Sacramento Mayor’s Race is Full of Intrigue

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The Vanguard does not venture much across the Causeway let alone across the Sacramento River, however the Sacramento Mayor’s race is full of intrigue.

Hey let’s be honest, I watched Kevin Johnson play basketball when I was growing up. For those of you who are not sports fans, bear with me for just a second. There is some interesting irony here because Kevin Johnson went to the NBA Finals in 1993 with the Phoenix Suns playing alongside Charles Barkley. They would lose to Michael Jordan’s Bulls.

But that Suns team was often tied to Conservative Commentator Rush Limbaugh. Charles Barkley often said he would run for Alabama Governor as a Republican. Now Barkley is a Democrat and a supporter of Barack Obama for President.

It is Kevin Johnson however who has emerged as a possible rising star in the Democratic Party. And in fact it was at an Obama Rally back in January, ahead of the California Democratic Party, that Kevin Johnson had his coming out party so to speak.

Last week, Mr. Johnson announced that he would challenge Sacramento’s two-term incumbent Mayor Heather Fargo.

Mayor Fargo is considered vulnerable. The Sacramento Bee cited a poll last week that showed Fargo with an approval rating of just 36% with Johnson holding a statistically insignificant 29-28 lead with 41% undecided.

That sets up a potentially knock-down and drag-out fight between the long-time politician Heather Fargo and the NBA star turned Charter School Director Kevin Johnson.

The Sacramento Bee compared this race to another one that people locally and nationally may be more familiar with:

Sacramento’s mayoral confrontation may remind voters of another campaign under way in the country’s presidential race, pitting a charismatic newcomer against an entrenched veteran.

“It’s really kind of interesting and weird,” Nichols said. “It’s like Sacramento is a microcosm of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. She campaigns on her experience and he is the young, fresh one with star quality.”

Johnson even made a reference to the presidential race when loud applause and cheers greeted him. Said Johnson: “It’s like there’s some Barack Obama mania going on.”

Kevin Johnson has his share of enemies and scandals as well. Critics point out to code violations, back taxes owed, liens on his property, and of course the teacher’s union, Sac City Unified Teachers and with them, other unions are steadfastly against him based on practices at his charter school.

However, this is 2008 and this year people are looking it seems for more than politics as usual which is why a person like Kevin Johnson has a chance.

As Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton wrote:

The truest words Johnson spoke Wednesday: “Sacramento seems like a city that is against everything and for nothing.”

He’s right. We grow many things in this rich valley except a bounty of people with a dream to make things better.

The political pros may sneer, but there is a yearning out there for something more. When he was introduced Wednesday by the daughter of the late Joe Serna Jr. – Sacramento’s last activist mayor – Johnson was attempting to inherit that mantle.

“We need to stand up for a greater Sacramento,” he said. “We need to create a city that works for everyone.”

On the other hand, with a dose of reality:

The thing is: The world has changed since Serna died of cancer while in office in 1999. The political discourse has grown more coarse and the political operative who ran Serna’s campaigns is now paid by Mayor Heather Fargo.

Where this all ends up is unclear. One thing for sure, this figures to be interesting, interesting enough that those of us on the other side of the Sacramento River, even on the other side of the Causeway should pay attention, because it is possible that what has been sweeping the country in terms of Barack Obama and the hope of change, may sweep our cities and local politics as well.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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12 thoughts on “Sacramento Mayor’s Race is Full of Intrigue”

  1. Anonymous

    Fargo may be getting a bad rap. The City of Sacramento has a weak mayor system. The real administrative power in with the unelected city manager. If Sacramento wants to enter the big league, it should do what other big cities have done and give the mayor real power.

  2. Anonymous

    Fargo may be getting a bad rap. The City of Sacramento has a weak mayor system. The real administrative power in with the unelected city manager. If Sacramento wants to enter the big league, it should do what other big cities have done and give the mayor real power.

  3. Anonymous

    Fargo may be getting a bad rap. The City of Sacramento has a weak mayor system. The real administrative power in with the unelected city manager. If Sacramento wants to enter the big league, it should do what other big cities have done and give the mayor real power.

  4. Anonymous

    Fargo may be getting a bad rap. The City of Sacramento has a weak mayor system. The real administrative power in with the unelected city manager. If Sacramento wants to enter the big league, it should do what other big cities have done and give the mayor real power.

  5. Richard

    Living in Sacramento, I can tell you that Fargo has been bad. No leadership and a tendency to broker deals behind the scenes without public involvement. She negotiated a deal for a downtown Kings arena that anyone here could have told you was DOA, and continued to push and celebrate the gentrification of the central city when it was obvious to everyone else that the bubble had burst. I still remember her celebratory remarks about 9 months ago when you could go out and find about 5 or 6 holes in the ground with no construction taking place.

    Futhermore, the entire gentrification process has been an abysmal failure. David Jones, before going to the Assembly, attempted to impose requirements for more affordable housing, which Fargo, of course, opposed, which would have put more real live people on the streets of downtown, while we now have some condos and expensive rentals ($3000 to $4000 a month!) where the people seem to be gone 1/3 to 1/2 the time.

    I doubt that Kevin Johnson would do anything to improve the situation, so the question is, can he possibly be worse?

    –Richard Estes

  6. Richard

    Living in Sacramento, I can tell you that Fargo has been bad. No leadership and a tendency to broker deals behind the scenes without public involvement. She negotiated a deal for a downtown Kings arena that anyone here could have told you was DOA, and continued to push and celebrate the gentrification of the central city when it was obvious to everyone else that the bubble had burst. I still remember her celebratory remarks about 9 months ago when you could go out and find about 5 or 6 holes in the ground with no construction taking place.

    Futhermore, the entire gentrification process has been an abysmal failure. David Jones, before going to the Assembly, attempted to impose requirements for more affordable housing, which Fargo, of course, opposed, which would have put more real live people on the streets of downtown, while we now have some condos and expensive rentals ($3000 to $4000 a month!) where the people seem to be gone 1/3 to 1/2 the time.

    I doubt that Kevin Johnson would do anything to improve the situation, so the question is, can he possibly be worse?

    –Richard Estes

  7. Richard

    Living in Sacramento, I can tell you that Fargo has been bad. No leadership and a tendency to broker deals behind the scenes without public involvement. She negotiated a deal for a downtown Kings arena that anyone here could have told you was DOA, and continued to push and celebrate the gentrification of the central city when it was obvious to everyone else that the bubble had burst. I still remember her celebratory remarks about 9 months ago when you could go out and find about 5 or 6 holes in the ground with no construction taking place.

    Futhermore, the entire gentrification process has been an abysmal failure. David Jones, before going to the Assembly, attempted to impose requirements for more affordable housing, which Fargo, of course, opposed, which would have put more real live people on the streets of downtown, while we now have some condos and expensive rentals ($3000 to $4000 a month!) where the people seem to be gone 1/3 to 1/2 the time.

    I doubt that Kevin Johnson would do anything to improve the situation, so the question is, can he possibly be worse?

    –Richard Estes

  8. Richard

    Living in Sacramento, I can tell you that Fargo has been bad. No leadership and a tendency to broker deals behind the scenes without public involvement. She negotiated a deal for a downtown Kings arena that anyone here could have told you was DOA, and continued to push and celebrate the gentrification of the central city when it was obvious to everyone else that the bubble had burst. I still remember her celebratory remarks about 9 months ago when you could go out and find about 5 or 6 holes in the ground with no construction taking place.

    Futhermore, the entire gentrification process has been an abysmal failure. David Jones, before going to the Assembly, attempted to impose requirements for more affordable housing, which Fargo, of course, opposed, which would have put more real live people on the streets of downtown, while we now have some condos and expensive rentals ($3000 to $4000 a month!) where the people seem to be gone 1/3 to 1/2 the time.

    I doubt that Kevin Johnson would do anything to improve the situation, so the question is, can he possibly be worse?

    –Richard Estes

  9. Rich Rifkin

    I don’t care too much who the mayor of Sacramento is. However, my concern about KJ as mayor of Sacramento is that he is already an overly busy man. You mentioned that his foundation is running Sacramento High School as a charter. That is a ton of work. On top of that, the St. Hope Foundation runs after school programs in Oak Park. And he also has a large real estate enterprise.

    I can’t think of any ex-pro athlete who is more admirable than Kevin Johnson, in terms of trying to invest in and generally improve his community. But when people get stretched too thin, things below them start to fall apart.

    At least with Fargo, you know that she can devote herself full-time to that job.

  10. Rich Rifkin

    I don’t care too much who the mayor of Sacramento is. However, my concern about KJ as mayor of Sacramento is that he is already an overly busy man. You mentioned that his foundation is running Sacramento High School as a charter. That is a ton of work. On top of that, the St. Hope Foundation runs after school programs in Oak Park. And he also has a large real estate enterprise.

    I can’t think of any ex-pro athlete who is more admirable than Kevin Johnson, in terms of trying to invest in and generally improve his community. But when people get stretched too thin, things below them start to fall apart.

    At least with Fargo, you know that she can devote herself full-time to that job.

  11. Rich Rifkin

    I don’t care too much who the mayor of Sacramento is. However, my concern about KJ as mayor of Sacramento is that he is already an overly busy man. You mentioned that his foundation is running Sacramento High School as a charter. That is a ton of work. On top of that, the St. Hope Foundation runs after school programs in Oak Park. And he also has a large real estate enterprise.

    I can’t think of any ex-pro athlete who is more admirable than Kevin Johnson, in terms of trying to invest in and generally improve his community. But when people get stretched too thin, things below them start to fall apart.

    At least with Fargo, you know that she can devote herself full-time to that job.

  12. Rich Rifkin

    I don’t care too much who the mayor of Sacramento is. However, my concern about KJ as mayor of Sacramento is that he is already an overly busy man. You mentioned that his foundation is running Sacramento High School as a charter. That is a ton of work. On top of that, the St. Hope Foundation runs after school programs in Oak Park. And he also has a large real estate enterprise.

    I can’t think of any ex-pro athlete who is more admirable than Kevin Johnson, in terms of trying to invest in and generally improve his community. But when people get stretched too thin, things below them start to fall apart.

    At least with Fargo, you know that she can devote herself full-time to that job.

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