State Sen. Leland Yee is carrying the momentum of his virtually uncontested re-election — on which he spent more than $1 million — to his fight to become San Francisco’s next elected mayor.
Just one week after his predictable District 8 state Senate re-election victory, Yee showed up at the Department of Elections at City Hall to file paperwork to begin raising money to run for the most powerful post in San Francisco.
Yee spent $1,047,433 between January and Oct. 16 for his state Senate re-election bid, according to state campaign contribution filings. About $403,000 was spent on political consultants, nearly $260,000 for television political ads, about $117,000 on campaign literature and $100,700 on polling, records show.
“It was all for the Senate race,” said Jim Stearns, Yee’s political consultant. Yee trounced Republican opponent Doo Sup Park by picking up nearly 80 percent of the votes.
A political committee must spend its contributions on what the committee was established for, according to state campaign finance laws.
Yee’s state Senate race spending can benefit his mayoral bid by boosting his name recognition in a positive light before the intense and likely negative campaigning heats up during the actual mayor’s race, according to political consultant Jim Ross, who helped Mayor Gavin Newsom get elected.
“It is allowed. Everything Leland is doing is legal. But they’re not kidding anyone. Lots of exploring [for the mayoral run] has been accomplished so far,” said political consultant David Latterman. “If he’s doing polling for [District 8] he can ask any question he wants.” Latterman said. What he learns is relevant to his role as senator and his run for mayor, he said. “It’s cross-pollination, but its par for the course.”
Sterns said a lot of the consultant spending was in support of Yee’s legislative initiatives, the polling was for state issues such as education, and he noted that political advertisements have a short lifespan. The polling only covers a portion of San Francisco, since the senator’s district does not include the entire city, he said.
When mayoral candidate City Attorney Dennis Herrera had yet to declare his candidacy and he was running unopposed for re-election last year similar suggestions were made that he was using his uncontested re-election bid to help with his prospective mayoral run. Other declared candidates include District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who is termed out of office on Jan. 8 and has been raising money since September 2009, and venture capitalist Joanna Reese.
The timing of Yee’s announcement comes about a year before the 2011 mayoral election and just a week after voters gave him another four years in office.
“Maybe to a normal person it seems bad, but to me it’s whatever. I knew the guy was always running,” Latterman said. “People voted for him for state senator knowing he would run for mayor.”
Running two races
State Sen. Leland Yee’s spent over $1 million on his barely contested re-election bid. A week after winning the race he signaled his intent to run for mayor.
$1,047,443: Amount spent between January and Oct. 16
Some spending details
$100,700 on polling, surveys
$117,550 on campaign literature and mailings
$259,039 TV or cable airtime and production costs
$403,474 Campaign consultants