By Luke Thomas
August 8, 2011
If this morning’s announcement of interim Mayor Ed Lee’s official candidacy in the race for mayor, which included a protester calling for Lee to step down and fellow candidates lobbing accusations of dishonesty and lies at Lee, is any indication of what Lee will have to endure on the campaign trail, this year’s mayor’s race has the making of one of the most contentious battles in the history of San Francisco politics.
The race will come down to integrity and character of which Ed Lee is now seemingly bereft, and a battle for the many over the enriched few.
If anyone is to blame, it’s the San Francisco power elite and the development special interests that engineered Lee’s “caretaker” appointment through backroom deals from the get go – with the ultimate goal of controlling Room 200 contracts and its lucrative $7 billion purse for the next eight years.
The plan was executed to perfection with the complicity of then Mayor Gavin Newsom who was all too willing to pervert the course of democracy by delaying his swearing in as Lt. Governor, not due to an emergency or some other acceptable reason, but to service the same benefactors Lee is expected to serve.
The writing was on the wall when a split decision by the Board of Supervisors was decided in favor of Lee over Sheriff Michael Hennessey, courtesy of fellow mayoral candidate and Willie Brown protégé, former Supervisor Bevan Dufty. Dufty, by all insider accounts, is in the mayor’s race not to win, but to raise money from the unsuspecting and to steer his second place votes to Lee.
As one San Francisco Chronicle, Ed Lee cheer-leading columnist poignantly put it following Lee’s entry into the race this morning, “Willie Brown is a crook, but he’s our crook,” the very same columnist who said it’s okay to lie to one’s mother.
Lee, accompanied by his wife and daughter, filed the required paperwork at the San Francisco Department of Elections this morning officially declaring his candidacy for mayor. While filling out the required documents and signing on the dotted line, Charles Kalish, a 72-year old landscape architect, heckled Lee.
“Mr. Lee, are you going to step down because you lied to the Board of Supervisors, and are in that office under false pretenses?” Kalish asked.
Lee looked rattled but did not respond. Any feeling of shame was shrugged off.
While sheriff’s deputies and SFPD officers attempted to physically eject Mr. Kalish, Kalish responded, “You have no right to stop me. I am a citizen of San Francisco exercising my personal rights. Sir, are you going to step down?”
Lee remained silent, ignoring the very question reporters have asked, while Kalish was forcibly removed. Kalish was charged with obstructing public business and resisting arrest and will be cited and released, said Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Eileen Hirst.
The first question Lee was asked from a throng of broadcast, print and online journalists, hit the mark: “Ed, what about the matter of trust? You said repeatedly you’re not a politician. Now, just a few moments ago, you filed as a politician. Why should people trust you?”
Lee, in some alternative universe of prepared and rehearsed talking points, responded: “I had changed my mind, sir, and I wanted to make sure people knew why I changed my mind here. I had not focused on running for mayor. I just did the work that was required. But there’s a tone change a City Hall, one that makes me feel pretty good about being mayor to be quite, err, quite, err, specific about it.”
Lee seemed to be struggling in a calculated way to avoid saying the word “honest,” the very word that will not apply to Lee’s character or candidature.
Within minutes of Lee filing to run for office, statements from several leading candidates in the race were released:
“Mr. Lee’s candidacy draws one of the starkest contrasts in this race for San Francisco voters, both in terms of our visions for the future of our City and our independence from powerful special interests,” wrote City Attorney Dennis Herrera.
“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 campaign,” Herrera added. “Ed Lee told us he didn’t want to be interim Mayor. But powerful people insisted he do it, so he did. Then Ed Lee told us he didn’t want to run for Mayor. But powerful people insisted he run, and now he is. 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. The fact is, if Ed Lee is elected Mayor, powerful people will continue to insist on things. And I don’t think San Franciscans can be blamed for having serious doubts about whether Ed Lee would have the courage to say no.”
“I called Ed Lee this morning and welcomed him into the race for Mayor,” wrote Board of Supervisors President David Chiu. “While I’m disappointed that he broke his promise to San Franciscans not to run, it will ultimately be up to the voters to judge the character, vision, and record of those who want to lead our City for the next four years. I look forward to seeing Ed on the campaign trail and having him join the debate about how best to keep San Francisco moving forward.”
“While it is unfortunate that his first act as a candidate was to renege on a promise made to the people of San Francisco less than 8 months ago, I welcome Ed Lee to the race for Mayor,” wrote venture capitalist Joanna Rees. “ I was running against eight city hall insiders—now it’s nine.”
“If anything, the ethically questionable sideshow that brought us to today’s announcement serves as a stark reminder of the widening disconnect between insider power struggles at city hall, and neighborhoods concerned about creating jobs, strengthening schools, and ending the cycle of deficits that puts vital city services at risk,” Rees added.
“I welcome Ed Lee into the race. It’s time we had a real debate about the policies he has proposed and whether they are good for the city. My campaign will stay focused on the issues that brought me into this race,” wrote former Supervisor Tony Hall.
“The bottom line is that while the other candidates complain about Ed Lee’s broken promise not to run for Mayor, I am more concerned with his broken promise to govern responsibly and for the benefit of all,” Hall added. “In my opinion he has continued City Hall’s unfortunate tradition of punting San Francisco’s problems instead of solving them. And it is the average San Franciscan who always ends up paying the price.”
Mr. Lee said he will attend his first mayoral debate at the Castro Theater this evening at 7pm. Protests are being organized and are expected to continue throughout the campaign to ensure San Franciscans know their democracy has been hijacked and is being sold to the highest bidders, that Lee’s perceptibly tainted candidacy represents a continuation of patronage and corruption at City Hall.