Ed Lee pub-crawls the campaign trail in Lower Haight 

Blowing off a mayoral debate in the Fillmore was an easy choice for Mayor Ed Lee on Thursday night: It gave him a chance to be closer to the people.

Lee hit up happy hour at Toronado, Mad Dog in the Fog and Naan -N- Curry before heading off to a meeting with the business community.

The mayor said the debates were simply becoming a forum for candidates to attack each other, but by walking the streets of the Lower Haight, he could talk to the people and let them know why he changed his mind and entered the mayoral race.

“I needed a break” from the debates, Lee said. “If I get the opportunity to hang out with people, I’d rather do that.”

The bar patrons themselves were surprised to see Lee and his entourage of bodyguards and media. One woman cooed, “Why, it’s Ed Lee.” A man asked for Lee to pose for a picture with his basset hound, which the mayor obliged.

At Toronado, Lee faced a little competition because Tiffany Calhoun is only three “check-ins” away from being “mayor” of the bar on the social networking site Foursquare.

Calhoun said her friends didn’t believe Lee was actually there until he appeared at their table to introduce himself.

The 25-year-old Millbrae resident cannot vote for Lee, but she approved of his campaign techniques.

“If you can do something good for The City, then it was worth you changing your mind to run,” she told Lee.

Lee proved to be a good tipper when the bartender comped him a glass of Russian River Temptation beer, leaving $5.

At Mad Dog, Mission district resident Rianna Stefankis, 29, said her opinion had changed after meeting Lee.

“Honestly, I was probably going to vote for David Chiu just because a lot of my friends were,” she said. “But now I’m going to have to rethink things.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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