7:19 PM: The San Francisco Board of Supervisors today tentatively selected City Administrator Ed Lee as interim mayor, making him the city’s first Chinese-American mayor should he be confirmed Tuesday.
After a 10-1 vote this afternoon, Lee appears poised to replace outgoing Mayor Gavin Newsom but must receive final approval by the next Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Four new board members will be sworn in Saturday.
Newsom, who delayed his swearing-in as the state’s lieutenant governor for one week, said he will assume the office on Monday.
By city law, the board cannot select a mayoral replacement until there is a vacancy, but Newsom and other officials said today that Lee’s confirmation was a fait accompli.
“This was an extraordinary and an historic vote,” Newsom said following this afternoon’s meeting.
Newsom called Lee “a person of integrity, competency,” and said he was the only nominee that did not ask for the position.
“This was a recruitment,” Newsom said.
Lee would serve as mayor for about a year. The next mayoral election is in November.
Lee has been in San Francisco city government since 1989 and was appointed city administrator by Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2005, according to his biography on the city’s website. The city administrator directs the city’s General Services Agency and is responsible for managing and implementing city policies.
Lee’s name was introduced at the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday and caught some supervisors by surprise. They had been prepared to vote for another nominee, Sheriff Michael Hennessey, for whom Newsom’s office had also indicated support.
But after closed-door meetings with the mayor during Tuesday’s eight-hour marathon, some supervisors appeared to have a change of heart, and momentum turned Lee’s way.
An infuriated Supervisor Chris Daly blasted board president David Chiu at the time, vowing to “haunt him politically,” as well as Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who had requested the recess to go to the mayor’s office and when he returned, said he would vote for Lee.
Dufty denied that a deal had been struck.
The meeting was continued until today in order to give other supervisors time to talk with Lee about his appointment.
Daly’s was the only vote today against Lee.
Referencing a Bay Citizen report detailing the purported influence of Chinatown Chamber of Commerce head Rose Pak on pushing Lee’s nomination, Daly suggested that if nominations were reopened today, he would choose Pak as interim mayor.
“Why not eliminate the middle man?” he asked sarcastically.
Pak sat in the front row of the hearing, smiling. She and dozens of other members of the Chinese community packed today’s meeting in support of Lee.
Other supervisors who had supported Hennessey today praised Lee, though they condemned the process that led to his nomination.
Supervisor David Campos, who nominated Hennessey Tuesday, said he had done so “in the spirit of trying to bring this board together.”
He said he “didn’t know what happened” after the mayor and other supervisors indicated they would support Hennessey.
Hennessey was elected the city’s sheriff in 1979 and has been re-elected seven times since then. He has been lauded for progressive policies on inmate rehabilitation and recruitment of women and minorities.
“He does not deserve the kind of treatment that he has received,” Campos said.
He said that although was very confident of Lee’s qualifications to be mayor, “I still think that this process leaves a lot to be desired.”
He said all board members bore some responsibility, and that he was “very disappointed with the shifting of positions with respect to some of these votes.”
Campos said he was confident that Lee would see “the importance of reaching across the political aisle” in his administration.
Campos and Supervisor John Avalos particularly stressed that while naming Lee as mayor was a significant moment for the city’s Chinese-American community, they hoped that work would be done to unify all of the city’s ethnic communities.
Lee was first appointed by former Mayor Art Agnos as an investigator for the city’s whistleblower ordinance and later named deputy director of employee relations. He then went on to serve as executive director of the Human Rights Commission, director of city purchasing, and director of the Department of Public Works.
Prior to his work with the city, Lee was a managing attorney with the San Francisco Asian Law Caucus.
Supervisor Carmen Chu said Lee has a “strong history of fighting for civil rights.”
Today’s meeting was the last for outgoing supervisors Sophie Maxwell, Michela Alioto-Pier, Dufty and Daly.
While Daly refrained from the bombast he displayed earlier this week, in which he warned Chiu, “It’s on like Donkey Kong,” he condemned Lee’s appointment as mayor.
“I see a status quo being maintained,” Daly said. “It will not address the fundamental injustices in San Francisco, it’s business as usual, and I will be voting no.”
Chiu, whose position as board president will be up for a vote before the new board on Saturday, thanked his fellow supervisors “for crossing the political aisles.”
Chiu is considered a progressive who has often made deals with moderates, including Newsom.
He insisted that today’s vote was not about progressive and moderate politics.
“Ed is someone who does respect our shared progressive values,” he said. “Despite wonderful references to Donkey Kong, we have engaged in an orderly transition of leadership.”
Asked following today’s hearing if that transition could include his role as board president, Chiu deferred.
“We’ll have a discussion at the future board tomorrow,” he said.
At least one of his colleagues, Avalos, was more specific about Chiu’s chances to remain board president.
“I don’t think he does,” Avalos said. Avalos indicated he would be interested in the position.
Chiu has been rumored to be considering a run for mayor in November, and this week he withdrew his name from a possible appointment as district attorney to replace Kamala Harris, who is now attorney general of California.
Newsom said today he is still considering who to name district attorney, and will likely do so Sunday, or at the latest, early Monday, he said.
Newsom had pushed back the Jan. 3 date of his swearing-in as lieutenant governor, saying he had a few more tasks to accomplish while in office. He also wanted to prevent the current progressive-dominated board from appointing a mayor with a far-left political agenda.
The city is facing a budget deficit for the coming fiscal year estimated at close to $400 million, and severe cuts will likely have to be made this summer, including to social services.
Lee said in a statement Thursday that if appointed mayor, he would work to balance the budget, create jobs, and make the city more financially secure.
“I will do my best to accomplish these goals without disrupting basic city services,” he said.
According to the mayor’s office, Lee is currently abroad in China and is not expected to return to San Francisco until later this weekend.
4:20 PM: The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has tentatively selected City Administrator Ed Lee as interim mayor.
Lee appears poised to replace outgoing Mayor Gavin Newsom following a 10-1 vote during today’s board meeting.
Newsom, who will be sworn in as the state’s lieutenant governor sometime before Monday, has said today’s vote will be merely “symbolic” since the nomination won’t be official until he leaves office.
Newsom has pushed back the Jan. 3 date of his swearing-in as lieutenant governor, saying he has more to accomplish while in office.
Progressives have argued that he simply wanted to prevent the current 11-member board from appointing an interim mayor with a far-left political agenda.
Four new board members will take office on Saturday, and the board is expected to officially select the interim mayor on Tuesday.
Lee has served as city administrator since 2005 and has also served as director of the city’s Department of Public Works and the Human Rights Commission.
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