Chiu rejects DA job and defends his support for Lee

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Amid speculation that he was angling to be appointed district attorney – and questions about whether that goal influenced his support for Ed Lee to be named interim mayor – Board of Supervisors President David Chiu has issued a press release announcing that he's withdrawing from consideration for the DA's job.

“Right now my strong belief is that I can best serve San Francisco from City Hall. The challenges ahead of us will require a new level of collaboration between our elected leaders—many of them new to office—and all San Franciscans who care about the future of our incredibly diverse and inclusive City,” Chiu said in the prepared statement, thanking Mayor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris for their consideration and for recent meetings with Chiu on the appointment.

When I spoke with Chiu yesterday afternoon, he said that he was leaning against taking the job, partly out of concern that Newsom would replace him with a fiscal conservative like Joe Alioto Jr. “I would not want to leave my seat to someone whose perspective on issues is drastically different than mine,” Chiu told me.

He also strongly emphasized that there was no connection at all between his discussion with Newsom over the DA appointment and with Chiu's pivotal support for Lee, and Chiu said Newsom did not raise the issue during their conversations. On Tuesday, Chiu broke with his progressive colleagues to be the sixth vote in favor of Lee.

Chiu said that he has long been supportive of Lee and Chiu disagrees with the assertion that Lee is a less progressive pick than Sheriff Michael Hennessey, who had the support of five progressive supervisors. “He's someone who has tremendous progressive roots,” Chiu said of Lee, noting that Chinese-American progressives have long considered him one of their own. “We have been working with Ed Lee for years and we know where his heart is.”

Chiu argued that Lee is experienced in a broad range of city functions and issues while Hennessey's knowledge of city government issues is limited mainly to law enforcement. While the strong and sudden support for Lee among fiscal conservatives has been worrisome to many progressives, Chiu noted that “unfortunately, the moderates are far more disciplined than we are on the progressive side.”

“We have many competing and diverse constituencies that led us to be unable to get to consensus around one candidate,” Chiu said.

The current Board of Supervisors will convene for a final time at 3 p.m. tomorrow to vote on Lee after progressive supervisors successfully pushed for a delay in the vote on Tuesday. In addition to Chiu and the five supervisors to his ideological right, Sup. Eric Mar has announced that he will also support Lee, and Sups. John Avalos and David Campos said they are open to backing Lee after they get the chance to speak with him.

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