There was a time when having the surname "Yee" was an asset for a San Francisco politician. No alleged ties to Filipino jihadis or a crime boss named for a crustacean. Back then, Leland Yee was an energetic state senator who specialized in handshakes and solicitous grins.
His name recognition unwittingly buoyed a less famous Yee, Norman, who ran for District 7 Supervisor in 2012 — and won. Insiders within the race say that Norman Yee, then a Board of Education member and untested politico, entered the race with a tidal wave of support.
"Just from polling we could detect that his name recognition was off the charts," University of San Francisco political analyst David Latterman recalls. Latterman ran polls for Yee's opponent, Michael Garcia, during the late summer of 2012 — a point when Norman would have still been an unfamiliar candidate. By September, Yee was polling at 24 percent, which gave him a confounding lead over runners-up Garcia and F.X. Crowley. Other insiders recall voters mistaking Norman for Leland during the debates.
Asked it he'd benefited from the mix-up, Norman demurs, arguing that constituents already knew his name from two citywide school board races. And, he says, he hasn't suffered any fallout from Leland's undoing — which only reassured the supervisor that he was better off being Norman Yee, after all.