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    Remembering Mayor Lee as Laws of Succession Take Effect

    By Louise “Lou” Fischer–

    For San Franciscans, Tuesday, December 12, 2017, will be an “I remember what I was doing” memory with respect to the tragic and untimely passing of Mayor Ed Lee. There was the initial shock followed by disbelief and comments like: “Is it true?” “He was so young.” “I just saw him recently.” In my case, I was awoken by a text message from my Alice B. Toklas Communications Chairperson, Owen Stephens, who delivered the difficult message with kindness and respect. After the initial shock, my heart was filled with grief and sadness for his wife and 2 daughters.

    The tributes to Mayor Lee have been unwavering and are well-deserved. He was a civil rights activist, an advocate for affordable housing, an ally to the LGBTQ community and a staunch supporter of San Francisco’s sanctuary city ordinance. He leaves behind a legacy of policy initiatives to combat homelessness and to make economic development a priority in San Francisco. While not everyone agreed with some of his controversial decisions, he was a consensus-based leader who did his best to find compromise while delivering solutions to broad coalitions.

    Politics aside, Ed Lee was “my kind of guy.” I top out at 5 feet, 2 inches (on a good day), and I always appreciated his self-deprecating jokes about his own height: “At my height (5 feet 5 inches), I’m always on the short list,” and, “I’ll make this speech short because I’m a short man.” He was an “accidental politician” who was more comfortable working behind the scenes of city government. He was not a typical elected official. He never seemed totally comfortable campaigning or speaking in front of large crowds; his speeches were hardly great examples of oratory excellence. In the entertainment world, he would be a producer, and not an actor. He was a fixer, and not a showman.

    Mayor Lee worked tirelessly for this City and deserved a long and happy retirement to play his beloved game of golf and to make up for 6 years of missed birthdays, anniversaries and other family events. Sadly, this is not to be, as Acting Mayor London Breed said, “Ed Lee lived a life of service, cut short far too soon.”

    San Francisco Mayoral Succession Laws and Possible Candidates

    The Mayor’s sudden passing automatically invokes the laws of succession set by the City Charter. London Breed, as President of the Board of Supervisors, is the Acting Mayor. The Board of Supervisors may, at any time, vote to appoint a successor to serve as Acting Mayor until the June 2018 election. They are not legally required to appoint a successor, and if they do not, then London Breed will remain as Acting Mayor and Board President until the June election.      

    At the June 2018 election, voters will elect a candidate to fill the remainder of Mayor Lee’s current term, which will end after the November 2019 election. All prospective candidates, however, must file for the June 2018 election by January 9, 2018. Irrespective of the outcome of the June 2018 election, San Franciscans will vote again for Mayor in the regularly-scheduled election in November 2019.

    Supervisor Breed retains her seat as District 5 Supervisor while she serves as Acting Mayor. Here’s where it gets confusing: If the Board officially selects her to serve through the June election, then her Supervisor seat will become vacant, she will select her successor, and there will be an election to fill the unexpired term of District 5 Supervisor at the June 2018 election. By all accounts, this is unlikely to occur. If the Board, though, does not choose an interim Mayor (which requires 6 votes by the Board) and leaves Breed in place, she will be Acting Mayor and Supervisor until the June 2018 election.

    If the Board decides to appoint a different Acting Mayor and that choice happens after January 9, 2018—again, the deadline to file for the June election—then that person would be barred from running in June. There is hence the possibility for a true “caretaker Mayor.”

    While the period immediately following the Mayor’s tragic and untimely death is not the appropriate time to discuss political analysis, numerous elected officials from City and State Legislature are rumored to be interested in running for Mayor. Their eligibility is as follows:

    Former State Senator Mark Leno is the only candidate who submitted papers before the Mayor’s passing. He could run in June 2018 and/or November 2019. He has rightfully declined to make a statement other than, “This is the time to mourn the Mayor.”

    Acting Mayor London Breed had already been reaching out to constituents before Mayor Lee’s tragic death. She is eligible to run in both June 2018 and November 2019. Supervisors Mark Farrell and Jane Kim are termed out in 2018 and could both mount campaigns for June 2018 and November 2019.  

    Assemblymember David Chiu faces a difficult choice as he cannot run for 2 offices in the same election. In June 2018, he can either run in the primary for re-election to his Assembly seat or run for Mayor, but not both. He would be eligible to run for Mayor in the November 2019 election.

    City Attorney Dennis Herrera has the opposite of Chiu’s situation. He can run for Mayor in June 2018, but not November 2019, unless he wants to give up his City Attorney position.

    State Senator Scott Wiener’s re-election is not until 2020, so if he decided to throw his hat into the ring, he could run in both races. If he lost, he could run for re-election to his Senate seat.

    Time will tell, and things might even change by the time this column goes to print.

    In closing, farewell, Mayor Ed Lee. You came to us as a “caretaker” Mayor, and you did your best to make your beloved City a better place. May your memory be for a blessing.

    Louise (Lou) Fischer is the Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and has served as an appointed and elected Delegate for the State Democratic Party. She is a San Francisco Commissioner and has served in leadership positions in multiple non-profit and community based organizations.