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Supes’ vote on interim SF mayor expected within weeks

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The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on an interim mayor later this month to serve until the June 5 election. (Jessica Christian/2017 S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors is expected to discuss the process for selecting an interim mayor next week, and may vote on nominees the following week at the earliest, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

Board of Supervisors President London Breed has served as acting mayor following the unexpected death of Mayor Ed Lee on Dec. 12, but the board has the power to appoint an interim mayor — which it may do later this month.

Many see Breed’s dual roles as problematic, compromising the checks and balances in the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches, and would like the board to make a decision of naming an interim mayor to hold the post until the June 5 mayoral election.

Some argue the board should name a “caretaker,” who would perform the duties of the mayor and then step down come June, when a new leader is elected by voters.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin said that when the board meets on Jan. 9, the first meeting since the one on the day of Lee’s death, members are expected to discuss the process for selecting the interim mayor.

The board is expected to either — through a motion or through the action of Breed herself as board president — hold a special meeting the following week to vote on appointing an interim mayor, or hold that vote at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 23, according to Peskin.

“It would be my desire to have a meeting the week of [January] 16th,” Peskin said.

The board’s vote on an interim mayor would be made with full knowledge of who has filed to run for San Francisco’s top elected office. The filing deadline for the mayoral race is Jan. 9 at 5pm. An interim mayor who also runs for the office would have a significant political advantage heading into the June election.

Supervisor Norman Yee said in a text message to the Examiner on Tuesday that “I prefer voting on interim mayor after Jan. 9, 5pm.” Yee added, “But not too much after.”

As for who Yee would vote for, he said, “I am trying to stay open but prefer someone not running.”

It would take six votes on the board to name an interim mayor, and a board member can’t vote for his or herself. If no one receives six votes, Breed would continue to serve in both positions.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen said “it’s important that something happens quickly,” citing the concern about the “separation of powers” issue, which she called a “flaw in our charter.”

From the perspective of San Francisco’s left-leaning faction, the board currently has a five-member progressive bloc with Yee, Ronen, Peskin, and supervisors Jane Kim and Sandra Fewer.

That means someone from the more moderate bloc would need to break ranks in order for a more progressive person to be selected.

That was made more complicated with Kim herself having begun her campaign fundraising for mayor. On Tuesday, she declared with the Ethics Commission she would take public financing, which gives her matching public funds and ties her to spending limits.

Kim told the Examiner on Tuesday that “I haven’t discussed a date for vote on interim mayor with my colleagues yet.”

Like Yee, Peskin also said he wanted to vote for someone who hasn’t filed to run for mayor, which he said would ensure The City “has a free and fair election.”

As for who he would support as an interim mayor, Peskin declined to state specifically, but said there was no shortage of people who could do the job well.

Names for that role discussed include City Controller Ben Rosenfield, former City Controller Ed Harrington and City Administrator Naomi Kelly, though Rosenfield was disinclined to serve in that capacity. “I think I serve best where I am,” Rosenfield said.

But apparently nobody — including Breed — has secured the six votes needed. “From what I can divine, nobody has six votes,” Peskin said.

Meanwhile, well-known elected officials continue weighing whether to enter the race, which has already attracted 16 potential candidates — most notably former state Sen. Mark Leno and former Supervisor Angela Alioto, in addition to Kim.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu and Assemblymember David Chiu are considering entering the race as well, and Breed is also expected to file to run. Breed’s campaign consultant Maggie Muir was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Nicole Derse, Assemblymember David Chiu’s campaign consultant, said Tuesday that “Assemblymember David Chiu is seriously considering a run for mayor. He’s weighing what’s best for himself, his family and the people of San Francisco.”

Whoever wins in June will serve out the remainder of Lee’s term, and would need to run in November 2019 to continue serving for what would be their first four-year term.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from its original version with additional information.

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