Friday, July 29, 2011

Like Ed Lee in S.F., San Leandro Had A Mayor Rethink His Political Future

San Francisco has a lot of things San Leandro doesnt have. A championship baseball team. A rampant homeless problem or even an Asian American power broker in the mold of Rose Pak, but it once had a very similar dilemma facing San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

The once-lame duck mayor will likely reverse his pledge not to the run for re-election next week, says the San Francisco Chronicle.

The "Run, Ed, Run" campaign has surely ruffled feathers at City Hall where three supervisors who plan to run for the office saying they obtained a pledge from the mustachioed mayor that he would merely run out the clock of former mayor Gavin Newsom's term.

Back in 1994, San Leandro had a similar reversal in the aftermath of Dave Karp's untimely death. Councilman John Faria was appointed to fill the remainder of Karp's term under the assumption he would not run for re-election with the inherent power of the incumbancy, however, short it was in this case.

Former Mayor Shelia Young, who was elected to two-terms starting in 1998, once told me she always believed Faria's change of heart was due to the realization of just how great it is to be mayor. "It's a great job," she once said.

Faria's reversal also ruffled feathers and preceeded what, in hindsight, was one of the most pivotal races in San Leandro's history.

While Faria was unsuccessful in winning re-election, his entrance into the race created a power vacuum enlisting a cadre of candidates; one of whom was a little-known councilmember named Ellen Corbett.

Corbett would win the race and after four years in office she went on to serve in the state assembly and currently represents San Leandro in the State Senate. She is also periodically rumored for higher state office while reaching the political stratosphere among San Leandro politicians once soley reserved for State Treasurer Bill Lockyer.

Corbett's surprising victory in 1994 with under 40 percent of the vote sent shock waves through the city's entrenched good ol' boys network. The election is now seen as the beginning of the end for the vaunted Jack Maltester Era where the city made tremendous economic strides in addition to struggling through immense racial upheaval and infamous attempts at housing segregation.

The situation in San Francisco will also attract an unwiedy number of candidates--as large as 30--that could usher in a new era in that city's politics.

The 1994 race also had reverberation all the way up to last November's contentious mayoral election featuring the first-ever use in the city of ranked-choice voting. The City Charter was changing earlier in the decade to one day facilitiate RCV under the cover of preventing another situation where a candidate like Corbett could win an election with less than a majority.

Corbett and others still believe the hidden agenda was to prevent another woman from occupying the mayor's office. Either way, the election of 1994, sprung by Faria's change of heart, has left an indelible mark on the city ever since with the specter of past forever shed, the next four mayoral elections were won by candidates with little or no political patronage to the Maltester machine.

The same political upheaval could be in The City's future.


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