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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mark Leno Officially Kicks Off Re-Election Campaign -- For 2012. Isn't This a Bit Early? 'I'm Actually Late,' He Says.

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 8:30 AM

Sen. Mark Leno has kicked his re-election campaign off well over 1,000 days before the next election
  • Sen. Mark Leno has kicked his re-election campaign off well over 1,000 days before the next election
Last week, we asked Sen. Mark Leno if he had any plans to run for mayor of San Francisco. He replied that with only one year in the books of his four-year state senate term, his priorities are now in Sacramento (but "never say never").

So it's too soon to start thinking about City Hall -- but not too soon for Leno to officially inaugurate his re-election campaign ... for 2012. Leno's "campaign kickoff" will be on Oct. 1 at Club Trigger in the Castro. How to put this -- isn't all this a tad premature?

"Oh, hardly," says Leno. "Actually, I'm late. This'll be my first San Francisco event, in October. Most of my colleagues had their first events back in the spring."

Leno patiently explained why it isn't patently ridiculous for a sitting state senator to begin his re-election campaign three years in advance. By the time he was done, it almost made sense. Almost. 

First of all, Leno's "re-election campaign" isn't just about re-electing Mark Leno. It's also about raising the funds that Democratic higher-ups in the state legislature demand of their colleagues to throw into contested district races. Leno declined to tell SF Weekly just how much the party expects him to contribute these days, but did note that, back in his days as an Assemblyman, he would raise "upwards of $500,000 to $600,000 in a year's time" and offer up $400,000 to $500,000 of that to the speaker of the house to use in party races.

San Francisco, as you might have guessed, is the Park Place of the state's Monopoly board; Leno has been expected to raise more to help out his colleagues in impoverished districts. Coming through with the money has its own rewards: Leno notes that his two years chairing the Assembly's powerful appropriations committee was partially due to his ability to amass donations. That's one of the reasons so many San Francisco politicians have key roles in state politics.

On the personal side, Leno's campaign is in debt right now (to Mark Leno, by the way), and he needs to start amassing a little cash. That way "not much more than a year from now, when we're two years out from the re-election campaign, I don't look vulnerable because I don't have any money in my account," he says. "If they see you have 10 bucks in your account instead of a couple hundred thousand, you look vulnerable. And you can't raise hundreds of thousands overnight."

When it comes down to it, legislative members -- and Congressmen, for that matter -- are kind of like sharks. Just as the big fish will die if it stops moving, so, too, will the politicians if they cease fund-raising. Leno is one of the best swimmers in the water -- but he says he doesn't feel great about it.

"This is how the system works. I'm adept at participating in it to the benefit of my constituents," he says. But he'd much rather see a "clean money campaign" of public dollars take the place of constant fund-raising.

"I would love to not to have to do this," he says.

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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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