the progressive mayor and Milk as overly tolerant of criminals and nonconformists. White had, in fact, won election as supervisor last year partly by campaigning, in effect, against gays. "There are thousands upon thousands of frustrated, angry people waiting to unleash a fury that can and will eradicate the malignancies which blight our city," his brochures declared. "I am not going to be forced out of San Francisco by splinter groups of radicals, social deviates, incorrigibles."
Yet other facts contradicted any tidy theory. White was no political extremist. "I respect the private rights of all people, including gays," he had insisted during debate on the gay rights ordinance. (He was also in favor of handgun controls.) He and Milk got along well on the board, at least until recently.
While White reportedly confessed to the crimes, his motivation was not revealed. He apparently $9,600 salary. His wife Mary Ann had to quit her teaching job when she became pregnant. They later tried to operate a waterfront potato stand, but his city hall duties consumed too much of his time. He decided to resign the post on Nov. 10, then changed his mind and waged a vain fight to get the post back. Moscone had refused to reappoint him.
"I'm really sorry to see him go," Moscone had said after White turned in his resignation. "I think he's a good guy." But while White was out of office, opposition to him had developed in his ethnically mixed district, and the affable but politically shrewd Moscone had decided it would be smarter for him to appoint a more compatible, liberal man to White's position on the board.
The final day began happily for Moscone, a 15-year political veteran, former Democratic leader of the California senate and father of four children. He was visited in his city hall office by State Assemblyman Willie Brown, a black leader and close friend.
"The mayor was really in high spirits, glowing," recalled Brown. "He yelled, 'C'mon in, this I've got to tell you!" Moscone's news was that he felt he had pulled off a political coup in selecting Don Horanzy, 42, a real estate loan officer of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to fill out White's four-year term. Horanzy had not sought political office but had developed local support by founding a neighborhood "All People's Coalition" in White's lower-middle-class, partly black, Oriental and white ethnic district. The volunteer coalition helped combat crime and spruce up the neighborhood. Moscone had scheduled a press conference for 11:30 a.m. to announce Horanzy's appointment.