Using baseball-related metaphors and common political rhetoric, Mayor Ed Lee on Tuesday finally weighed in on the race to represent San Francisco in the California Assembly. And while the endorsement seems pretty obvious at first glance, there is more to the story.
Lee endorsed David Chiu, the president of the Board of Supervisors who is challenging colleague Supervisor David Campos for the District 17 seat. Progressive Democrat Tom Ammiano is termed out.
“I worked with David on pension reform, and not necessarily sexy stuff,” Lee said Tuesday inside the offices of Construction and Laborers Union Local 261. But “you don't win the World Series with new infrastructure.”
This bridge building was what convinced Lee to endorse Chiu, he said.
“I want him badly up there in Sacramento to represent all of us,” Lee said.
Chiu relied on a familiar refrain from his campaign, while also taking shot at his opponent — which has ramped up on both sides in recent weeks.
“There's one candidate in this race who has gotten things done,” Chiu said, referring to himself. “And you have one candidate who has been all talk, and is running a negative campaign.”
Chiu and Campos have been sending mailers slamming one another.
Outside Tuesday's news conference, reporters asked Lee what prompted his decision.
“The Giants,” Lee answered, jokingly. But besides the World Series, the endorsement also comes one day after Chiu's controversial Airbnb legalization legislation passed. Lee regularly hosts Tech Tuesdays with Silicon Valley angel investor Ron Conway, who also invested in Airbnb.
Conway had joined another donor in paying about $600,000 for mailers shaming Campos for his support of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who in 2012 pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence charges and received probation.
“My daughter was killed by a domestic violence abuser,” one mailer against Campos reads. “I am appalled that Ross Mirkarimi still has a job. I am shocked that David Campos supported him.”
Recently, domestic violence groups have denounced the tone of the mailers, saying the accusations trigger harmful memories.
About 16 domestic violence survivors picketed Chiu's campaign headquarters last week, asking him to “stop playing politics” with a sensitive topic.
Lee's support of Chiu is also surprising considering the two competed in the last mayoral race in 2011. Chiu even once pointedly said Lee was beholden to former Mayor Willie Brown and Chinatown power broker Rose Pak.
“I have a question for Ed Lee,” Chiu said in a 2011 town hall. “So Ed, about a week or two before you told the world you were considering running for mayor, you told me that you looked yourself in the mirror and didn't have the fire in your belly and didn't want to run, but that you were having trouble saying no to Willie Brown and Rose Pak.”
When asked if Lee and Chiu had buried the hatchet, Lee responded with a grin.
“I did win that race, I believe,” Lee said. “I just think we need an effective Assembly member up there.”