Leno v. Migden: The mind reels

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By Tim Redmond

Well, the info I picked up last night was a bit off; Matier and Ross haven't run anything yet on the poll Mark Leno has done to evaluate his chances in a possible race against Carole Migden for state Senate in 2008.

But word about the race is all over town. The BAR checked in today with a story by Matthew S. Bajko discussing the race and quoting Leno confirming that he'll make a decision early in 2007. Bajko suggests that the race

"would almost certainly reopen old wounds not only between the formerly close allies but also between the city's two LGBT Democratic clubs. The clubs came down on different sides in the bitterly contested Leno-Britt race, and it took several years for the clubs to improve their relationship. The race also soured Migden and Leno's relationship; Migden had backed Britt as her choice to replace her in the Assembly."

I'm not so sure it breaks down that simply. Leno is now much more popular with the left-leaning Harvey Milk LGBT Club than he was five years ago, and Migden is, frankly, a bit hard to define politically these days. I think there would be progressives on both sides of this one, and the LGBT community would be split along unusual lines.

Only about half the district is in San Francisco, and the rest in in Marin and Sonoma counties, where Leno is almost unknown (and where politics, while heavily Democratic, tend to be a bit less liberal than SF). So both candidate will have to establish some moderate credentials.

But in the end, the left in San Francisco will play a key, perhaps decisive role in the race. And it's anybody's guess how that plays out in the end.

For example, let's take a wild (and unlikely) scenario: Leno is clearly supporting Mayor Gavin Newsom. Suppose a left-identified candidate like Matt Gonzalez takes on Newsom -- and Migden decides to join up against the mayor. How many of Leno's left allies does that peel off?

Another wild card: Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez is pushing a measure that would modify Leigslative term limits, perhaps to allow 12 years of service in any one house. Now think about this: If (as expected) the Legislature moves the California presidential primary to early 2008, but leaves the remaining state primaries in June (and that's the likely scenario right now), Nunez's measure could be on a January, 2008 ballot -- and if it passes, Leno could then file to run again for his Assembly seat in June. (And I think he would; Leno doesn't have his heart set on the state Senate right now. He just loves politics, and doesn't want to be out of office.)

Which would mean Leno wouldn't run against Migden -- but would also mean that Sup. Tom Ammiano, who has announced he will seek Leno's seat, would be SOL.

Of course, if the Nunez plan fails, and Leno runs against Migden, since Leno will then support Ammiano for the Assembly seat, perhaps Migden recruits a candidate (Chris Daly?) to run against Ammiano. Which would really not be pretty.

But hey: Maybe Bush and Cheney will be impeached, making Nancy Pelosi the president, and Leno can run for her Congressional seat. Wheee.