Yee and Avalos — right now, today — are doing the things they need to do to emerge from a crowded pack
Three weeks before the June 25-26 Pride Weekend — which is the unofficial opening of the official fall mayoral race — there are two front-runners: state Sen. Leland Yee and Sup. John Avalos.
I'm not saying either is going to win. Things change quickly in this town. We don't even know for sure if the incumbent, Ed Lee, is going to be in the final scrum.
But here's what we do know: Yee and Avalos — right now, today — are doing the things they need to do to emerge from a crowded pack. And the others are either hanging back or flailing around.
Avalos had more than 400 people at his kickoff. State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano was there to endorse him. He's got window signs all over the east side of town. He's showing momentum, energy; he's on track to solidify the progressive base and start moving west. He has agreed to cosponsor the mayor's pension reform plan (but only if SEIU Local 1021 gets the amendments the union wants).
Yee has figured out a very smart strategy: He realizes that he's already got name recognition and a west-side base, that he's never going to get the support of the Chinatown establishment (powerbroker Rose Pak hates him), and that he's one of at least five candidates fighting over the center. So he's trying to grab a share of the left.
Yee's people were thrilled that he and Avalos got the Sierra Club. The more groups that endorse the two together (in any order), the more Yee becomes associated with the progressive standard-bearer. And the more second-place votes he gets on the left. (Don't kid yourself; this race may well come down to who gets second-place votes on the left.)
And Sup. David Chiu just gave Yee a great big gift. Chiu defied every single tenant group in town and became the swing vote in favor of the Parkmerced project. Now the tenants are pissed — and you know Yee is going to try to take advantage of it.
The frustrating part of that scenario is that Yee was never a good tenant vote when he was a supervisor. That's his Achilles' heel on the left — but it's old history, and the anger at Chiu is here today.
Would Chiu be a better mayor for tenants than Yee? Quite possibly. Is any tenant group thinking that right now? No.
Chiu's in a tricky spot. He's trying to be the centrist progressive — and that's a hard thing to sell to either the center (where he's one of five candidates) or the left (where Yee is edging him out in cozying up to Avalos).
City Attorney Dennis Herrera hasn't recovered from the political consultant lobbying mess (not a new story, he's hardly the only, or even remotely, the worst offender, but damn, it makes him look bad). Former Sup. Bevan Dufty's doing great at the candidate forums but doesn't have a breakout move. Assessor Phil Ting is awfully quiet.
It's only June. But it won't be "only" anything much longer.