The Leland Yee campaign has taken direct advantage of that perception, releasing a parody of the hagiographic Lee biography written by political consultant Enrique Pearce. "The Real Ed Lee story," which repeatedly talks of his connections to unethical power brokers, hit the streets this past weekend.
Lee also sided with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce over a coalition of labor and consumer groups with his veto of legislation by Sup. David Campos that would have prevented employers from draining $50 million per year from health savings accounts set up to comply with city law. Many restaurants even tack a 3-5 percent surcharge onto customers' bills, making it essentially consumer fraud.
"It's important for us to take a stance on the issue and say that what the mayor did was wrong," Campos told us. "It's a defining issue for us in City Hall."
Then there's OccupySF. Nobody knows for sure, but it's likely that a majority of San Franciscans are at least somewhat sympathetic to the group's message. And Lee has so far avoided the public relations disaster of Oakland's crackdown.
But the left is unhappy with Lee's constant threats to clear out the encampment, and the right is unhappy that he hasn't sent in the cops already — and even the San Francisco Chronicle has denounced his lack of decisiveness.
Lee put the police on high alert and had them moving around in buses, ready to move in — than at the last minute changed his mind. "What this shows," said former Supervisor Aaron Peskin, "is that we don't have a mayor with a firm hand on the tiller."
Most observers expected that the Chronicle would join the San Francisco Examiner and endorse Lee. But the paper came down on the side of Supervisor David Chiu. Chiu is still running well behind in the polls, and not that many voters follow the Chron's advice, but the endorsement was a huge boost to his campaign.
"Ed Lee's had a bad couple of weeks, and some of the others have had a good couple of weeks," Cooks said.
Ranked-choice voting puts an interesting twist into all of this. Several consultants and election experts I talked to this week said that Lee would be far more vulnerable in a traditional election. "He would lose a runoff against almost any of the top challengers," one person said.
But every poll that's tested the ranked-choice scenario — even recent polls that show Lee faltering — still put him on top after the votes are all tallied and allocated. That's in part because supporters of candidates who are lower in the pack — Chiu, for example — tend to put Lee as a second or third choice. The Bay Citizen/USF poll showed that when Chiu was eliminated, most of his votes wound up going to Lee.
"Ranked-choice voting clearly favors incumbents," Cook told me.
And, people walking precincts say, there are still some Herrera and even Avalos voters who put Lee second or third. And the only way Avalos -- or anyone other than Lee -- can win the election is if progressive and independent voters stick to a clear "anyone but Lee" voting strategy.
Avalos is doing well in recent polls; in fact, one shows him ahead of Herrera in first-place votes. Herrera does better when seconds and thirds are counted. Michela Alioto-Pier gets a fair number of first-place votes, which isn't surprising since she's one of only three women in the race, the only woman with citywide name recognition — and the only real credible conservative.
Yee and Chiu are both in the running, and Yee has come out strong attacking Lee and is running hard for progressive votes. He showed up at OccupySF the night a police raid was threatened and has been the leading critic of the alleged voter fraud.
Cook says a scenario where somebody beats Lee is still "an inside straight" — but it's not at all impossible.