The portrayals of her as a lackey of big business bugged Breed, who first won a supervisor's seat in 2012.
Breed will serve out the remainder of Lee's term, and an election for a full four-year term will be held in November 2019.
Ms Breed is not the first female mayor of San Francisco - that was Dianne Feinstein in 1978; she is now a California senator. This raised her profile across the city and perhaps cemented her decision to run for the office in the June election.
Supervisor London Breed will likely be named mayor of San Francisco later on Wednesday.
"I want to offer my honest congratulations to Mayor-Elect London Breed on her election victory", he said in a prepared statement. "I am truly humbled and I am truly honored". The city's charter mandated that Breed take the city's top spot because she was the next in the line of succession as president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
"She is a remarkable young woman", Leno said.
"Her success is San Francisco's success", he said.
This electrified Breed's base, and the election became a classic San Francisco moderate-vs. -progressive battle between Breed on one side and Leno and Kim on the other, running to Breed's left. At one point, Leno pulled ahead in the count, but as more ballots were tallied, Breed took the lead.
The San Francisco Department of Elections must still process more than 1,100 ballots cast under Conditional Voter Registration.
Her cozy relationship with the tech industry put Breed in hot water throughout her campaign.
San Francisco is now grappling with rampant homelessness, rubbish-littered streets that have been likened to developing-world slums, and a property-price boom that is driving working families out of the city. That milestone was set by the late Mayor Ed Lee, whose death prompted this election to choose a mayor who would finish off his term and the next one. But weeks later, the majority of the Board of Supervisors voted to remove Breed from the temporary position in a surprising move that sparked from African American supporters.
The Board of Supervisors moved swiftly to replace her with venture capitalist and politican Mark Farrell in the interim role, with the stated intent of avoiding the appearance of any conflict of interest between Breed's formal candidacy, and her civic duties in that role. She worked as an executive director of the African American Art and Culture Complex for over a decade, before becoming involved in public office, according to her biography.
Breed said her grandmother "probably had a hand in this, looking down from the heavens".
Raised in the projects by her grandmother, Breed's story is inspiring countless others who've faced similar struggles.
"She took care of the community, she took care of me even on days when I didn't deserve it, and so being here in her honor means so much", she said.
Leno could have been the first openly gay mayor of San Francisco, a city that's always been on the forefront of LGBTQ rights.
"I have to say it, there are white, rich men, billionaires, in this city who have steered the policies of the past two mayoral administrations, if not more", Ronen said.
"I'm a native San Franciscan - I grew up in some of the most challenging of circumstances", she said.
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