Congressmember-elect Kevin Mullin, Sen. Josh Becker, and the San Mateo County Democratic Party have joined a growing chorus of community members and leaders calling upon a deeply divided San Mateo City Council to select Councilmember Amourence Lee as the city’s next mayor.
“History & precedent say [Lee] should rotate to San Mateo mayor,” Mullin stated on Twitter. “She has put in the quality time & would make history for the AAPI community in SM.”
Like other San Mateo County cities, Council members select one of their members annually to serve as San Mateo’s mayor on a rotational basis. The appointment is typically seen as routine and ceremonial. Lee, who would be the city’s first Asian American mayor, is the only member on the current Council who served prior to the November election.
But in an apparent battle of opposing ideologies, two of the newly-elected San Mateo Councilmembers — Lisa Diaz Nash and Robert Newsom — broke from 128 years of city precedent by rejecting Lee’s appointment in a contentious meeting last night that ended at 3:00AM. Due to outgoing Councilmember Diane Papan’s ascension to the State Legislature, their votes caused a 2-2 stalemate, sparking concern of a governance crisis for a city without a mayor that also needs to appoint a fifth councilmember in short time.
The County Democratic party weighed in, urging Newsom and Nash, who the party endorsed in the 2022 race, to end the stalemate and appoint Lee.
— SMC Democratic Party (@SMCDEMS) December 7, 2022
“We, the Executive Board of the SMC Democratic Party, call on the two referenced Councilmembers to do the right thing, delay no further & appoint Councilwoman Amourence Lee as Mayor, before appointing the City’s unfilled council seat,” the organization stated on Twitter.
The division, brewing since before the November election, has now burst into public view in dramatic fashion. In a recent column, former San Mateo Mayor Sue Lempert characterized Lee’s critics as “the old guard” who are now “back in charge and seeking revenge.” Lee’s critics, who include former San Mateo mayors Maureen Freschet and Claire Mack, take issue with Lee’s challenge of District 5 Council candidate Rod Linhares position on abortion rights prior to the November election.
Freschet, who campaigned vigorously for Linhares, is rumored to be one of the candidates seeking appointment to the seat. Applications are due today at 5:00PM— just hours before the council meeting is set to begin.
Lee meanwhile faces hateful attacks on social media, such as from this anonymous Twitter account that uses vulgarity and sexist terminology.
Karma.Amourence Lee has a black heart. Kevin Mullin and Rick Bonilla had their testicles removed long ago. #RecallAmouranceLee
— Belvedere (@summerteefis) December 7, 2022
It’s not the first time Lee has been targeted by hateful attacks in her own city. In June of 2020, a rock was thrown through a window in her home, where a rainbow Pride flag has been displayed. Lee, who identifies as LGBTQ, believes she was the target of a hate crime. A suspect was never identified.
Tonight, the Council is set to meet again on the mayoral selection process via Zoom.