SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Interim Mayor Ed Lee filed papers Monday to run for a full, four-year term, marking a stark shift from his position seven months ago that he had no intention of joining the crowded mayoral race.
Flanked by family members as he announced his run, Lee said he changed his mind after seeing the tone of City Hall improve during his short tenure. That, and the urging of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and others, persuaded him to run for the office, he said.
“I think these seven months have been a demonstration of how this city could work with less politics and more getting the job done,” Lee said.
“That’s what I want to do, and while I changed my mind ladies and gentlemen, I haven’t changed. It’s still Ed Lee, it’s still me doing the work and I want to continue doing that work,” he said, standing in front of the city’s Board of Elections office in the basement of City Hall.
Lee, the city’s first Asian-American mayor, reluctantly agreed in January to serve out the remainder of Gavin Newsom’s term after Newsom was elected lieutenant governor. At the time, Lee expressed eagerness to eventually return to his city administrator post and said he had no interest in joining the race for mayor.
The crowded field of candidates also includes city supervisors David Chiu and John Avalos, who were on the board that appointed Lee to the job.
Lee, who was expected to attend a candidates forum Monday evening in the Castro District, said he has been busy reaching out to members of the Board of Supervisors to discuss his change of mind.
“I do owe them an explanation … ,” Lee said. “I will reach all of them by the end of today and explain why I changed my mind here.”
Lee said his top accomplishments as mayor included a tax break and other city proposals to keep technology companies like Twitter Inc. and Zynga in San Francisco.
The tax break effort was aided by Supervisor Chiu, the board president, who was an important supporter of Lee’s agenda.
Chiu told the San Francisco Chronicle that Lee’s successes over the past seven months were based on trust, and he expressed disappointment that Lee “broke his promise to our city.”
City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who is also among the crowded field of mayoral candidates, said Lee’s biggest liability is not his flip-flop about whether he would run, but his connection to the area’s most powerful political players.
“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,” Herrera said about Lee’s comments on Sen. Feinstein and others who urged him to run.
“The fact is, if Ed Lee is elected mayor, powerful people will continue to insist on things,” Herrera said. “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.”
Other candidates welcomed Lee to the race.
“I look forward to discussing the important issues facing our city with the interim mayor and finally seeing him at the candidate debates,” state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said in a statement.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)