The wide-open field. Ranked-choice voting. Public financing. The push for interim Mayor Ed Lee to run for a four-year term despite his vow not to. Whether the field of declared candidates could be any more boring.
There are plenty of unknowns about November’s mayor’s race, and here’s another wrinkle: how the state’s redistricting process could play a factor.
For those who don’t fit into the political nerd category, a catch-up: The new California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s once-a-decade effort to remake the state’s political maps is now under way, and preliminary drafts were released Friday.
To no one’s surprise, the early maps show San Francisco losing a state Senate seat because new rules say seats should follow natural geographic boundaries. That meant the current split of the city north to south with the eastern side stretching over the bay and far up into Marin and Sonoma and the western side stretching down the Peninsula wasn’t likely to last.
Instead, San Francisco will probably be represented by just one senator, who will also represent the northern tip of San Mateo County. But whether that seat is given an odd number and stays with state Sen. Mark Leno or an even number and stays with state Sen. Leland Yee hasn’t yet been decided.
That seemingly mundane question looms over both longtime, big-name city politicos and could reshape the city’s political landscape.
Let’s say the district goes odd and is Leno’s. He could finish his term and run for a second one next year. Yee is running for mayor anyway and is considered a front-runner.
Let’s say the district goes even and is Yee’s. If he wins the mayor’s race, his Senate seat would be up in a special election next year and Leno could run for it.
But if Yee loses the mayor’s race, he could serve in the state Senate until 2014 before being termed out of office – leaving Leno in the lurch as to whether to move in an attempt to run in another district or stay out of state politics until 2014 and then run for the city’s lone Senate seat.
Could the uncertainty persuade Leno to jump into the mayor’s race as a backup? Polls have put him on top of the heap if he were to run.
“He’d be automatically one of the leading candidates, if not the leading candidate, in the race,” said political consultant Jim Ross, who is not associated with any mayoral campaigns. “He’s a good fundraiser, he’s good with people, he has great ties and connections.”
But here’s the kicker: The final redistricting maps are due Aug. 15. The deadline for entering the mayor’s race? Three days before that.
Of course, there’s the overarching concern about San Francisco losing a Senate seat: the loss of political power.
David Lee, executive director of the Chinese American Voter Education Committee, has been following the redistricting process closely.
“Any way you look at it, it’s a loss of power and influence that we’ve enjoyed and taken for granted,” he said.
San Francisco Chronicle, Heather Knight Sunday, June 12, 2011
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