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Leno to Run for SF Mayor in June

by Matthew S. Bajko

Then-state Senator Mark Leno talks about legislation in 2014 as Mayor Ed Lee stands behind him
Then-state Senator Mark Leno talks about legislation in 2014 as Mayor Ed Lee stands behind him  (Source:Rick Gerharter)

The sudden death of Mayor Ed Lee Tuesday in the middle of his second term scrambles the plans of those who were seeking to replace him, including the man seeking to become San Francisco's first LGBT mayor.

Gay former District 8 supervisor and state lawmaker Mark Leno had already announced his 2019 mayoral bid earlier this year. In a phone interview Wednesday morning, Leno confirmed he would run in the special election on the June 5, 2018 primary ballot to serve out the remainder of Lee's term, which expires January 8, 2020.

He planned to spend Wednesday calling those elected leaders, including Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer, Ahsha Safai, Norman Yee, and Aaron Peskin, who had endorsed him for the 2019 race to ensure he had their support in next year's election. Leno already had raised $400,000 for his mayoral bid, money he can now use on the June race.

He sounded unfazed about the expedited timeline and likely having to run against a sitting mayor when asked about the changing dynamics of the race.

"I always expected this to be a very competitive race," said Leno.

Tuesday afternoon Leno posted a condolence note to Lee's family on his Facebook page, in which he described the mayor as "a decent man who could rise above differences of opinion to always treat others with dignity and respect." He hoped Lee would "be remembered for his humor and his commitment to the city he loved."

Asked what he felt Lee's legacy would be, Leno told the B.A.R., "I would say that Ed Lee spent his life as a defender of those without a voice, those communities struggling to be treated equally under the law. That includes our LGBTQ communities as well as our immigrant community and all of San Francisco."

District 5 Supervisor London Breed had also been expected to run for mayor in two years. As acting mayor due to her being the board president, she will have the advantage of incumbency should she run in June.

For now, Breed will remain as the District 5 supervisor, unless she becomes the interim mayor, at which point she would then appoint her board successor, who would also run in June to serve the remainder of her term through early January 2021.

But it is unclear if Breed will be able to secure the six votes she needs among her 10 board colleagues to be elected interim mayor prior to the election. Tuesday was the board's last official meeting of 2017, making it unlikely the board will vote on the matter until sometime in the new year.

Gay District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy told the B.A.R. on Tuesday that it was too soon to discuss the matter. It is possible Breed will remain acting mayor until a new mayor is elected next summer.

A number of local officials could opt to run for mayor in the June election, including Supervisors Mark Farrell (D2) and Jane Kim (D6), who will both be termed off the board in January 2019, or City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu, two others said to be eying a bid. Another oft-mentioned candidate for 2019 has been Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), who will now have to decide to either run for mayor or run for re-election to his state Assembly seat next June.

The city elections department told the B.A.R. Wednesday that the filing deadline to enter the mayor's race in June will be January 9 and that the nomination period for candidates opens this Friday, December 15.

Two names that won't be on the ballot next summer are those of gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and gay BART board member Bevan Dufty, a former supervisor who lost his bid for mayor in 2011. Both told the B.A.R. this week they have no plans to run for mayor.


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