KJ goes on the offense

Johnson could steal Fargo’s three peat

Heather Fargo may have to play a little defense this June. Former NBA star Kevin Johnson is definitely considering a run for mayor.

Upfront heard rumors Thursday that Johnson would announce his candidacy as early as Friday, January 25.

But Johnson’s political consultant David Townsend said that Johnson was still undecided. “He’s not made up his mind yet,” said Townsend, adding that there are still six weeks left, until the March 7 deadline, for Johnson to enter the race. “A lot of people have encouraged him to run. The polling looks good,” Townsend added.

Upfront learned earlier in the week someone was conducting political polls on Johnson’s behalf. One pollee, Larry Tagg, told Upfront he got a call from a pollster putting out obvious campaign feelers for Johnson.

The survey started with the typical queries about local politicos, like Dave Jones, Roger Dickinson and Jimmy Yee. “As the call progressed, it became clear that the meat of it was a hypothetical race between Heather Fargo and Kevin Johnson,” Tagg explained.

And on Tuesday, Johnson announced he was resigning as chairman of the St. HOPE Board, which sounded to Upfront suspiciously like something that might just appear at the top of a mayoral campaign to-do list.

The timing is weird, since Johnson is still recovering from Sacramento Bee reports that made Johnson out to be the lord of slumlords in Oak Park.

“People have a question about it,” Townsend acknowledged. “But when you look at all the positive things done, he’s a very popular figure in Sacramento.”

Nobody was supposed to be running for mayor against Fargo. But if Johnson jumps in, “that changes the whole political landscape,” said long time local Democratic party operative Bruce Pomer. For example, Assemblyman Dave Jones might be prompted to jump in. Jones had earlier told Upfront he wasn’t interested in the ‘08 race.

“Jones and [Rob] Fong were considering an open race in four years. This changes the calculus,” said Pomer, who has served for the last 20 years on the Sacramento County Democratic Party Central Committee. He said some candidates who thought about sitting this election out would now have to consider the possibility of running against an incumbent Kevin Johnson. “When you throw a rock into the water, you get ripples,” Pomer explained.

But as of Thursday afternoon, the Johnson campaign was still just a hypothetical rock.

Nobody is supposed to be running either for City Council against Kevin McCarty, Bonnie Pannell, Rob Fong or Sandy Sheedy. But February 11 is the beginning of the nomination period for City Hall candidates. Have you been getting strange calls from political pollsters like the one outlined above? Thinking about throwing your hat into the ring? Or know somebody who should? Write to <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript"> </script>.