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And Then There Was One: Sen. Mark Leno’s Exit Means Mayor Ed Lee Can Do as He Pleases 

Tuesday, Dec 2 2014
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The very attribute that made state Sen. Mark Leno a viable mayoral candidate may, in the end, be what spurred him to nip his campaign in the bud: His voter base and Mayor Ed Lee's have a lot of overlap.

This crossover guaranteed a Leno campaign would have been inordinately punishing, even by San Francisco's advanced standards; much of the city's political establishment would have been forced to choose sides. Vendettas would be spawned and careers would be compromised. "Lotta wounds. Lotta blood," sums up one city politico. "If Mark thought he could get a win, I think he does it. If he thinks it's a jump ball, maybe it's too high a price to pay."

Leno has not returned your humble narrator's calls. He is, more than most, a politician who keeps his own counsel. Why he left the city's tattered progressive establishment cursing into their leftover turkey and cranberry sauce by abruptly canceling his dalliance with a mayoral run is not known.

The same city players who touted an April poll that showed Leno beating Lee also admitted that no one else came close. If Lee avoids missteps — if, unlike erstwhile Mayor Frank Jordan, he isn't photographed, nude, taking a shower with radio shock jocks — it's hard to see how Lee's potential 2015 opponents can touch him.

And that's why city progressives are doubly put out. Even if Leno had lost, his formidable presence in the race would have made an impact. Without him, anyone hoping to extract neighborhood concessions from developers lost leverage: "Now, no developer has to worry about his project becoming an issue in the mayor's race," says a neighborhood activist. "With a real contest for mayor, developers would have to be more accommodating to community issues."

Lee, then, has a free hand: on development issues, political appointments, commingling with free-spending tech barons, or any other matter that could have been a wedge issue. With Leno out of the picture, Lee may not care to make concessions to get Sen. Dianne Feinstein on board with this city's laissez faire stance on Airbnb, either.

"Ed's gonna do exactly what he wants to do at this point," says a longtime city political honcho. And, barring unforeseen craziness, he'll be re-elected.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

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