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SF Mayoral Race Takes Shape

by Matthew S. Bajko

Mark Leno takes an oath as a candidate for San Francisco mayor, administered by Department of Elections manager Gregory Slocum, as supporters Tom Temprano, back, Bevan Dufty, and Rafael Mandelman look on. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Mark Leno takes an oath as a candidate for San Francisco mayor, administered by Department of Elections manager Gregory Slocum, as supporters Tom Temprano, back, Bevan Dufty, and Rafael Mandelman look on. Photo: Rick Gerharter  (Source:Rick Gerharter)

San Francisco voters come June could elect the city's first gay mayor, maintain the first black female mayor, or could instead send the first Asian-American woman to Room 200 at City Hall.

By the 5 p.m. filing deadline Tuesday to enter the special mayoral election on the June 5 ballot, called due to the sudden death last month of former mayor Ed Lee, eight candidates had qualified for the race. Whoever wins will serve out the remainder of Lee's term through January 8, 2020 and will need to run for a full four-year term on the November 2019 ballot.

Many in the city's LGBT community and progressive political circles have lined up behind gay former District 8 supervisor and state lawmaker Mark Leno, who last spring mounted his mayoral bid for 2019 and was the first to announce his candidacy for the special election this year. Due to his early start, Leno has already netted close to $420,000 in donations and locked up many endorsements from community and political leaders.

"We are in good shape to start this campaign," Leno, 66, told the Bay Area Reporter shortly before filing his paperwork with the city's elections department Monday morning. "The issues before us - affordable housing, homelessness, traffic congestion - have likely only gotten worse and the urgency of these matters has only gotten greater."

Addressing the media and a large crowd of backers outside the elections office in the basement of City Hall, Leno vowed to "shake things up" as mayor. Positioned as a progressive in the mayoral race, Leno said the time was long overdue for a change in leadership at City Hall, which has been led by three moderate mayors over the last 22 years.

"I am running for mayor because I believe it is time for a new direction at City Hall," said Leno, who moved to the city four decades ago and owns a small sign-making business. "On June 5 voters will have a real choice between fundamental change and the status quo."

District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, 40, a progressive member of the board who two years ago lost her bid for Leno's state Senate seat, is also vowing a change in the city's direction should she win the mayor's race.

"For the last 20 years City Hall has been run by the same administration," Kim told the media after filing her paperwork Tuesday morning, referring to how Lee largely kept in place the policies of his predecessor, Gavin Newsom. "It has not worked for all of us."

Also running is District 5 Supervisor London Breed, 43, who automatically became the city's acting mayor upon Lee's death due to her being board president. A leader of the board's moderate bloc, Breed is backed by former mayor Willie Brown and has garnered support from a number of women's advocates and African-American community leaders who have organized to ensure she remains mayor through the election.

"I'm not a partisan. I'm not an ideologue. I believe in a San Francisco where we succeed as one. Together there is no problem we can't solve," wrote Breed, who grew up in San Francisco and lived in public housing not far from City Hall, in announcing her decision to run in a Twitter post last Friday.

Also in the running is former supervisor Angela Alioto, 68, a lawyer whose father served as mayor. She twice before has sought to be elected mayor, and as a former homeless czar for Newsom, has vowed to make addressing the city's homeless crisis a major focus of her administration.

"I have a passion and love for this city that literally runs through my veins. I have given my life to serving the city I love so much," stated Alioto in announcing her decision to run earlier this month. "I feel I'm the most qualified person to take on the vast number of problems facing our city, and I know I'm the candidate that can bring all the stakeholders together to truly address the issues in front of us, as well as the resources and plans to solve these critical problems."

The lesser-known mayoral hopefuls in the race are center/right candidate Richie Greenberg; pro-development advocate Amy Farah Weiss; social worker Ellen Lee Zhou; and massage therapist Michelle Bravo.

Three elected leaders who had been seen as possible candidates all opted against running: state Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), City Attorney Dennis Herrera, and Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu.

Leno and Kim this week both expressed their desire to see the Board of Supervisors name a caretaker mayor who is not running in the June election, effectively arguing Breed should not be allowed to remain in the position.

It is up to the supervisors to decide to elect Breed or someone else as interim mayor, which requires six votes on the 11-member board, and the supervisors cannot vote for themselves. If they deadlock on the issue, then Breed would remain acting mayor as well as the District 5 supervisor.

District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who is backing Leno for mayor, called on Tuesday for the board to hold a special meeting next Tuesday, January 16, to elect an interim mayor. Among the names floated as possibilities are lesbian city clerk Angela Calvillo and gay former supervisor Tom Ammiano, who also served in the state Assembly.

At a rally last week in support of Breed remaining mayor over the next five months, former supervisor the Reverend Amos Brown, pastor at Third Baptist Church, recalled the last time the city had an acting mayor: Dianne Feinstein was president of the Board of Supervisors when Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated in November 1978.

"She stepped in and admirably led this city," Brown said.

He railed against a "caretaker" mayor, saying, "We didn't have one in 1978 and we don't need one in 2018."


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