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Ed Lee Book Lands in Race for San Francisco Mayor

Is Ed Lee bio truly independent, or just excessive?

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Ed Lee Book Lands in Race for San Francisco Mayor

"The Ed Lee Story" has appeared on San Francisco doorsteps with a note, "We hope you enjoy the book! VOTE ED!"

B. Koh

Most political campaigns promote themselves via TV commercials, leaflets hung on doorknobs and signs propped up in living room and store windows. But publishing an entire book--The Ed Lee Story: An Unexpected Mayor--and distributing it on doorsteps?

The 132-page paperback with the grinning mayor on its cover was written by Enrique Pearce, the political consultant behind the previous "Run, Ed, Run" drive and now the wordily-titled SF Neighbor Alliance for Ed Lee for Mayor 2011. The alliance hasn’t yet reported its funding sources but it did fork out nearly $89,000 to print 50,000 copies of The Ed Lee Story. By most accounts, Lee is the front-runner in the crammed 16-candidate race for mayor--so an eight-chapter book seems to be overkill and a needless expense.

As an independent expenditure committee (which can raise unlimited amounts of money), the alliance is by law prohibited from tangoing with Ed Lee's official campaign. Pearce has said he did not speak with the interim mayor or his family about the Ed Lee book. On the back cover is a disclaimer: This biography was “independently funded, written and paid for” by the alliance and “was not authorized or approved by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.”

The book, though, is packed with glowing testimonials from Lee’s childhood and other long-time friends (such as Chinatown musclewoman Rose Pak), former co-workers and godson. It quotes media reports (including an op-ed essay written by one of his daughters) and Lee’s speeches, which are duly footnoted. But it also has several photos, some of them from Lee’s high school days, and a recipe for Lee’s previously secret “Poongaloong” macaroni dish. Was all of this truly collected without any input from Lee or his campaigners?

In some regards, The Ed Lee Story is more low-key than its protagonist. Take the pension reform battle, which boils down to propositions C versus D on the November 2011 ballot. If both measures pass, the one that gets the most votes wins. Prop. C was a negotiated agreement among mayor Lee, the supervisors and the city employee unions. Prop. D would save San Francisco more money, but public defender and mayoral candidate Jeff Adachi came up with it on his own. The Lee book says only that Prop. C was “created in open dialogues with the City’s unions” and that Adachi’s plan is “more aggressive.” The last chapter of The Ed Lee Story winds down with several soft-pedal “maybes,” finishing with “Maybe it’s time for someone like Mayor Ed Lee.”

One big controversy over Lee’s campaign, which critics continue to grumble about, is the fact that the reputedly straight-talking city administrator reneged on his original promise to step down and reclaim his old job as soon as the interim mayoral term was up. If Lee wins the race for San Francisco mayor in the November election, will he be tempted to aim even higher, ala Gavin Newsom?

Friend and former city contractor David Lem, quoted in the Ed Lee book, says no. “He’s not a politician. This is not a stepping-stone for him,” Lem says. “He truly wants to serve the City and that’s it.”

Just remember that that’s an unauthorized source.

ED LEE PERSONAL TRIVIA, from The Ed Lee Story

  • Childhood nickname: Brillo Head, for the texture of his hair.
  • Love life: Fresh out of college, Lee was doing a fellowship in Hong Kong when he met his future wife. Anita was his Cantonese teacher. Their first date: A meal at McDonald’s.
  • Culinary skills: Lee has served his self-titled “Poongaloong” entrée, made with hamburger meat, macaroni, ketchup and frozen vegetables, to judges, district attorneys and politicians.
  • Personal spending: Lee is cheap, according to more than one source. He wore “the same freaking jacket,” which was discolored, for eight years. Rose Pak says he’s worn shoes into the ground.
  • Addictions: Broadway musicals, B-rated movies, junk food, ice cream, sports.

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