Ed Lee’s entry into Mayor’s race ignites criticism from challengers
Interim Mayor Ed Lee announced Monday morning he would seek a full term as mayor of San Francisco, officially filing paperwork with the city’s Department of Elections to declare his candidacy for the post, and ending speculation about whether he would join a crowded field of candidates seeking to lead the city.
Lee’s announcement was almost immediately met with criticism from mayoral challengers, who accused Lee of going back on a pledge he made when appointed to the vacant mayoral job seven months ago not to run for a full term.
Lee, 59, told reporters assembled at the elections office that he had a change of heart and was inspired to seek the position after a “tone change” at City Hall unseen in city politics in years.
“It makes me feel good about being mayor,” Lee said, explaining his decision. “I know it resonates with a lot of residents . . . and they feel that the tone of this government has changed.”
The interim mayor has said the cooperation between his office and the Board of Supervisors allowed the city to broker deals to keep tech giants Twitter and Zynga within city limits, pass a balanced budget on time, and make progress on other municipal projects.
Challengers attack Lee’s decision
Lee’s decision, which came after weeks of public waffling over the issue, was not unexpected — and challengers immediately unleashed a barrage of statements criticizing the former city administrator’s decision to go back on the promise, calling the move disingenuous and questioning his relationship with the “Run, Ed, Run” advocacy group, which has reported ties to Chinatown power broker Rose Pak and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.
“It’s a blatant attempt by inside power brokers to win influence at City Hall,” Jim Stearns, campaign manager for mayoral candidate and state Senator Leland Yee, said in a statement. “San Francisco can’t afford to go backwards to the times when City Hall has been run by — and often served — the inside power brokers, rather than the people of San Francisco.”
Other candidates issued much more blunt statements attacking Lee’s entry into the race.
“I certainly understand why many supervisors will feel betrayed, but I frankly don’t think Ed Lee’s broken promises will be his biggest liability in his campaigns,” City Attorney and mayoral candidate Dennis Herrera said in a statement. “To my mind, Ed Lee’s biggest problem isn’t that he’s a dishonest man — it’s that he’s not his own man.”
Bureaucrat no more
Lee’s entry into to the race turns the “career bureaucrat” into a politician — a transition which thrusts him fully into the harsh spotlight of the public eye and threatens to undermine the basis for his popularity.
The interim mayor could become the subject of inquests into past doings, unflattering reprisals of mistakes made in previous roles and agenda-driven probes that could spoil the “tone change” at City Hall.
“He hasn’t been subject to the inquiry that every other candidates have over the course of the last several months,” Herrera told reporters outside City Hall Monday.
Political observers note that Lee will also have to stand up to political influence and pressure from power brokers, or risk being seen as weak and easily manipulated.
And fellow city politicians angry over Lee’s broken promise could spoil the civility and cooperation that has been a hallmark of Lee’s term so far.
Lee said Monday that he struggled for weeks with the decision of whether to accept that role, but was successfully persuaded in part by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor.
He said he will take part in his first debate tonight at the mayoral debate forum at the Castro Theater from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. along with other challengers.
“I will explain why I changed my mind,” Lee promised.
Beat Political Director Steven Luo contributed to this story. Contact the News Service at firstname.lastname@example.org.