Supposed 51,000 Supporters Weren’t In Theatre Monday Night

Related: “Snubbed” Green Party Mayoral Candidate Greeted More Warmly Than Lee Monday Night

Hisses. Boos. An air horn, and calls to resign — from a sitting state senator.

Elevated into office as the non-politician who would not run for office, serving for seven months as the nice guy, the grand compromiser and the Mayor of Civility, Mayor Edwin Lee’s first day as a political candidate was anything but. It began with a citizen arrested at City Hall during the announcement of his candidacy, and it ended with the mayor receiving regular heckling — much of it possibly from opposing candidates’ camps, but so much that the moderator asked the crowd to “stop booing the mayor” — during his first mayoral debate at the Castro Theater on Monday.

The attacks came from all sides. Joanna Rees said her answers wouldn’t come from Rose Pak. John Avalos said Lee broke the public’s trust. Tony Hall said he wasn’t disappointed — because he “didn’t believe the masquerade” from the get-go. Instead of answering his first question, Board President David Chiu used time to question the integrity of the process which put Lee on the ballot — and state Sen. Leland Yee used his introductory remarks at the debate to ask if Ed Lee would resign the post he won on condition that he would not be a candidate.

The lack of civility didn’t rankle everybody. “If you can’t get booed here,” as Bevan Dufty put it, “you aren’t breathing.”

And through it all, the mayor stayed smiling, the mustachioed grin nonetheless looking more and more strained as the evening wore on, and as Lee was forced to sit and wait for the noise to subside before he could address questions on all the usual suspects: pension reform, affordable housing, and Muni service.

“I had heard there were going to be boos, coming in, both planned and unplanned,” said the mayor, as his security detail and newly-minted campaign staff headed out one of the theater’s side exits. “I’m still explaining my change… the mayor’s office is a very powerful office, and this is well worth the sacrifice.”

Supporters of the mayor appeared scant, with much of the capacity crowd more than willing to boo, hiss and — on several occasions — blast an air horn during the mayor’s remarks. And during Lee campaign manager spokesman Tony Winnicker’s talk with reporters, a campaign manager for Joanna Rees questioned where the 51,000 people who supposedly signed a petition urging Lee to run were.

The other candidates were to blame for the negative atmosphere, said Winnicker, who found time to blame former supervisor Chris Daly for — in part, at least — fomenting the discord.

“The mayor came here to talk about the issues,” Winnicker said. “It’s too bad from minute one the other candidates wanted to bring up the politics of the past.”

During his remarks, the mayor stayed on message: he balanced the budget, he brought the city family together to put a pension reform measure on the ballot, and he “enjoys working at City Hall to get things done.”

But will the voters buy it? Hell no, opined Joanna Rees.

“No,” she said, when asked if the voters would believe that Lee, on his own and without outside pressure, came to the decision to run for mayor. “And I think all the facts point to that it is a no.”

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