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State Sen. Leland Yee moves toward run for San Francisco mayor

A week after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was elected lieutenant governor, state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) filed papers Wednesday to form an exploratory committee as a first step to running for mayor next year.

When Newsom vacates his post as mayor in January, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will appoint a replacement to fill out the remainder of Newsom's term. San Francisco will elect a new mayor to a full, four-year term in November. A Yee spokesman said he is not actively seeking an appointment from the board. The next regular election for mayor is November 2011.

"Today, we begin the process of asking San Franciscans what they want of their city government and their next mayor," Yee said in a statement. "As someone who grew up in San Francisco, attended public schools, raised a family and has been serving this city for over 20 years, I am excited about starting this new discussion."

Yee, 61, said that the next mayor needs to fix the city’s mass transit system, improve public schools, create jobs and "continue to lead on important issues like the environment and human rights.’’ He was just reelected to his second term in the senate on Nov. 2, receiving 79% of the vote over a Republican challenger in a senate district that includes the western half of San Francisco and most of San Mateo County. He can continue to serve in the Senate while campaigning for mayor.

Yee has on occasion fun afoul of the Democratic Senate leadership over refusing to vote for budget cuts that affect his public employee union allies. The biggest contributors to his reelection campaign, giving $7,800 each, included the California Teachers Assn., the California Faculty Assn. and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Last month, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) stripped Yee of his position as assistant president pro tem. Yee later issued an open letter to Steinberg saying the action was retribution for his failure to vote for the budget, adding "I am more than willing to relinquish this title if that is the price for voting my conscience on the state budget and standing up against severe cuts to education, social services and healthcare."

The senator has a doctorate in child psychology from the University of Hawaii, and many of his bills had to do with young people. One Yee bill, signed into law in 2005, would ban the sale of violent video games to minors, but it has been struck down by lower federal courts as unconstitutional and is pending in the U.S. Supreme Court. This year Yee authored a bill requiring minors to wear helmets while skiing, but it did not take effect because the governor refused to sign a companion measure requiring ski resorts to provide the public with safety plans. Other Yee bills provide legal protections for University of California employees who are retaliated against for reporting illegal or improper actions, allow access to the High Occupancy Vehicle highway lanes for the latest generation of low-emission vehicles and prohibit censorship of college student press, including school newspapers and broadcast journalism.

Before he was elected to the Legislature, Yee served on the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

 
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