San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera unveiled an endorsement from former Mayor Art Agnos in his run for mayor Tuesday morning, one day after Mayor Ed Lee announced his own candidacy.
In a statement, Agnos used grand language to describe Herrera's merits: “San Francisco deserves a Mayor who will fight for what they believe in, independent of special interests,” he said. “As our City Attorney, Dennis has exposed fraud, waste, abuse and corruption in city government, and recovered millions of dollars for San Franciscans. ... He will be an independent voice in City Hall and bring integrity and honesty to the Mayor’s office.”
In truth, though, the endorsement was more about firing an early jab at Lee and questioning his “independence” than about bolstering Herrera’s own credentials. The endorsement packs a special punch because Lee was, in fact, first appointed to a city government post by Agnos.
The story goes back to more than 20 years ago: Agnos had swept into the mayor's office in 1988 on a wave of Chinatown money funneled by Rose Pak, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce consultant. Shortly after, he brought on Lee, a longtime civil rights lawyer and friend of Pak's, to be an investigator in the city's whistleblower program.
This year, Agnos had plotted to secure the interim appointment to the mayor’s office for himself, with help from progressives like Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi and the Bay Guardian's editors. But the progressives were split in their support for Agnos and Sheriff Michael Hennessey, and were completely outflanked by former Mayor Willie Brown and Pak, the duo that engineered Lee’s rise.
Herrera, meanwhile, has been sweating Lee’s entrance into the mayoral race, which will likely divert a great deal of support from Herrera’s constituency. For months, Herrera was secure in the knowledge that Pak considered him a solid candidate to back if Lee refused to run. When the mayor entered the race, Herrera switched into attack mode, thumping Lee by calling out his ties to Pak and Brown.
Here’s Herrera's statement about Lee's candidacy:
“Ed Lee told us he didn't want to be interim Mayor. But powerful people insisted he do it, so he did. Then Ed Lee told us he didn't want to run for Mayor. But powerful people insisted he run, and now he is. To my mind, Ed Lee's biggest problem isn't that he's a dishonest man -- it's that he's not his own man.”
Who said this was going to be a bland race?