SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Interim Mayor Ed Lee filed papers Monday to run for a full, four-year term, marking a stark shift from his position seven months ago when he said he had no intention of joining the crowded mayoral race.
Flanked by family members as he announced his run, Lee said he changed his mind after seeing the tone of City Hall improve during his short tenure. That, and the urging of Sen. Dianne Feinstein and others, persuaded him to run for the office, he said.
"I think these seven months have been a demonstration of how this city could work with less politics and more getting the job done," Lee said.
"That's what I want to do, and while I changed my mind ladies and gentlemen, I haven't changed. It's still Ed Lee, it's still me doing the work and I want to continue doing that work," he said, standing in front of the city's Board of Elections office in the basement of City Hall.
Lee, the city's first Asian-American mayor, reluctantly agreed in January to serve out the remainder of Gavin Newsom's term after Newsom was elected lieutenant governor. At the time, Lee expressed eagerness to eventually return to his city administrator post and said he had no interest in joining the race for mayor.
The crowded field of candidates also includes city supervisors David Chiu and John Avalos, who were on the board that appointed Lee to the job.
Lee, who was expected to attend a candidates' forum Monday evening in the Castro District, said he has been busy reaching out to members of the Board of Supervisors to discuss his change of mind.
"I do owe them an explanation ... ," Lee said. "I will reach all of them by the end of today and explain why I changed my mind here."
Lee said his top accomplishments as mayor included a tax break and other city proposals to keep technology companies like Twitter Inc. and Zynga in San Francisco.
The tax break effort was aided by Supervisor Chiu, the board president, who was an important supporter of Lee's agenda.
"While I'm disappointed that he broke his promise to San Franciscans not to run, it will ultimately be up to the voters to judge the character, vision and record of those who want to lead our city for the next four years," Chiu said in a statement.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who is also among the crowded field of mayoral candidates, said Lee's biggest liability is not his flip-flop about whether he would run, but his connection to the area's most powerful political players.
"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," Herrera said about Lee's comments on Sen. Feinstein and others who urged him to run.
"The fact is, if Ed Lee is elected mayor, powerful people will continue to insist on things," Herrera said. "And I don't think San Franciscans can be blamed for having serious doubts about whether Ed Lee would have the courage to say no."
Until he became interim mayor in January, Lee spent years as a City Hall bureaucrat working behind the scenes, most recently as city administrator and before that director of public works.
David Lee, a political science lecturer at San Francisco State University, said Lee's nuts-and-bolts understanding of how policy gets implemented has helped him succeed with the budget and other initiatives during his short tenure.
"That's refreshing for voters. After two very high-powered superstar mayors like Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom, voters were looking for a government that simply worked," David Lee said.
After he became interim mayor, Lee was immediately courted by former city leaders and local political power brokers to run. A website for a campaign called "Run Ed Run" was started, which raised money and organized rallies at City Hall even though Lee continued to deny his candidacy. The website has since been taken down.
On Monday, Lee said his mayoral campaign was a separate entity not related to the Run Ed Run group.
While some questioned Lee's honesty, other candidates welcomed Lee to the race.
"I look forward to discussing the important issues facing our city with the interim mayor and finally seeing him at the candidate debates," state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said in a statement.