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Someone asked me the other day if I was surprised by Council President Ben Hueso’s nomination — along with two colleagues — of attorney Lee Burdick to fill a seat on the port commission. After all, I had given Hueso a little grief for what appeared to be a troubling tendency of him just backing into tough decisions without much leadership. Here he was trapped between a candidate labor was pushing very passionately — Diane Takvorian — and a well-placed insider with fundraising prowess — Bill Evans — and it didn’t appear as though he would do anything shocking.
I was wrong. Burdick’s nomination was a bold surprise and a very deft move for Hueso and his colleagues, Councilmen Tony Young and Carl DeMaio. I am surprised because it seems to be a decision without much positive personal political consequences for any of them (except for the always powerful praise from a local political blogger with a receding hairline and a very talented spouse). Burdick, with the bipartisan support, will be seen as a strong compromise candidate and should be considered the favorite for the post now.
I know and like Burdick. She considered a run for city attorney last year but bowed out when former City Councilman Scott Peters became the labor and Democratic favorite for the post. Of all the brilliant political moves labor made last year, that wasn’t one of them. Some people failed to recognize the thirst for new leaders.
It’s seen as an advantage politically these days to run as a woman and Burdick is well spoken with a commanding presence. She obviously wants to be successful politically so she might need to be reminded to try to improve things rather than just successfully play the game. But she has respect for business and a desire for social progress. These are both good qualities. And she’s a lawyer. This can be a good quality.
But she was not well known and some wondered whether it would be clear she was a woman to less-informed voters (her name is somewhat androgynous) — especially because she was going to be running against a Republican named Jan (a man).
Anyway, she acquiesced. But now she’s back in the game. To have immediate bipartisan support for the port gig and to come off as a Democrat but independent of special interests is a great score for her.
And chalk another act of independence up for Ben Hueso. First, he quietly stiffed the unions in city labor negotiations and now he bluntly avoids their top choice for the port. I hereby eat crow — he can surprise me.
To a lesser extent, DeMaio again demonstrated his own ability to work with those in different camps. Young’s pursuit of consensus and progress is now becoming reliable.
Stay tuned for the show. The port nominations are very impactful and there is chance for more intrigue (for background, remember to read this). There are few more important unelected positions in the region — and even fewer with so much influence over so many acres of very important land.