Lee’s death shocks the city

While we mourn the former mayor, we will see a huge political scramble: The next mayor's race is now just six months away

Mayor Ed Lee’s death last night shocked the city. He was relatively young, had no apparent health issues, and showed no signs of slowing down his energetic pace as leader of San Francisco. 

Acting Mayor London Breed described him this morning at a 10am City Hall press conference as “humble and determined.” I can say personally: I disagreed with most of the mayor’s policies, and can say more about his political legacy later, but whenever I talked to him, he was always polite, friendly, and respectful. He answered my questions and never seemed to take my criticisms personally. He was the city’s first Asian American mayor, which broke a huge barrier. 

I feel terrible, of course, for his wife and two daughters, who must be in a state of shock. As Breed noted, Lee’s “life of service was cut short far too soon.”

London Breed, flanked by what looked like every elected SF official, addressed Ed Lee’s sudden death at a 10am press conference at City Hall.

We should all probably take a moment to appreciate the man we have lost, and not think right away about the political future. But for better or for worse, there’s little time for that.

The next mayor of San Francisco will be elected in just six months. The filing deadline for that office is Jan. 9.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera explained the situation at this morning’s press conference. Breed is now acting mayor and president of the Board of Supes, and she will hold both offices unless and until the board, by a six-vote majority, chooses an interim mayor.

The board will not vote on that issue at today’s meeting, and it’s entirely possible that nobody will have six votes and Breed will stay in both jobs for some time to come. That would put her in the strange position of both voting on and signing legislation.

But the charter also provides that the voters get to fill any vacant job at the next election, which is June 5, 2018. That turns the June election, which until now had only one serious contest (for District 8 supe), into a huge deal that may attract a large number of candidates.

They’ll have to move fast; they have less than a month to put together a campaign and file, then only five more months to raise money and campaign.

Breed, by virtue of incumbency, would obviously be a serious candidate. Former Sen. Mark Leno has already announced he’s running in 2019, and I’d be very surprised if he didn’t file for the earlier election. Sup. Mark Farrell is widely considered a candidate. Sup. Jane Kim, thanks to her race against Scott Wiener for state Senate, has citywide name recognition and a base. Assemblymember David Chiu has run for mayor before; If he gets in the race this June, he would have to give up his Assembly seat, which would then be on the primary ballot – in June.

With ranked-choice voting, anything could happen; I’ve even heard a rumor that Tom Ammiano may consider getting in the mayor’s race.

Of course, Breed only holds the acting mayor job if the supes do nothing. If they decide to vote her into the interim job, she would have to resign as District 5 supe, and would appoint her successor.

So while we mourn Mayor Ed Lee – the city flags will be at half-staff for the next month – the mad scramble to fill Room 200 will be starting.