By Tim Redmond
It's official: I just spoke with Assemblymember Mark Leno, and he is, indeed, running for state Senate against incumbent Carole Migden. Leno will formally announce at a March 2 campaign kickoff fundraiser at Yerba Buena Gardens. But he's in the race -- and he told me very clearly that he's in the race for good, even if the the voters overturn term limits for state legislators.
"I want to allow the voters of this senate district to have a choice," Leno said. "My record of nine years in elected office demonstrates a very different style of inclusivity and respect."
And that's really what this race is going to be about: political style. There aren't a whole lot of major issue on which Leno and Migden disagree, so while Leno told me he would "really be focussing on what I'm going to do positively," there's no doubt that the campaign will turn negative. Leno has to point to some of the problems Migden's had in Sacramento -- and Migden, who is a scrapper, will fight back.
The first big sign of how this race will play out will be who shows up to support Leno March 2. My bet: Mayor Gavin Newsom will be there (Leno is a big Newsom backer). Another guess: Sup. Chris Daly, who has been more friendly with Migden, will take a pass. So will Sup. Aaron Peskin.
In the end, this is going to be a bitter, ugly fight with San Francisco progressives on both sides (and caught in the middle). On the positive side, it's a clear sign that the days of machine politics in San Francisco are over, dead, done for. Can you imagine Willie Brown letting an actual contested election happen on his watch?
And who knows; maybe Migden will decide she'd rather run for mayor.
I haven't been able to get Migden on the phone directly, but she relayed this comment to me:
"I have not heard a credible justification for [Leno's] candidadacy other than the fact that he's out of a job."
And so it begins.