Leland Yee: Why He's Ahead in the Polls

Categories: Politics
Leland Yee portrait.jpg
People love to hate Leland and that always makes for a good front runner in a race
Last week, we detailed a story about how state Sen. Leland Yee is pro-medical marijuana -- until he's not. As SF Weekly reported, Yee attended a medical marijuana meeting, telling pot smokers that he supports them all the way. But what he didn't explain was why he had opposed a Sunset District pot dispensary last year.

The doublespeak is par for the course, political insiders say. Yee, who has been climbing the political ranks for the last 15 years, is well-known for taking one position on an issue in Chinese and then taking the opposite stance when he's speaking to the English media.

In other words, Yee is a political chameleon, and it's certainly helping him in the San Francisco mayor's race, where he's been pandering to progressives and moderates.

"He will say anything to anybody, and he is inconsistent with his own views," one Democratic political consultant told SF Weekly.

But aren't most politicians like that?

Still, Yee has managed to rise through the ranks in politics while being criticized for flipflopping on important issues. He was chided, for instance, for saying he would support the LGBT community and then voting against transgender benefits when he was on the Board of Supervisors.

In the latest example, campaign strategists say they were shocked when Yee went on record chastising the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for giving the agency's outgoing chief, Nat Ford, a "golden parachute" of a departing payout. Yee told reporters that he was disgusted by the $384,000 severance package Ford collected while Muni suffers from major cuts. 

But then the Bay Citizen called Yee out, asking him if he cared so much about Muni, why he had voted to take $80 million away from the transit agency last year. Yee replied: "The dollars that were taken were clearly something the city was okay with."

Perhaps his unclear positions are catching up with him. As consultants note, Yee should be kicking ass in this race based on name recognition alone. But various polls show he's hanging in the 16 percent range, only slightly ahead of City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Supervisor David Chiu.

What's odd is that Yee managed to score the endorsement of the building tradesmen and the California Nurses Association -- powerful groups that have vehemently opposing views on the controversial California Pacific Medical Center's plans to rebuild. But then again, it's not that odd, considering Yee hasn't taken a clear position on the issue, according to his opponents.

Jim Stearns, campaign consultant for Yee, told us that the state senator has given his position on CPMC many, many times. "Should be built, but must fit community, patient needs, and guarantees of fair treatment for employees," Stearns wrote in a quick e-mail.  

Corey Cook, a political science professor at the University of San Francisco, says Yee isn't necessarily "unpopular" as he is polarizing, in part because he's neither progressive nor moderate. 

"Clearly there is a segment of the political community that isn't fond of him, thus the murmurings of a 'stop Leland Yee' campaign," Cook told SF Weekly. "The challenge, running in a ranked-choice election, is that it is often difficult for someone perceived as polarizing to win second- and third-choice votes."

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Tropics
Tropics

Leland Yee who was arrested in 1992 for allegedly shoplifting an $8.09 bottle of suntan oil from a store in Kona, Hawaii and then never showed up for court on the petty misdemeanor charge .this wasn't the only time Yee had a misunderstanding with police.

Indoor Camping
Indoor Camping

Standing up to block Muni chief Nat Ford's $384,000 golden parachute is pretty clear, isn't it? I like Yee because he isn't polarizing, at least out here in the Richmond. We all like him. He isn't afraid of naysayers like you.

Guest
Guest

Of course, that's just another one of his flip flops isn't it. It seems like given the audience or times, he will say whatever is the most populist thing to say.

Guest
Guest

The Guardian wants progressives to vote for this guy why exactly?

Nathan
Nathan

"Yee, who has been climbing the political ranks for the last 15 years, is well-known for taking one position on an issue in Chinese and then taking the opposite stance when he's speaking to the English media, sources say."

Case in point:  Look at how Leland Yee flipped in regards to shark fin.  He came out opposing the shark fin ban in a press conference while posing with and eating shark fin soup, and saying the ban was another attack on Chinese culture. 

Guest
Guest

Just like Ed Lee. Grrrrr. Those Asians!

Jillian
Jillian

On June 17, 1971, President Nixon told Congress that "if we cannot destroy the drug menace in America, then it will surely destroy us." After forty years of trying to destroy "the drug menace in America" we still *haven't* been able to destroy it and it still *hasn't* destroyed us. Four decades is long enough to realize that on this incredibly important issue, President Nixon was wrong! All actions taken as a result of his invalid and paranoid assumptions (e.g. the federal marijuana prohibition) should be ended immediately!

It makes no sense for taxpayers to fund the federal marijuana prohibition when it *doesn't* prevent people from using marijuana and it *does* make criminals incredibly wealthy and incite the Mexican drug cartels to murder thousands of people every year.

We need legal adult marijuana sales in supermarkets, gas stations and pharmacies for exactly the same reason that we need legal alcohol and tobacco sales - to keep unscrupulous black-market criminals out of our neighborhoods and away from our children. Marijuana must be made legal to sell to adults everywhere that alcohol and tobacco are sold.

"There's something extraordinarily perverse when we're so concerned about preventing addicts from having access to drugs that we destroy the lives of many times more people, either through untreated pain or other drug war damage".

LYeeFan
LYeeFan

Yes, I like and support Senator Leland Yee, he has the heart of this San Franciscan.

Leland Yee appears to be unafriad of ruffling the feathers of 'well-heeled' politicial types/civic leaders who are out of touch with their consituents.

RUN Leland RUN, many of us will be voting for you. 

Tropics
Tropics

leland yee >>> certified womanizer!!!

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

Other than a bunch of vague talking points, is there any reason to actually vote for this guy? You know: accomplishments, endorsements, that sort of thing?

Guest
Guest

Are you seriously asking?

The list of Yee's accomplishments is both long and absurdly easy to find.

http://bit.ly/gx54J1

Guest
Guest

"said one political consultant"

Sad journalisms there, Sorbet.

SFCitizen
SFCitizen

Sometimes when campaign strategists say they're "shocked," they're not shocked in actuality. Just saying...

njudah
njudah

I think they mean "Shocked! I'm SHOCKED to hear there's gambling in River City!"

njudah
njudah

if Yee is "ahead" as you say, then under RCV, the tactic for the others is to tear him down and do an "Anyone But Yee" strategy. Ask "Mayor" Don Perata, the onetime "front runner" in Oakland how that worked out for him.

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