Mayor Lee’s In China, But He’s Probably Staying In SF

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Having his name circulated for President Obama’s Ambassador to China in Washington DC isn’t a bad idea. His ambassadorial skills were reinforced further as Mayor Ed Lee missed the President’s visit to SF while being in Wuhan, China (equivalent of Chicago) and Bangalore, India. It’s time for Ed Lee to think of political life after Mayor as his predecessors have. San Francisco’s no longer seen as the kooky and the creepy. It’s produced Batkid (spending $100,000 helped SF look kid-friendly in the nation…priceless) and a queue of candidates for national and statewide office going into 2014 – incumbents like former SF Mayor Gavin Newsom for Lt. Governor and ex-DA Kamala Harris for Attorney General and challengers like State Senator Leland Yee for Secretary of State, former Assemblywoman Fiona Ma for Board of Equalization seat of Betty Yee who’s angling for State Treasurer. All of the aforementioned names have a common denominator – they all won a second term for their last office. With Lee’s “legacy project” like the Warriors waterfront arena on the line for 2017, Mayor Lee has to win re-election by a comfortable margin if not landslide in 2015 for a mandate to keep it and other projects on track. The Warriors basketball arena, CPMC hospital rebuild, slashing unemployment, revitalization mid-Market with tech tax credits, balanced budgets, sustainable public pensions provide Lee a narrative to run. Lee could stump statewide in 2016 or 2018 on SF as the “Golden State Miracle” he presided over while avoiding the effects of the Great Recession that nearly sent California into insolvency and forced municipal bankruptcies in Vallejo, San Bernardino and Stockton. The mayor would still be in his sixties as the political window opens up. Jerry Brown, assuming he wins another term as Governor in 2014, will term out and leave at 80 in 2018. Dianne Feinstein at 86 will be up for US Senate in 2018. Meanwhile, Barbara Boxer at age 75 will be up for Senate in 2016….

CYC Board Chair Jaynry Mak wears her last minute purchase at 43rd annual Festival of Youth Gala.

CYC Board Chair Jaynry Mak wears her last minute purchase at 43rd annual Festival of Youth Gala.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: A former Rose Ball Queen contestant – Jaynry Mak – has a two year domestic violence restraining order against her to protect her spouse Clifford Young and two kids (ages 7 and 2). She doesn’t hold political office (she lost bids for District 4 Supervisor in 2006, SF School Board in 2008 and Democratic Party’s County Central Committee in 2010). However, Mak does hold community positions when it comes to children and youth, including Board Chair of the Community Youth Center and Vice President of her PTA…Among the San Mateo County Superior Court witnesses on Nov. 8 for hearing on Mak’s stay away order – CYC Director Sarah Wan, Frances Hsieh, legislative aide to District 11 (Excelsior/Outer Mission) Supervisor John Avalos and retired SFPD and 101 California hero Nelson Lum. Although Wan, Lum, and Hsieh appeared, it was unclear that they testified for or against Mak during the sealed proceedings. Interestingly, Mak – appearing at October’s Asian Police Officers Association scholarship dinner in Chinatown – is a former president of the SF Women’s Political Committee whose mission includes “elimination of violence against women”…


KEEP ED IN TOWN: Take note of what the mayor’s political friends think. Former SF Mayor Willie Brown thru his Sunday Chronicle column played up US Senator Dianne Feinstein for the post of Ambassador of China. Then Brown noted Chinatown Chamber of Commerce advisor Rose Pak didn’t put much credence in President Obama appointing the Mayor. Translation – movers and shakers in Lee’s career like Brown (he appointed Lee to City Purchaser and Public Works Director), Pak (helped maneuver Lee’s mayoral appointment in Jan. 2011), Silicon Valley financier Ron Conway (mayor’s big financial backer) and Feinstein (she urged Lee to run for mayor) would prefer to keep the Mayor in town. They probably want to avoid a repeat of Jan. 2011 where pro-business and moderate Mayor Gavin Newsom’s departure for Lt. Governor nearly brought a progressive (albeit a practical progressive) to Room 200 like Board of Supervisors President David Chiu. He ended up running and losing against Lee for mayor. If Lee left to become Ambassador, Chiu would be interim Alcalde as Supervisors would once again choose a permanent mayor. Chiu’s track record of three board elections as President would give him the inside track to win the post…

Representative Nancy Pelosi, Mayor Ed Lee, and Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Representative Nancy Pelosi, Mayor Ed Lee, and Senator Dianne Feinstein.

MAYOR LAU: This week marks the 35th anniversary of the Milk-Moscone assassinations. Had one supervisor not switched votes, according to Cal’s Asian American Studies emeritus professor and activist Ling-Chi Wang, Supervisor Gordon Lau and not Board of Supervisor President Feinstein (who was contemplating political retirement) would have become mayor and first Asian Pacific American (APA) mayor of San Francisco…

TRAGEDY OF DISTRICT 4: What if voters knew about what would eventually happen to former District 4 (Sunset) supervisor candidates Ed Jew and Jaynry Mak in 2006? History would have changed this month’s elections for District 4 (Sunset) Supervisor Katy Tang and Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu had voters chosen former SF Police Commissioner Doug Chan (a very promising and well qualified candidate whom Mayor Newsom endorsed and pundits favored) or even businessman Ron Dudum for supervisor in 2006. Instead, voters elected florist and businessman Ed Jew, a political underdog who tragically ended up in prison and setting off a political chain reaction. Jew’s resignation in 2008 led to Mayor Newsom’s appointment of Chu who eventually hired Tang as aide and unintentional successor…Likewise if 2006 District 4 voters knew about the recent domestic violence charges against attorney and former legislative aide Jaynry Mak, votes in the heavily Chinese American district might not have split among her, Jew and Chan. Mak finished third behind Dudum, Jew and ahead of Chan in the first round of ranked voting. Eventually Jew jumped ahead of Dudum with ranked votes from Chan and Mak….

This Gary Locke picture went viral in 2011.

This Gary Locke picture went viral in 2011.

SEATTLE CONNECTION: Mayor Lee himself dismissed the idea of President Obama appointing him as Ambassador to China to succeed Gary Locke. Lee and Locke, friends sharing birthplaces of Seattle, also share low key demeanors. The Chinese had admired how down home Locke was. 2011 images of him went viral on Chinese social media when the former Washington State Governor in casual clothes toted his own backpack without the elective office perks of limo driver. While waiting at a Seattle airport to go to Beijing, he fetched his own Starbucks breakfast with 6-year old daughter in tow. Likewise much has been made about the civil, low key and self-deprecating way Mayor Lee leads. A 2011 election campaign draft (“Run Ed Run”) started with a cartoon image of him and his mustache had a life of its own (Rose Pak ordered thousands of them to draft him to run). Unlike the celebrity lives of his predecessors (or cult of personality, as the Chinese political vernacular goes) like serial dating and clothes horse predecessor Willie Brown or model looks and early “Kennedysque” comparisons of Gavin Newsom, Lee easily enters a room anonymously and without fanfare.…

MISTRESS IS MASTER: Two venerable leaders and bosom buddies – former Organization of Chinese Americans national executive director Daphne Kwok introducing herself as “I’m David Louie” and doing preliminaries as “master” of ceremonies at November’s OCA national dinner until the dean of Bay Area and APA journalists business editor Louie showed late due to a late breaking KGO-TV story, and introduced himself as “I’m Daphne Kwok” at the South San Francisco Convention Center….

THOSE SPECIAL ASSISTANTS: From overseas a Mayor Willie Brown alum heard thru electronic grapevine about October 24 Third Annual Potsticker eating contest at Drake’s. Former mayoral aide and former Miss Hong Kong candidate Christina Lau (aka Christina Lau Moors) has been Beijing-based for a decade with one son celebrating his second birthday last Halloween while daughter copes with breathing the tough air there. Lau had stints as Director of Coca Cola’s External Affairs and Chinese Central TV news anchor…

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About the Author

Veteran columnist has appeared in up to 450,000 households weekly in the SF Independent, Examiner (2000-04) and AsianWeek since 1996. As Editor-in-Chief (2003-07), AsianWeek and Samson received wide recognition from the California Legislature, New American Media, League of Women Voters, GLAAD, Organization of Chinese Americans, SPUR and APA civic groups. Thru the SF Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections, SF Elections Task Force and Chinese American Voters Education Committee, Wong helped boost APA influence from 25,000 in the 1980s to over 50,000 voters by the early 1990s.