Mayor Ed Lee is now rumored to be a possible candidate to replace outgoing U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke, who just announced his resignation. Locke's resignation was apparently unexpected, and just happened to come as Lee is on his second official visit to China in the last two months.
The Chron is putting this out there, saying that the rumor's been floating at City Hall since late September and noting only that Lee has been spending a lot of time in China over the past year. He's also an old school friend of Locke's, and has met with both the Chinese president and vice president, including having attended the state dinner at the White House for president Hu Jintao in 2011. He's currently on a trip to the southern city of Chaozhou.
Lee's spokesperson Christine Falvey, "pointedly would not answer whether Lee was interested in the ambassador post" in questioning on Wednesday, saying only that he is "100 percent focused on being mayor" right now.
Locke spoke to the L.A. Times saying his decision was based on his family in Seattle. Locke has been often noted in the Chinese press for his humility, and caused a stir when he and the U.S. Embassy began publishing air quality ratings in a Beijing daily that differed from the official ones being announced by the Chinese government, showing that air quality was in fact much worse than the people were being told.
The decision on Locke's replacement will be up to the Obama administration, and a State Department spokesperson said yesterday that they'll be undergoing a process to review potential candidates, not commenting on any specific people under consideration.
This is of course joyous news to all progressive haters of Lee who want to see him gone, and what it would mean is that David Chiu would become acting mayor as soon as early 2014, leaving open his seat on the Board of Supervisors and paving the way for David Campos to fill Tom Ammiano's seat on the State Assembly, which Chiu was also running for.
But it's not a done deal and Lee is up against at least one other potential candidate as ambassador whose name was already in consideration back in 2012: Silicon Valley venture capitalist and former California Controller Steve Westly, who also happens to be a major fundraiser for Obama, and his wife, Anita Yu, is from Hong Kong.
Also, how much is this worth to Willie Brown? One can only guess.