Lee hits the ground running in election campaign

San Francisco interim mayor Ed Lee speaks at a news conference after filing papers to run for a four-year term as mayor at City Hall in San Francisco, Monday, Aug. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

August 9, 2011 7:02:40 PM PDT
San Francisco interim Mayor Ed Lee has wasted no time since announcing he's running for a full term in office. Tuesday morning, he held an early morning campaign event, followed by a visit to a local radio show, where he took tough questions about his broken promise not to run.

"When you make a promise, a commitment, you don't just get to say, 'Oh well, I've changed my mind," Ronn Owens said.

"I changed my mind because this change feels good; it feels like we're getting things done and I don't want to leave that to somebody who might not get things done," Lee said.

On the Ronn Owens show on KGO Radio, Lee explained why he broke his promise not to run for a full term in office to callers who labeled him everything from a liar to just another member of former mayor Gavin Newsom's establishment. Lee tried to convince callers he's not a politician, just a career bureaucrat who filled in as mayor and decided he liked it.

Inexperience aside, Lee wasted no time jumping on the campaign trail. He was all smiles on 16th and Mission streets where he shook hands and declared to anyone who would listen that he was mayor and running for election. It was a much different scene than the candidate forum at the Castro Theater Monday night where the reception was mixed.

Lee had a hard time answering questions at the forum. He kept being interrupted by hecklers in the Castro Theater. Lee says you have to expect this kind of behavior in San Francisco.

"I expect any kind of response when you're working in San Francisco," Lee said. "There's a diversity of opinion and that's what I love about the city," he said.

Lee didn't get a lot of love from other candidates. Both Supervisor David Chiu and City Attorney Dennis Herrera quickly threw verbal barbs at Lee for changing his mind about running for office.

"One regret is that we took him at his word and obviously that has changed," Chiu said.

"After talking to powerful people he decided to throw his hat in the ring, so I think San Francisco voters have a legitimate question of whether he's his own man," Herrera said.

"I have explained my decision to them, I hope they understand that this is not a decision of benefitting myself, I have been in city government for 22 years, I want to keep the city going," Lee said.

Lee says the other candidates warned him that the race could get rough if he decided to run.

"They kind of forewarned me that this was going to be heated and hot and I said, 'OK, I'm ready for it,'" Lee said.

Lee has turned down public financing for his campaign, which means there is no limit on how much money he can raise. As an incumbent with 22 years worth of city connections, he is likely to drastically change the playing field.

Because Lee's opponents in this race include the city attorney and the president of the Board of Supervisors, some worry the race could make the tone of compromise he has so far brought to City Hall quickly disappear.

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