Gary Locke
U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke, checks his mobile phone outside a hotel during his trip to Kunming November 21, 2013. REUTERS/Wong Campion

Since Gary Locke announced that he will step down as the U.S. ambassador to China on Wednesday, two names have been raised as his possible successor– Edwin Mah Lee, the mayor of San Francisco, and Steven Paul Westley, a former chief financial officer of California.

Locke is the first Chinese-American to hold the post, and dealt with several precarious political situations during his brief two years of service, including a controversy over blind activist Chen Guangcheng, the South China Morning Post reported on Friday.

Rumors surfaced surrounding Locke’s surprise resignation, including an alleged affair with a woman in Beijing, but that claim has since been refuted by Locke’s wife in an interview with China News, in which she explained her husband’s resignation was motivated by a desire to join his family in Seattle.

Locke’s resignation coincided with a visit to China by Edwin Mah Lee, the 43rd mayor of San Francisco and the first Asian-American to hold that post. Lee has visited China three times in the past year alone and has met with China’s former president, Hu Jintao, and current Vice President Li Yuanchao.

However, Lee’s people have refuted the rumors.

“While amused by the speculation, he has no interest in being ambassador to China,” Christine Falvey, Lee’s spokeswoman, reportedly told the San Francisco Chronicle, following the release of a media statement on Thursday. “He is 100 percent committed to a job he loves – being mayor of the best city in the world.”

Another possible candidate for the post to China is Steven Paul Westley, who is a former chief financial officer of California, and a 2006 candidate for California governor. Westley runs the Westly Group, a clean technology venture capital organization, and frequently visits China for business. His wife emigrated from Hong Kong as a child, the South China Morning Post reported.

The U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said there would be “a process that will be underway to determine an appropriate and qualified and talented replacement” for Locke, but named no specific candidates.