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Friday, May 27, 2011

Why Leland Yee Won the Sierra Club Endorsement

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2011 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge A snapshot of Leland Yee's environmental record
  • A snapshot of Leland Yee's environmental record

Somebody has it out for state Sen. Leland Yee -- someone aside from Rush Limbaugh.

When the news hit that the highly esteemed Sierra Club had tossed its support behind Yee for mayor, Twitter started buzzing; City Hall insiders -- and even reporters -- hinted that something wasn't quite right with this endorsement.

Upon announcing the endorsement, Sierra Club chairman John Rizzo issued a statement, saying Yee has the strongest and "most established environmental record of the candidates running for mayor." Yet City Hall insiders argue otherwise, claiming the state senator has one of the worst environmental records of any mayoral candidate.

Yee's opponents will gladly point to his environmental mishaps. In 2004, he opposed a bill to reduce rail emissions. He also opposed a bill to impose state air pollution controls on farm equipment, only later to flipflop on his position.

More recently, Yee was criticized for coming out against the controversial shark fin ban, which sailed through the

Assembly this week. He insisted that federal laws go far enough to

protect sharks from being mutilated.

So why would the Sierra Club, which emphatically supports a shark fin ban, settle on Yee?

Well, there has been talk at City Hall that Yee and Rizzo made a deal: If Yee got the Sierra Club endorsement -- and he was elected mayor -- he would appoint Rizzo, an aspiring politician, to fill Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi's presumed vacant seat. Mirkarimi is expected to win the sheriff's race in 2012.

That's one theory.

As Bay Citizen political reporter Gerry Shih said in a recent tweet: "Yee nabs coveted Sierra Club #1 endorsemt 4 , Avalos #2. Exec cmte known 4 independence but insiders wonder if Yee'll get Rizzo back."

We called Yee's campaign strategist, Jim Stearns, who told us it's just not possible for anyone to make a deal with the independently minded Sierra Club. "They are the least able to be manipulated of any political organization in the city and the county, or perhaps the whole fucking country," he says. 

He pointed out that Yee consistently receives high scores in Sacramento for his voting record on the environment. So this talk of a dirty deal leads his campaign to believe only one thing: His opponents are just talking trash. "Everyone wants that endorsement. If they don't get it, they trash it -- they are just sour grapes," Stearns says.

Rizzo tells SF Weekly that although he does want that supervisor seat, he has made no deal with Yee: "People could say this with any candidate we endorsed," he says.

On the other hand, perhaps the buzz is nothing more than a way to sabotage Rizzo as a potential candidate. Did one of the many people who are lining up for Mirkarimi's seat stir up a faux-backroom deal to make the endorsement appear corrupt?

"Even if Leland didn't get the endorsement, Rizzo is a significant candidate for that seat," says Jim Ross, a local political consultant. "There are at least 30 people who want that seat, so this rumor might be nothing more than an attempt to blunt that possible appointment."

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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