(New York Times)
SAN FRANCISCO — After weeks of debate — and often open verbal combat — the San Francisco Board of Supervisors effectively elected Edwin M. Lee, the city administrator, as its new mayor on Friday, making him the first Asian-American to lead the city.
The 10-to-1 vote, officially just a recommendation made on the current board’s last day of service, is likely to be finalized by a new board next week. If all goes as expected, Mr. Lee will succeed Gavin Newsom, who was elected as California’s lieutenant governor in November and will be inaugurated next week.
As the city’s so-called successor mayor, Mr. Lee, a well-respected former civil rights lawyer, will serve out the remainder of Mr. Newsom’ s term — some 11 months — before a new mayor is elected by San Francisco voters in the fall.
Mr. Lee, who had been said to be initially reluctant to take the job but had warmed to the idea, was traveling in Taiwan on Friday and was not expected back to the city until Sunday. But Rose Pak, the powerful leader of the city’s Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, said she was ecstatic with the vote.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Ms. Pak, who had tears in her eyes. “We did it.”
The vote was taken during a relatively cordial special session that was called after a regular meeting on Tuesday devolved into name-calling. One departing supervisor, Chris Daly, threatened to “haunt” the board’s president, David Chiu, for his support of Mr. Lee.
As that exchange suggested, the issue of who will lead San Francisco inflamed political passions on the board, whose 11 members are all Democrats, though several identify themselves as progressives who are even further to the left. For that bloc, Mr. Newsom’s resignation seemed a golden opportunity to elect one of their own.
In the end, however, it was the moderates who opted to make a different type of history, electing Mr. Lee as mayor of a city in which roughly one-in-three residents is of Asian descent.
Mr. Chiu called the vote a historic occasion for “a community that has struggled, a community that has seen discrimination.” Mr. Lee’s election would prove, he said, that even children of immigrants “can someday reach the very top echelon of San Francisco.”
The recommendation of Mr. Lee was also a victory for Mr. Newsom, a political moderate who worried that a progressive mayor might undo his legacy. Several more liberal candidates had been floated, but Mr. Newsom worked behind the scenes, along with Ms. Pak and former Mayor Willie L. Brown, to help build support for Mr. Lee.
On Friday, Mr. Newsom praised the board for crossing the ideological spectrum — presumably from further left to moderate left — and for recognizing Mr. Lee’s “experience, unquestionable integrity and years of government and community service.”
But Mr. Daly seemed unimpressed, casting the single ‘no’ vote and calling Mr. Lee’s potential election a victory for the status quo.
“As candidate Obama said, we need change,” said Mr. Daly, a longtime foe of Mr. Newsom’s. “And what we have in front of us today is not that change.”