Updated to add video of the “disturbance” at the Dept of Elections at 1:45 PM
Well, it’s official — as expected, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee filed papers at City Hall today to run for mayor in November, ending months of speculation about whether he would seek to stay in office.
Lee was named interim mayor in January after former Mayor Gavin Newsom was elected lieutenant governor. He repeatedly said he planned to return to his old job as city administrator after his term ended rather than try to stay on as mayor.
But in recent weeks, Lee began to say he was considering joining the race, and officially announced his candidacy this morning to “about 50 reporters,” says the Bay Citizen (who took the video above), filing papers at the city’s Department of Elections.
“While I changed my mind, I haven’t changed,” he said to reporters after he filled out the paperwork. “I will continue being Ed Lee, that’s all I have to offer.”
Lee cited his accomplishments during his seven months in office, including working with companies like Twitter on a tax break to keep them in San Francisco, overseeing a relatively peaceful budget process that closed a $380 million deficit, and developing a comprehensive proposal to reform the costly pensions of city workers.
“I’ve been able to accomplish so much, and there’s so much more to do,” he said.
He will join an already crowded field of mayoral candidates that includes three current and former members of the Board of Supervisors who recommended and appointed him to the interim mayor post.
Board President David Chiu said he called Lee this morning to welcome him to the race.
“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,” Chiu said in a statement.
Former supervisor and mayoral candidate Bevan Dufty said, “It’s a big change to the race,” but said “I don’t begrudge him making this decision.”
He said, “I’m campaigning about my vision and my record, and that’s not going to change … people have to do what people have to do.”
Other candidates include former supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier and Tony Hall, state Sen. Leland Yee, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, and venture capitalist Joanna Rees.
Yee said, “I have always said that whoever wants to run should run. I look forward to discussing the important issues facing our city with the interim mayor and finally seeing him at the candidate debates.”
Hall released a statement this morning criticizing Lee for his approach to issues including pension reform.
Hall said Lee’s ideas for reform “barely scratch the surface of what is needed to reform our pension system and keep San Francisco from the brink of bankruptcy.”
Herrera also released a statement this morning taking Lee to task for “breaking the very promise he made to Supervisors that was essential to securing his appointment to complete the remainder of the term of former Mayor Gavin Newsom”
“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,” said Herrera.
“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.”
Lee acknowledged there might be some bristling among candidates who had approved his appointment after he pledged he would not run in November.
“I do owe them an explanation, and have been doing that,” he said, adding he would reach out to all of the leading candidates by the end of the day today.
Lee’s filing of election papers was interrupted by a man who repeatedly asked him whether he would step down as mayor during the campaign after breaking his promise not to run.
The man screamed loudly as he was forcibly removed from the Department of Elections by several sheriff’s deputies.
Lee said, “I know people will have strong opinions about this” but said he will take input from everyone in the city and pledged to rebuild trust from people who feel let down by his reversal.
“Ed Lee is a liar and should be greeted as such” says Daly, encouraging like-minded folks to join him at tonight’s debate, which begins at 7 PM.
Lee acknowledged that he needs to brush up on his debate skills, having never previously run for political office.
“I’m obviously not used to debating people, but I am used to explaining decisions,” he said. “If it’s all about explanations, then I should be OK.”
Dan McMenamin of Bay City News contributed significantly to this report