San Mateo City, California, is still mayor-less as two new councilmembers continue to block an Asian American councilwoman from taking the seat as part of the city’s 128-year-old tradition.
Councilwoman Amourence Lee, a Democrat, was supposed to take the mayor’s seat on Dec. 5 as part of the city’s rotational system, where the senior-most council member would become next in line for the position. If elected, Lee could become the first Asian American female mayor in the city’s history.
The transfer, however, has been postponed as Councilmembers Lisa Diaz Nash and Robert Newsom continue to block the effort.
In a statement, Nash said there was no friction between her and Lee, as she also supports the advocacy of the councilwoman and described her as a “very capable woman.”
Nash went on to explain that the four remaining councilmembers, who are all Democrats, are still waiting for the seat vacated by Deputy Mayor Diane Papan after winning the California State Assembly’s 21st District race in November to be filled by a fifth councilmember.
“Once we select that fifth council member, then we can turn to have all five of them to select the mayor and deputy mayor. And at that point, I look forward to proudly voting for Councilmember Lee as our next mayor,” Nash said.
Speaking to The Mercury News following Wednesday’s council meeting, Councilmember Adam Loraine said he felt “embarrassed for our city” and that they were wasting time by doing nothing when there is “so much work to do in our city.”
Lee expressed the same sentiment, saying she also felt embarrassed and “sad and scared for the precedent that this is setting.”
“I believe that we are in uncharted and very dangerous territory. And I absolutely believe that this is sowing seeds of division and strife that will take years to repair,” Lee told KPIX.
“And I’ve heard from so many of my community members, including the API and Jewish community members, who feel incredibly cheated. We’re told to wait our turn and then that turn doesn’t come.”
Nash refuted Loraine and Lee’s statements, saying, “We are in an unprecedented time and the council is working on getting that fifth member. And as soon as we get that fifth member, we will select the mayor and deputy mayor. So I don’t see this as an embarrassment at all.”
The council is set to vote for their fifth member on Monday, who will then, in theory, vote Lee for the position, replacing Mayor Rick Bonilla.
Another incident of blocking an Asian American politician made rounds online last week after New York Democrats blocked Republican Lester Chang from taking office in New York’s State Assembly in January.