Heart of the little guy

Small war chests aren’t deterring Joseph Barry or Edward Lewis from challenging bigger-name incumbents, challengers

Two scrappy, underfunded Sacramento City Council candidates are taking their platforms directly to the streets.

Joseph Barry is currently getting his degree in education policy and leadership at Sacramento State University, with an emphasis on disability studies. He’s running in the District 5 primary race against incumbent Councilman Jay Schenirer and challenger Tamika L’Ecluse. The $500 Barry’s raised for his campaign may be dwarfed by his opponents, but what the 39-year-old lacks in financial support he makes up for in longtime knowledge of the district, which he’s lived in since 1989.

“One of the main things I’ve been talking about is reinvesting in the neighborhoods and not focusing so much energy into development that’s expanding gentrification,” Barry told SN&R. “Those are resources that could otherwise be used for where there’s need in the community.”

Barry attends numerous education and community forums around the city, and closely follows hearings at the state Capitol. He supported the recent effort to make Social Security Income recipients eligible for food stamps. As someone who studies public policy around disability support, Barry understands why so many advocates in Sacramento feel the safety net is failing the city’s most vulnerable residents.

“I think the most immediate reason they’re failing [those with disabilities] is that the city is not fostering a proactive enough relationship with the county,” Barry said. “The city just hasn’t had the same kind of relationship with the county that it’s had with the state, but [the] county is even more important for leveraging those resources.”

Asked about his monetary underdog status, Barry said that’s a topic he’s also well versed in. Barry was the lead researcher on a portion of a study by UC Davis on financing ballot measures in California. He understands the power of special interest groups, but feels his strategy of going door to door can make a difference.

“It’s a real challenge for me, obviously,” said Barry, who uses a wheelchair. “But whether I’m elected or not, my life’s work will always be about education.”

Barry is not the only candidate pounding the pavement. In District 1, community volunteer Edward Lewis has been on a “walking to win” tour. Lewis is operating his campaign with zero financing, but the one-on-one conversations are an opportunity to share his very real policy chops: Lewis has served on 14 different boards and commissions in the last 20 years, working on issues as diverse as African-American child deaths to finding better resources for those suffering from mental illness. He’s also a U.S. Army veteran with a master’s degree in social work.

Lewis is up against incumbent Councilwoman Angelique Ashby and small business owner Gabriell Garcia.

If elected, Lewis’ top priorities would be fostering more diverse and better-staffed police and fire departments; rent stabilization for seniors, single parents and disabled residents; and better workforce development programs to curb homelessness.

“My efforts would be to make Sacramento a greater, safer and healthier place to live,” Lewis told SN&R.

Lewis thinks District 1 would be a good place to start. He says the Natomas-centered area has been plagued by over-development. Between his leadership training and Army experience, and his connection to talent pools like the National Association of Black Social Workers, Lewis believes he brings a fresh approach to navigating those issues. Both his parents were Vietnam-era veterans, and he says they taught him to tackle problems with a strong work ethic and integrity.

“I’m involved, committed, focused and determined to make differences in my community,” he stressed.