We are about to witness the biggest fumble in the history of progressive politics in San Francisco and the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of David Chiu. I will haunt you. I will politically haunt you for the biggest fumble in history. It’s on, like Donkey Kong.”
– Supervisor Chris Daly, January 4, 2011 (Beyond Chron)
And thus the phrase “It’s on like Donkey Kong” entered the San Francisco political lexicon. The whole story is somewhat (well, vastly) more complex. But let me outline what I’ve learned while being away, and the timeline as I see it. KQED and the SF Appeal have good wrap-ups.
1) The current Board, which leaves office on Saturday, tried to pass a declaration that the Mayor has left his job already, that he should have been inaugurated, and the procedure of a technical inauguration doesn’t matter. They then pushed for the Sheriff Mike Henessey, who is pretty universally respected. However, being that this process is more about personal power politics than respect, things didn’t go so smoothly. Henessey was only able to get 5 votes, rather than the required 6.
2) Bevan Dufty and Sophie Maxwell went to a closed-door meeting with Newsom, and thereby reversed their previous votes against City Administrator Ed Lee, and suddenly, the little known Lee had 7 votes. This includes the support of Eric Mar, one of the core bloc of progressive votes on the Board.
3) The Board was recessed after several Supervisors objected to the fact that they had neither spoken to Lee nor had the opportunity to talk to him, as he is currently in Hong Kong.
4) When the Board came back, that’s when we get Daly’s above quote about haunting Board President David Chiu’s career. The episode, along with the fact that Lee is out of the country, were enough to get the vote delayed until Friday.
5) Oh, and as an added bonus, the incoming Board can change the interim Mayor at their discretion, so it is all seems a bit temporary.
It seems clear that Lee is willing to take the job, as long as he can get his old job back once the new Mayor is elected in November. A deal seems to be in place to retain most of Newsom’s staff in a possible Lee administration. Lee’s connections to Rose Pak (a Chinatown powerbroker) seem to tilt the balance of power in his direction, with her ties to both David Chiu and incoming D6 supervisor Jane Kim. The rumored other leg of this deal is the possible appointment of Chiu to the now vacant District Attorney’s post that AG Kamala Harris recently left.
This works on many levels for Newsom. First, it gets a relative moderate to keep the seat warm until November, which was really Newsom’s main goal. But as an added bonus, Ed Lee becomes the first Asian-American Mayor of San Francisco, and takes that potential honor away from Sen. Leland Yee.
But, being that Maxwell joined the 5 member progressive core to stall the vote until Friday, there is a lot of wiggle room here. The SFBG’s Tim Redmond sees the big problem with Lee being that we just don’t really know where he stands. Perhaps more information about that comes out today and tomorrow in time for the Friday vote, or perhaps this is all pushed to the new Board. Either way, this just seems to be San Francisco political theater taken to a new level.