Willie Brown Declares London Breed a Contender for Mark Leno's Seat

Don't look now, but Tom Ammiano might have some competition in the quest to become the next 13th Assembly District representative.

Until now, Ammiano's coronation as the successor to incumbent Mark Leno, who will be termed out next year, has been treated as a given. Ammiano has the backing of practically all of San Francisco's Democratic establishment, including every one of his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors except for Ed Jew, several powerful labor unions, former state Senate prez John Burton, and Leno himself.

One person conspicuously, if predictably, missing from Ammiano's endorsement list: ex-Mayor and Assembly Speaker Willie Brown. As readers probably know, there's a history of bad blood between the two — Ammiano famously almost toppled Willie in 1999 with a quixotic write-in campaign for mayor.

Last month Brown served as emcee for an event honoring Sun-Reporter publisher Amelia Ashley-Ward, and dropped a little bombshell: He plugged the possible Assembly candidacy of an up-and-comer in the crowd, London Breed, a member of the Redevelopment Commission and executive director of the African American Art & Culture Complex in the Western Addition. No one was more surprised by Brown's announcement than Breed herself.

“All I could do was stand up and do the princess wave,” Breed says.

The 33-year-old Breed says she had gone to Brown — for whom she had interned during his first term as mayor — before the event to get the political mastermind's thoughts about whether she should run. To her surprise, she says, Brown was very encouraging. Even so, she wasn't expecting Brown to jumpstart her candidacy at the Sun-Reporter gala. “He can't keep his mouth shut,” Breed laughs.

Breed says she has felt frustrated by Ammiano, whom she described as “impatient and a little grouchy.” She says she believes voters should have a choice in the race, and she's leaning toward jumping in.

Ammiano's political consultant, Jim Stearns, played down any suggestion that Willie Brown was trying to recruit somebody to take on Da Mayor's old nemesis. Stearns says that as far as he knows, Ammiano and Brown have made peace in recent years. As for the prospects of Breed taking on his client, Stearns sniffed that he wouldn't comment on speculation.

As for Brown, well, for someone who supposedly can't keep his mouth shut, he was doing a mighty good job when we tried — unsuccessfully — to get a comment from him.

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