We've been teased with this before, but this time it looks like recently termed-out state senator Mark Leno is almost certainly going to be a top candidate for San Francisco Mayor just as soon as Mayor Lee's term ends in 2019. Matier & Ross reported the news over the weekend, citing the fact that Leno is employing the help of Lee's own consulting team from SCN Strategies whose clients have also included Senator Kamala Harris, Gov. Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf to make an early announcement of his intention to run, which is not to be confused with an official announcement of his candidacy.
The Chronicle reports that the 65-year-old Leno isn't yet ready to declare his candidacy because that would require campaign financing disclosures and an official start to a fundraising drive. But of course Leno is one of a handful of likely heirs apparent to the Mayor's Office, and one who would fit the bill of a more progressive candidate who nonetheless has a long history in local politics and name recognition.
To wit, Leno's exact phrasing: “‘Are you going to run for mayor?’ is the question I am most often asked around town. I want those curious to know that I am seriously thinking of doing so.”
And most of you will remember his almost-candidacy back in 2015 when Mayor Lee's popularity was pretty much in the toilet, but Leno's advisors steered him clear of running in the end because Lee had too large of a potential war chest and too much guaranteed support from the city's large Chinese-American community.
But now, in the wake of the death of that community's primary representative of the last several decades, Rose Pak, who will emerge as her political heir, conferring the Chinatown vote on Lee's successor? And how might Rose Pak's absence change the political calculus that local politicos have counted on for so long?
Meanwhile, Leno is trying to figure out what he'll be doing for work for the next two years before that race gets going, and his potential opponents include City Attorney Dennis Herrera, supervisors London Breed, Mark Farrell, Jane Kim, and Aaron Peskin, as well as city Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu and Assemblyman David Chiu. Leno would have identity-politics advantage of being potentially the city's first openly gay mayor, a full four decades after the death of our first gay supervisor, Harvey Milk.