With Newsom's eyes on the Capitol, who's next? 

While Mayor Gavin Newsom pursues his ambitions for higher office, a number of San Francisco’s best-known political figures are eyeing the seat he will vacate.

It may seem too soon to think about 2011, when Newsom will be termed out of office, but already there is talk about who might run to replace him.

Newsom’s own political future came into clearer focus last week, when he filed papers to form an exploratory committee for a possible bid for governor of California in 2010.

Those seen as the most promising mayoral candidates, including several members of the Board of Supervisors, are mostly keeping mum about their intentions, saying they are focused on their current offices or re-election campaigns.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, 46, declined to discuss a mayoral race. He is up for re-election this November in District 5, and he is seen as a likely contender. Political analyst David Latterman said Mirkarimi is seen as the successor to Matt Gonzalez, the Green Party candidate who narrowly lost to Newsom in the 2003 mayoral race. However, Latterman questioned whether Mirkarimi had the so-called "it factor."

Supervisor Bevan Dufty, 53, who is in his last term on the Board of Supervisors, indicated he would run for mayor.

"I’m going to be ambitious and work hard over the next 2½ years and if that makes me a viable mayoral candidate, even better," Dufty said.

Latterman said Dufty has attempted to walk the line in appealing to both progressives and moderates, and was uncertain how that would play out in a run for mayor.

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, 40, is also seen as a potential candidate. Latterman described her as "charismatic."

Other political heavyweights who could throw their hats into the ring are City Attorney Dennis Herrera, 45, and District Attorney Kamala Harris, 43.

Herrera has "less name recognition" than some potential candidates "but he doesn’t have high negatives," Latterman said. He has some politically popular achievements, including winning the same-sex marriage legal battle and implementing gang-injunctions.

Harris, Latterman said, is a "proven political creature."

Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, 39, is seen as a potential mayoral candidate who is "not that well known" but generally "liked by both the left and the right," he said.

Perhaps the best-known potential mayoral candidate is 59-year-old state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco-San Mateo, Latterman said.

While the usual suspects have made the list of potential candidates, the race could always bring the unexpected.

"Some celebrity, some old politician — who knows?" Latterman said. "There will be people that we haven’t even thought of," Latterman said. "In 2000, who would have predicted Matt Gonzalez?"

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com 

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