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Monday, April 26, 2010

Leland Yee's Sarah Palin Crusade Strikes 'San Francisco Gold'

Posted By on Mon, Apr 26, 2010 at 9:30 AM

For Sen. Leland Yee, Sarah Palin has proven to be the perfect foil
  • For Sen. Leland Yee, Sarah Palin has proven to be the perfect foil
For the record, Sen. Leland Yee has always claimed that his ongoing Sarah Palin crusade is not a politically motivated operation. If some other figure with a penchant for charging $100,000 per speech were slated to appear at California State University -- as Palin is at CSU-Stanislaus in June -- then he'd demand to know how much they were earning here, too. That's his story and he's sticking to it.

And yet, if you're running for mayor in San Francisco -- as Yee very probably is -- and you latch your political harpoon in Palin's flank, it will most certainly play well here. In fact, it has played far better than anyone could have predicted. First, CSU-Stanislaus declined to state how much it was paying Palin, citing a confidentiality clause. Then it spurned Yee's public records request, stating no such documents existed. And then dumpster-diving students found what appeared to be just such documents shredded and discarded -- leading to an Attorney General's probe. That gave Yee the opportunity to call a press conference surrounded by bags of shredded paper and evoke Watergate. To top it all off, maniacal Palin supporters then deluged Yee with intensely racist and homophobic hate messages.

"Stanislaus gave Yee a whole lot of bait and he went fishing. It's turned into a legitimate issue -- but at the same time it plays really well in San Francisco," said poltical consultant David Latterman. "Don't forget the hate mail. That's beautiful for him. Having homophobic idiots rant on his answering machine -- that's San Francisco gold."

click to enlarge Leland Yee, who struck 'San Francisco gold'
  • Leland Yee, who struck 'San Francisco gold'
Latterman saluted Yee's political instincts in finding an issue that would certainly play well with his hometown electorate -- and then riding it to a bigger political windfall than anyone could have anticipated.

"He ran with it, as good politicians do. Regardless of what you think of his politics, he's a good politician in the strict sense of the word: He wins all his races and climbs the ladder," Latterman continued. "He picked an issue that'll play well in San Francisco. Cal State is giving all this money to a right-wing crackpot. But it really turned into something good for him when it became clear [CSU-Stanislaus] was burying stuff, throwing stuff out, shredding stuff."

Consultant Jim Ross -- who has worked for Yee in the past -- also thinks the state senator has caught a big political break in his potential mayoral run.

"I think this is very good for him for a couple of reasons," Ross said. "One, it puts him in the news. And if you look at a lot of his opponents in [the mayoral] race, they're not that well-known."

You good folks reading this article probably know names like Bevan Dufty and Dennis Herrera well. But a healthy percentage of your fellow San Franciscans do not. Yee's front-page placement over the past several weeks hasn't hurt at all.

"In a way, he got lucky. What should have been a nice blog post about how CSU should tell us how much they're paying Sarah Palin has really spiraled," continued Ross. "You have CSU shredding documents and a bunch of tea-bag folks calling up Senator Yee and threatening him. It's taken a one-day or two-day issue and really blown up into a major story."

In other words, could future Mayor Yee have Sarah Palin to thank? You betcha.

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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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