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Former Houston mayor stumps for Leno in SF

by Cynthia Laird

Former Houston mayor and Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund CEO Annise Parker, left, stumped for Mark Leno's mayoral campaign March 30 at his Castro headquarters. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Former Houston mayor and Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund CEO Annise Parker, left, stumped for Mark Leno's mayoral campaign March 30 at his Castro headquarters. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

It's been a good news, not so good news week for gay San Francisco mayoral candidate Mark Leno.

He received the San Francisco Democratic Party's number one endorsement March 28, and two days later welcomed lesbian former Houston mayor Annise Parker to his campaign headquarters for a rally with supporters.

Then on Monday, one of his endorsers, gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), announced he was also backing Board of Supervisors President London Breed - and was not ranking his support of the two candidates.

In fact, since the mayoral election was moved to the June 5 primary following the December death of mayor Ed Lee, several of Leno's endorsers have opted to also back another candidate. Most of them, like Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Sandra Lee Fewer, have gone on to dual endorse District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, who along with Leno is considered a progressive in the race.

Responding to a request for comment, Zoƫ Kleinfeld, director of communications for the Leno campaign said that he is "proud to have the first-place endorsement" from the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee. Kim received the second choice endorsement.

"The endorsement is a rally cry for a bold and different vision of San Francisco," Kleinfeld wrote in a text message.

She added that Leno is proud to have Wiener's endorsement and downplayed his backing of Breed.

"Senator Wiener is one of a number of elected leaders who have dual-endorsed in this race," she wrote. "The real issue here is that Supervisor Breed is the only candidate in the race who does not have a ranked choice strategy."

In the mayor's race, ranked choice voting lets people rank three candidates. If no candidate receives a majority, the candidate with the fewest first choices is eliminated and those voters' ballots are counted for their second choice.

Besides Leno, Kim, and Breed, former supervisor Angela Alioto is the other major candidate in the race. On Tuesday, Alioto secured the endorsement of the San Francisco Police Officers Association. The decision was not a surprise, as union officials had reportedly not been pleased with Breed, Kim, or Leno over their positions on Tasers and other matters.

Meanwhile, it was applause all around March 30 at Leno's Castro campaign headquarters when Parker stumped for Leno in her new role as president and CEO of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

Parker, who took over the organization in December, said that community members must "activate your spheres of influence" to tell voters why Leno's candidacy matters and how important his victory would be.

Leno, a former city supervisor and state legislator, would be San Francisco's first openly gay mayor if elected in June to complete Lee's term. There will be an election November 2019 for a full four-year term.

"Mark Leno is a great candidate and he's going to need all of us," Parker told the crowd. "He can only win if there's a surge of support across this city from people who understand he's the most qualified."

Several LGBT elected leaders, including BART board member Bevan Dufty, and City College trustees Tom Temprano and Rafael Mandelman, who's running to represent District 8 on the Board of Supervisors against gay appointed Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, joined Leno.

Lesbian former supervisor and city treasurer Susan Leal was also in attendance.

"I've supported Mark for over a year," Leal told the Bay Area Reporter in a brief interview, referring to Leno launching his mayoral bid last May, when it was still thought to be a 2019 election. "He offers strong and progressive leadership and brings people together.

"He has the temperament and maturity to be mayor," she added.

In an interview before the event, Parker told the B.A.R. that it matters, especially to young people, to see a qualified LGBT person elected to office. This year, there is a flood of LGBT candidates running in races across the country, she said, many of whom are queer women.

"In San Francisco, the mayor is a public face unlike many other places," she said.

During his remarks, Leno said he was "really honored" to have Parker in attendance. Parker won her mayoral election in 2009, making Houston the largest city in the United States to elect an openly LGBT chief executive. She went on to win re-election twice more before being termed out.

For her part, Parker said that Leno "brings the full package" to City Hall, having served as a supervisor and then in the state Legislature.

"He's done everything we expect," Parker said. "He's served well and I want to remind you he's the best candidate for mayor.

"He's not running to be a symbol," she said. "He's running because he's the most qualified candidate for the position."

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