Ed Lee’s Nerd Chic Fumble

Mat Luschek

Above is the most talked-about advertisement in California politics. it's a two-minute web ad with MC Hammer singing "Too Legit to Quit" along with San Francisco celebrities -- including Giants closer Brian Wilson. They are touting San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee in next month's city elections.

The ad plays around with Lee's image as something less than a normal politician -- he's a dweeby-looking guy with glasses and a moustache. (Which is why Wilson, famous for his beard, is wearing a T-shirt that says, "Fear the Moustache"). Lee's unusual rise to power is the context. He became the interim mayor after Gavin Newsom was elected lieutenant governor; he had said he wasn't going to run for a full term, and, as a lame duck, managed a number of legislative accomplishments.

In a way, Lee's special political appeal lay in the fact that he wasn't running for anything. Or to put it another way, he was "legit" because he was supposed to quit

But Lee reversed himself and ran for mayor. And while he leads in the polls, he has less than a majority and has lost some of his appeal. He lost some of his good-guy sheen by refusing to accept public financing. His opponents have accused him of electoral fraud. The ad itself is not paid by his campaign but by an independent expenditure committee that relies on donations from rich individuals and interests.

In this and other ways, this entertaining ad further undercuts Lee's nerd-of-the-people appeal. Is Lee really just like other San Franciscans if he has a slick campaign and so many celebrity friends?

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