Election Day 2014 isn't even here, but—just like Christmas decorations that appear before Halloween—speculation is already rampant about big names who might take a shot against Mayor Ed Lee for Room 2000 next year. The biggest so far is that of State Senator Mark Leno, who got big play in a Matier and Ross column today.
“A lot of people are asking, and I’m listening,” Leno told M&R. That's political code for "You'd better believe I'm thinking about it."
Leno could present a tough challenge to Lee. He has cred with both San Francisco's progressive and moderate wings, a strong record in Sacramento, and has already won city-wide election several times. Though he's widely understood to have his heart set on Nancy Pelosi's Congressional seat, it increasingly looks like Pelosi won't be leaving any time soon. That leaves Leno free to run for Mayor—or at least think about it.
The city is now in the invisible primary part of the process, in which candidates are starting to figure out whether a run makes sense for them. The smart money says that both Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and former Mayor Art Agnos are also thinking hard about a run. It isn't hard to puzzle out who else is: Anybody currently in elected office who isn't already running for something else.
The mayor certainly could be beaten. The city's electorate seems on edge about affordability, and the Mayor's performance on that issue will go a long way towards determining his reelection. It's also worth noting how something that looks like an asset—the Mayor's heavy support from deep-pocketed tech folks like Ron Conway—can be turned into a line of attack—just look at this week's feature in SF Weekly.
So where do the potential candidates fall in terms of electability? Both Agnos and Ammiano may come off as yesterday's candidates, but they shouldn't be counted out. Of those who ran against Lee in 2011, David Chiu and Leland Yee both seem unlikely to do so again—Chiu because he'll either be elected to the Assembly next month or take a big loss in that race, and Yee because, you know. That leaves Supervisor John Avalos, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, and (to a smaller extent) Public Defender Jeff Adachi—all of whom finished strongly in 2011—among the top tier of potential challengers. But Leno may be above all of them. Any of those five would run to the left of Lee, which is where the expected challenge will come from. Worse for Lee would be if any of the moderates in his camp started making noise. That hasn't yet happened, but it would be a very bad sign for the mayor if it did.
Little early to speculate? You bet. Super fun? Hell yes.