August Longo, Democratic Party Official with Checkered Past, Dies at 65

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August Longo
August Longo was a man who presents challenges for an obituary writer.

The wheelchair-bound 65-year-old died of undisclosed causes on or around April 6 according to his Facebook page. A straight accounting of his past, obituary style, would be to note that he was San Francisco's regional director for the state Democratic Party and a longtime disability rights advocate.

And that's true. But it's also true that Longo had an extensive criminal past on both coasts. In 1981, he was indicted in New York of impersonating three different doctors, filling out false credit-card and loan applications, and passing more than 40 bad checks -- to the tune of $467,000. He pleaded guilty to nine charges involving around $125,000.

In 1984, he "absconded" from New York and skipped his probation to travel to California -- where he was later convicted of felony credit-card fraud in 1985. He was paroled in 1990, violated parole in '91 and went back inside, and then left prison for good one year later and began traveling in Democratic Party circles.

And while Longo was a disability rights advocate -- and pressured U.C. San Francisco, for one, into making accommodations for the disabled -- he also rankled many in the disabled community who felt he was self-serving. Longo filed a number of Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits against San Francisco and its businesses -- sharing in a $110,000 payout by the city in 1996, even while he made only token $25 a month restitution payments to those he had earlier defrauded.

But when Supervisor Chris Daly decided to attempt to knock Longo out of his role as Democratic Party regional director, none of that mattered. What did matter were the powerful allegiances Longo had formed with party president John Burton -- whom Longo once represented on the Democratic County Central Committee -- Sen. Mark Leno, and others. Heading up to the vote between Longo and Daly at last year's state party convention, Longo was not a worried man. "Unless I am crazy and the people helping me on my campaign are crazy, it's such a lopsided vote that even if I lose a third of it, I'm going to win," he told SF Weekly.

Longo wasn't crazy; he trounced Daly in the party vote, 77-28. Perhaps the overall lesson here is that, whatever Longo was -- and he was many things -- he was a man who knew where he stood with others, and knew how to move on in life. 

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