Mayoral candidate Leland Yee has been critical of the effort by a small group to convince interim Mayor Ed Lee to run in November, but the state senator himself was the target of a similar draft campaign in 1999.
Speaking recently at a mayoral forum at the Castro Theater, Yee slammed the Run, Ed, Run campaign and the Ethics Commission as a “toothless tiger” for failing to discipline the campaign.
“There is one other issue that is really burning in me right now,” Yee told the crowd. “This is my city. And you have an independent expenditure committee called Run, Ed, Run and that committee is just simply out there, flaunting the law, and we ought to do something about that.”
But in 1999, as Mayor Willie Brown was facing re-election amid scandal, activists on all sides of the political spectrum were doing everything they could to have either supervisors Yee or Tom Ammiano enter the race.
Led by Parking and Traffic head Sharon Bretz, editor Doug Comstock and Larry Yee, who is now the head of the Yee Family Association, a “Draft Leland Yee Mayor” committee was formed in July of that year to convince Yee to run.
An Ammiano campaign also was in the works, but Yee and Ammiano both announced they would not be running against Brown. Ammiano would eventually run a write-in campaign against Brown that would end in Ammiano’s defeat.
There are differences between the draft campaigns of Yee and Lee. Unlike the Lee campaign, the backers of Yee’s effort filed paperwork with the Ethics Commission stating they were an independent committee with the primary purpose of convincing Yee to run. The Lee campaign filed with the commission as a general-purpose committee.
Though they filed forms with the Ethics Commission that would allow them to raise and spend money, the Yee campaign never reported any contributions. Lee’s campaign, however, spent about $70,000.
“I don’t remember any money being raised,” Comstock said of the Yee campaign, which filed paperwork to disband in January 2000. “Mostly we got together and talked and tried to get him to run. It did serve to scare Willie that someone with name recognition would jump into the race.”
Yee’s campaign did not return calls for comment.
San Francisco State University political science Professor David Lee remembered the Yee campaign. He said there were ads and stories in Chinese-language newspapers trying to drum up support for Yee’s mayoral run.
“The ‘draft Ed Lee’ issue is certainly not new in S.F. politics,” David Lee said.