edlee_swornin.jpgIt’s no secret that certain folks in San Francisco would have Mayor Ed Lee, once the one-year-and-done interim son, run for a full term as San Francisco mayor in the November election.

It’s certainly not secretive to hire a political consulting firm to film a promotional spot in front of Rainbow Grocery — in which an apparently homeless man was photographed holding a sign reading, “Run Ed Run,” which is what a veteran LGBT activist and blogger saw on Saturday.

Michael Petrelis stumbled upon political consultant Enrique Pearce of Left Coast Communications and one of his staffers outside the grocery co-op’s 13th Street entrance, where Pearce and Luke Thomas — publisher of news website Fog City Journal and a freelance photographer — were documenting an “apparently homeless” man holding the aforementioned sign begging Ed Lee to run, according to Petrelis’s blog.

The situation broke up immediately as soon as the filmers realized they were being photographed, according to Petrelis. Pearce declined to mention his occupation or his firm, identifying himself only as a nameless “volunteer” and saying he had no business card, Petrelis said. The man holding the sign — which was flipped text-side away when Petrelis had his camera out — signed a form and departed, Petrelis said.

Pearce has made no bones about his support for Ed Lee, according to a Bay Citizen report published last week.

Pearce is also publicly part of the Ed Lee-Rose Pak power axis – Jane Kim, Pearce’s successful client in the District 6 supervisor race in the fall, used institutional support from Chinatown nonprofits to mobilize voters. David Ho, a Chinatown organizer who has been styled as “the next Rose Pak,” was a vital field organizer on the Kim campaign and is close to Pearce.

Pearce even sent a letter to the Ethics Commission in late April inquiring if he could run a draft-a-candidate effort and then run the candidate’s campaign, the Bay Citizen reported. So why would Pearce, the principal of firm Left Coast Communications, which handled Jane Kim’s successful run for supervisor in the fall, attempt to stay anonymous while pushing for Ed Lee?

Pearce did not respond to calls Sunday and Monday seeking comment. Other political consultants, asked to speak off the record, declined to comment to the Appeal (come on, guys. Afraid of Rose Pak’s ninja spies?)

Pearce does have some progressive bona fides: he was the campaign manager for Matt Gonzalez’s failed 2003 bid for the mayor’s office. He also has had some issues in the past — a Bay Citizen report from the fall reported on a $5,000 contribution from Willie Brown that went to pay for third-party mailers during the Kim campaign. The third-party used the Left Coast Communications address, a seeming campaign law no-no.

In any case, the whole scenario stinks of “astro-turfing,” where nonexistent grassroots support is manufactured to appear to be so, according to Petrelis.

“They’re trying to show grassroots support where there is none,” Petrelis told the Appeal on Monday.

“And if there was nothing wrong with what they were doing, why try to hide it?” Petrelis asked. “Why not just talk to me and say, ‘Rose Pak and Willie Brown paid us to go around the Mission and take pictures?’ The onus is on them to explain.”

For his part, Thomas informed the SF Bay Guardian that Left Coast Communications “hired me in my capacity as a professional photographer to take photographs of people holding ‘Run Ed Run!’ signs and should not be construed as an endorsement of the effort to draft Ed Lee into the mayor’s race.”

This scene is the second publicized instance of a Draft Ed Lee campaign making its way into the media (the first was last month’s A-1 Chronicle story, recording the nascent efforts of former Supervisor Michael Yaki to secure Lee in the mayor’s office). Lee has denied any interest in the office, and has not formed any campaign committees (and indeed, there are zero campaign organizations associated with Lee registered at the Ethics Commission, according to filings).

If Ed Lee does jump into the race, he is seen as the presumptive favorite. Could efforts such as Pearce’s be proof that someone – Pak, Brown, whomever – are doing what they can to push Lee into running?

Contacted late Sunday, Ho — who was in Las Vegas all weekend, he said – also declined to comment.

Speaking off-record, one politically-connected San Franciscan said the scene was “not a story, but it’s entertaining.”

“It’s just silly,” the source said. “This is just juvenile, jackoff behavior.”

Petrelis went deeper. “This means that whomever is behind the Ed Lee campaign is not being up front with us,” he said.

“They weren’t up front with us when he was selected as interim mayor, and they’re not being up front with us — the voters — right now. That makes me nervous.”

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