Ed Lee should run for mayor if he wants 

Ed Lee was appointed interim mayor in January based on a promise to the Board of Supervisors that he would not seek election in November. There is no reason to believe he was not sincere when he made that promise.

But in the past seven months, Lee has proven to be more than simply a caretaker content to keep the mayoral chair warm, sign proclamations and cut ribbons. By forging a compromise pension reform measure and crafting a budget that plugged the deficit while avoiding layoffs, Lee has proven he has key skills desired in a four-year mayor: compromise, mediation, vast knowledge of city operations and the ability to work with the Board of Supervisors.

This low-key mayor has grown in office, assuming the mantle of leadership and restoring a degree of civility to what has too often been a contentious City Hall. He clearly enjoys the job of representing San Francisco. It is not hard to see how a sincere pledge made last year could gradually morph into a sincere desire to continue providing leadership for a city he has served for decades in other roles.

The San Francisco Examiner is not going to begrudge him if he desires to change his mind and declare his candidacy for mayor. If so, he would be doing it not only for himself, but for the citizens of San Francisco who deserve the opportunity to choose from The City’s strongest candidates, including the man currently doing the job.

If he does run, Lee would instantly become the front-runner, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be a shoo-in. The Teflon coating he has enjoyed as the nonpolitical, above-the-fray administrator would suddenly disappear and the scratches have already begun.

The call Thursday by five mayoral candidates for an investigation into the recent actions of Progress for All — the group that has been raising money and pushing the Run, Ed, Run campaign — is a small taste of what Lee will be up against if he jumps into the fray.

His claims that he has no involvement or connections with Progress for All can be as easily questioned as his promise not to enter the November election.

He will be attacked as just another self-serving politician willing to say and do whatever it takes to get elected. And he will have to defend his actions in office, including the charge that his pension reform plan falls short of what is needed to get The City’s fiscal house in order and the roadblocks he has placed in the development of the California Pacific Medical Center campus on Cathedral Hill.

And to that we say: Good, let the debate begin. There are nine top-tier candidates consisting of current and former supervisors, city officials and a businesswoman. Thus far, the debate has been muted while everyone awaits Lee’s candidacy decision as well as due to fear of alienating potential second- and third-choice voters under the ranked-choice voting system. Having Lee in the race will provide a focus for the debate and force Lee to prove that he deserves the top job.

In an ideal world, Lee would not have had to make a promise to not run in order to get the supervisorial votes to be appointed interim mayor. The supervisors should have selected him based on his decades of experience at City Hall, knowledge of the issues and proven ability to work with a variety of officials and constituencies. Whether he then chose to seek election should not have mattered.

But that was then, and this is now. If Ed Lee wants to run, he should. After that, it’s up to the voters.

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