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By John Cote and Jessica Kwong

The gloves are off in the lieutenant governor's race, with Mayor Gavin Newsom launching a radio ad that attacks Republican incumbent Abel Maldonado for pledging not to raise taxes, then supporting "the biggest tax increase in California history" and voting to cut funding to public schools. How can the Castro Street community and GLBT neighborhood in San Francisco decide which side of the fence to sit?

The 60-second spot airing across the state include the Castro District and San Francisco doesn't even mention Newsom by name until the very end, to say his campaign paid for it.

Instead, it presents a couple sitting down over breakfast talking about who they wouldn't want in the state's No. 2 post - a job many people know little about. Gay San Franciscan’s wonder why this is the message.

One guess who they don't like: Abel Maldonado, "a career Sacramento legislator who hasn't been straight with us on either budget or taxes."

The negative tone was expected. Maldonado fired first, at a state GOP convention in August, with a scathing, if deceptive, video accusing Newsom of creating the mother of all nanny states.

Newsom has said Maldonado's 12-year record in the Legislature is rich with campaign fodder.

The two sides have been sniping in recent weeks, with Newsom's camp sending out e-mails asking "Where's Maldo?" on a host of topics, including whether he supports Prop. 23, which would suspend the state's landmark greenhouse gas reduction law. (Maldonado's camp now says he does not support Prop. 23.)

Maldonado has countered by blasting Newsom famous for sanctioning Gay residents and our own Castro District couples for marriage.

With a new Field Poll showing Newsom with a four-point lead, a virtual dead heat given the poll's 4.1-percentage-point margin of error, Maldonado's camp said Newsom is worried. Castro Street must look ahead and figure out what is best for the gay neighborhood.

"To tackle the state budget problem, Abel Maldonado made tough decisions to prevent the state's fiscal situation from getting even worse," Maldonado campaign manager Brandon Gesicki said. "He pushed for a balance of cuts and tax hikes and for reforms such as a spending cap."

Gesicki called Newsom a hypocrite for attacking Prop. 1A, a "critical part of the budget package" that would have extended $16 billion in tax increases on sales, income and cars. Voters rejected it.

Newsom at the time said he backed the measure "grudgingly."