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Board struggles to choose an interim mayor

SF Public Press
 — Jan 5 2011 - 4:10pm

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors spent eight hours on Tuesday debating who to select as interim mayor to finish Lt. Gov. elect-Gavin Newsom's term and ended up delaying any decision until Friday.

Angry lame-duck Supervisor Chris Daly blamed Board President David Chiu for a potential deal to install City Administrator Ed Lee in the post, vowing to "politically haunt you for the biggest fumble in the history of San Francisco politics."

He then added: "It's on, like Donkey Kong."

During Tuesday's marathon session, supervisors nominated four potential successors. Sheriff Michael Hennessey, ex-Supervisor Aaron Peskin and former Mayor Art Agnos were formally announced as contenders. But City Administrator Ed Lee emerged as the leading candidate.

But no one got the required six votes to become mayor, so the board continued the vote until Friday — the day before a new class of supervisors is sworn in.

The debate turned into a heated exchange, where Daly upbraided fellow members for supporting Lee, who Daly believes is a Newsom acolyte.

“I like Ed Lee on a personal level, but politically he will work for the other side,” Daly said. “The blame certainly rests squarely on the shoulders on David Chiu. I will haunt you. I will politically haunt you for the biggest fumble in the history of San Francisco politics. It’s on, like Donkey Kong.”

Lee, who is in China until Monday, became city administrator in June 2005. He is considered a political moderate and could conceivably counter the board’s progressive bloc.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty said Lee was initially hesitant about being considered.

“It’s clear (Lee) made the decision,” he said.

Earlier in the meeting, Daly made — and eventually withdrew — a motion to continue nominations until the incoming board becomes acclimated.

The board also spent considerable time discussing the legal ramifications of appointing a new mayor in light of Newsom’s announcement that he would delay his inauguration as lieutenant governor until Monday, one week after his scheduled swearing-in.

The Santa Clara County Counsel’s office was brought in to answer questions about when Newsom assumes his new office. City Attorney Dennis Herrera recused himself because of his candidacy in November’s mayoral election.

Citing the state constitution, Orry Kolb, deputy county council for Santa Clara County, said Newsom would become lieutenant governor once when he takes his oath. Only then would the mayor’s office become vacant.

“Could a court have a different opinion than outside counsel?” Supervisor David Campos asked.

“Yes, reasonable minds can differ,” said Korb.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said Newsom was not obliged to assume his new post on Jan. 3, the same day Gov. Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris and others did.

“The idea being put forward is a little ridiculous and not the path to take,” Elsbernd said. He said other state officeholders such Secretary of State Deborah Bowen and ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger delayed their oaths without complications.

Bowen waited until Jan. 4 to take office. In 2003, Schwarzenegger pushed back his inauguration until he learned which business interests would conflict with his duties as governor.