Ed Lee Seizes the Day

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In politics, sometimes fate has a way of rearranging the best laid plans by some of the smartest people.

Who could have imagined Arnold Schwarzenegger would be sitting in the governor's chair in 2004, a year after the re-election of Gray Davis?

Who would have ever thought that Dianne Feinstein would be San Francisco mayor prior to the assassination of the George Moscone in 1976?

Or that Gerald Ford, an accidental vice president because of the resignation of Spiro Agnew, would become President without election with the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974?

Yet, in this micro-managed world of ours, some things remain out of our control even in the 21st century.

It's hard to imagine that Ed Lee, San Francisco Chief Administrator since 2005, thought himself a candidate for Mayor even a year ago after Mayor Gavin Newsom, having dropped out of the race for governor, went on to win the nomination and election for Lieutenant Governor, yet that's the situation today.

On Monday, Lee declared his candidacy for mayor.

That in itself isn't controversial except for the fact that when the divided Board of Supervisors set out to appoint an interim mayor after Newsom's departure earlier this year, they ultimately agreed on Lee because of his very unpolitical posture and promise to keep the job only until the mayoral election this coming November.

Inasmuch as several Board members declared or were about to declare their candidacy for the job, the last thing they wanted to do is give the inside track position to someone already in the job.

Yet that's exactly what happened.

Lee was urged to run by the city's Establishment, a loose coalition of business types and political veterans who don't want San Francisco to fall into the hands of someone too liberal.

True, there are a couple of moderates running but they don't seem as predictable to the elites as Ed Lee.

And so, he broke a huge promise, likely ticking off the Board majority with whom he must work, should he win.

None of this is to say that Lee is a liar or conniver.

Anyone who says that Lee schemed this scenario way back when should be writing best-selling works of fiction.

But unintentional or not, Lee's decision is likely to leave a lot of elected officials pretty upset.

Nor does this assessment mean that Lee should have honored his original commitment.

Like so many other aspects of life, in politics you make the best decision you can with the best information you have at the time you have to act.

If other factors come along to change the conditions, who but the most foolish person wouldn't adjust his or her new decisions?

That's where Ed Lee is now.

He meant what he said when he said it, but circumstances have changed. San Francisco needs new leadership, the public is fractured, and leaders are at each others' throats.

Then there's old Ed Lee, who would look frumpy in one of Willie Brown's $2,000 Wilkes Bashford suits.

But fate doesn't seem to mind. The question is, will the voters?

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