The hotly-contested mayoral race, rapidly put together in the wake of Ed Lee’s death, may soon be over. According to results released at 12:30 a.m., Mark Leno, 67, is winning the election with 50.42 percent of the ranked-choice votes. It’s going to be really, really close.
Leno’s potential win comes after decades of public service. A rabbinical school dropout, Leno first launched his small business, Budget Signs, Inc., in 1978. During the 1980s he witnessed the devastating AIDS crisis first hand; his partner, Douglas Jackson, died from complications of the disease in 1990. Eight years later, he was appointed to the District 8 seat on the Board of Supervisors by then-Mayor Willie Brown. During his four-year tenure on the Board he introduced legislation to expand tenant rights, assist low-income people living with HIV/AIDS, and demanded equal access to Healthy SF for transgender individuals.
In 2002, he took his political career a step further, with a successful run for the California Assembly, a position which he held for six years. Most notably he introduced AB 849 to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill became the first of its kind to pass the Assembly and State Senate, before it was vetoed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Leno moved on to the State Senate in 2008, where he made legislative waves, the effects of which are still being felt across California today. He was a strong supporter of universal health care, LGBT rights, minimum wage increases, humane prison reform efforts, and the creation of Harvey Milk Day.
Although he resides in Noe Valley, Leno has been absent from San Francisco politics for the past few years, though he was the first candidate of the bunch to announce his intention to run, even before Lee died. He told SF Weekly that he plans for this to be his last role in political office, but in a city that loves an incumbent, it could be another ten years before his role here is done.
There are still tens of thousands of ballots to be counted, which could take days. But historically, the remaining ballots lean progressive.
If he wins, Leno will take over from Interim Mayor Mark Farrell. He’ll have to run for the mayor again in November 2019, which is the traditional race date for the seat.