The big show
KJ’s entry into the mayoral race brings out the sports clichés. But can he topple reigning champ Fargo? And what about the other contenders?
March madness has only just begun, and we’ve already tired of the Heather Fargo-Kevin Johnson match-up. That’s right: It’s the early innings, right after tipoff, the lady and gentleman have only just started their campaign engines, and we’re already dreading the contest that could easily stretch into overtime with a Fall Classic runoff.
Sorry, but damn if KJ, the pride of Sacramento High and former Phoenix Suns all-star, doesn’t just naturally cause sports clichés to fly, especially when you factor in the historical implications if Mayor Fargo achieves an unprecedented three-peat.
But there are more than two people on the Road to the Final One. Five other candidates are actively vying for mayor of Sacramento. Sure, Johnson has the media overkill, tons of money, instant name recognition, a robust anti-Heather wing of Sacramento’s Democratic Party machine and the fact that he looks a lot better in basketball shorts. And sure, Fargo enjoys all the benefits of having been there before, knowing her opponents tendencies, orchestrating the final drive of many a long city-council meeting. Call incumbency her home-court advantage.
We may be dumb at SN&R/ESPM Sports Central, but we’re not stupid: We know it’ll likely be Johnson or Fargo who wins the championship. But damnit, we have a hard-wired affection for the underdog, too. We figure anyone who gets on the ballot not only deserves a shot at the Big Show, but that anyone can pull off a stunning upset, especially if the two gladiators split the vote.
So we present all seven candidates who will meet in the June 3 Battle Royale. If no single player garners more than 50 percent of the vote, then it’s off to the “Thrill-ember in November,” a runoff election for the top two vote getters. The other five head to the showers.
If the also-rans can collectively capture 10, 5, even 2 percent of the vote in June, they’ll have had a big impact on this race. For one, they can force another five months of continuing to make us sick of this election.
ESPM nickname: The Enforcer
Chances: Only limited by his stamina, he’s got a lot of doors to knock on.
Daniel is a 31-year-old corporate trainer for a private-security firm. He’s a big guy and comes across as someone who doesn’t appreciate a lot of BS. “I’m a simple guy. I believe in simple ideas and following through on them and making them work.”
Daniel stressed the need for law enforcement in his discussion with the ESPM crew. Having big redevelopment plans is great, he said, but won’t amount to much if people don’t feel safe. One Daniel idea: Make cops walk beats when they first graduate from the academy. “I think there should be more of a connection with law enforcement.”
A Mayor Daniel would also put the emphasis back on vocational training in high schools. “Why not have students walk out of high school ready to take the test for the fire department?” he asks.
He also thinks the city has a habit of shooting itself in the foot when it comes to local business. “I’d take the parking meters out of Old Sacramento,” he explains, in hopes that would increase the number of visitors to the area. “Why punish people for shopping?”
When Daniel knocked on doors and asked neighbors to sign his petition for mayor, most didn’t know him at all. He had a little trouble on the final day of the filing period. Some signatures he gathered were deemed invalid by the city clerk, leaving him one signature shy of the 20 he needed to get on the ballot. With just a few minutes left until the 5 p.m. filing deadline, he talked a security guard in the City Hall library into signing, putting him just over the top. There’s a word for that in sports: clutch. “The way I do things is that I just do it. It may be wrapped up in duct tape and leaking, but I’ll get it done.” Check him out at www.adamdaniel4mayor.com.
ESPM nickname: Air Eldredge
Chances: If the front-runners crash, he can make his move.
The 42-year-old is a longtime Midtown player and business owner. His Capitol Painting and Construction is one of the main contractors on the new Old Soul Co. coffeehouse at the Weatherstone on 21st Street and the MARRS building across from SN&R/ESPM headquarters.
Eldredge had a full fight card before jumping into the mayoral battle, trying to pay his daughter’s way through a college in Europe and running a busy general-contracting company. He’s also an avid motorcycle racer, something he expects to be doing when the June 3 mayoral vote comes in.
Because of their propensity to crash, “I can beat young guys,” Eldredge explained. “So I’m not afraid of entering a race I’m not supposed to win.”
Eldredge has a long history in neighborhood politics. He was a major force behind the revitalization of the Midtown Business Association, serving as that organization’s president for several years.
A self-described “white-trash hippie from Carmichael” and devotee of the Midtown music scene, Eldredge sometimes surprises people when he tells them he’s a fiscal conservative and registered Republican.
“The first thing I’m going to do is sit down with [Assistant City Manager] Gus Vina and figure out how we got $58 million upside down.”
He says that a series of failed development projects have hurt the city’s image. “The arena deal, the Towers, K Street: They’ve all added to the image that this is a crappy town.”
With the budget mess sorted out, Eldredge says he’d figure out how to get a new Kings arena built. “I’ll put that sucker right smack downtown. I don’t care if I have to put an Indian casino on top of it to get it done.”
Eldredge refuses to raise money for his mayoral bid—and is relying on word-of-mouth, free media and his Web site (www.shawn4mayor.com) to reach voters. “I want people to come here because we rock. We have some real rock-star humans here. We’ve been dissed far too long.”
ESPM nickname: Ms. November
Chances: There’s a reason she’s the defending champ.
Fargo is trying for an unprecedented third term as mayor. There’s a strong anti-Heather vibe out there right now, thanks to a string of demoralizing things that have happened, or not happened, downtown. The city being $58 million in the hole hasn’t helped. And a series of Bee stories and editorials belittling Fargo’s “sustainability agenda” and related travel portrayed her as out of touch with the city’s real problems—just as Kevin Johnson was about to jump into the game.
Not surprisingly, Fargo is emphasizing what has gotten done on her watch. Her official campaign statement boasts of more than 5 million square feet of new restaurants, hotels and condos being built in the past four years. “That’s a lot of jobs, housing and fun,” she pointed out on SN&R/ESPM’s Pardon the Penalty.
Not fun for Fargo were a couple of early screw-ups by her campaign consultant Richie Ross, who embarrassed her by threatening Kevin Johnson with the “rudest awakening of his life,” if he got into the race. Then her campaign team accused Johnson of having unpaid tax liens against some of his Oak Park properties. In fact, KJ had cleared those up before announcing his candidacy.
Chalk up those early misfires to nerves and getting a little spooked by the realization that Fargo suddenly had a contest on her hands. She can get back on track by reminding voters that she’s the only one in this race who actually knows how the city works. When Fargo gets back to playing her game, she’s going to be very tough to beat.
ESPM nickname: “Broadway” Kevin Johnson
Chances: With the best team money can buy, Johnson is a serious contender—if he doesn’t self-destruct like the ’02 Kings.
Kevin Johnson’s campaign slogan is “A city that works for everyone.” When we asked what that meant, he said he wanted his campaign to connect to people who weren’t part of Sacramento’s political machine.
“I’m an outsider in terms of the political establishment in Sacramento,” he explained to SN&R/ESPM Jock Straps. Then he loaned himself $500,000 to jump-start his campaign, calling it an “investment” in Sacramento. The next day, he announced “a major endorsement” by former Sacramento mayor and city council member and current county supervisor Jimmie Yee, who is the very definition of the Sacramento political establishment. And former city manager and Fargo foe Bob Thomas is helping coordinate his offense.
Still, KJ is off to a great start for not much effort. Within a couple days of announcing for mayor, he was accused of owing back taxes on his Oak Park property. Then a couple of old rumors that he had inappropriate relationships with minors resurfaced in the press. Basically, he had the kitchen sink thrown at him in the first few days of his campaign, and, so far, he appears to have come out relatively unscathed. In a way, he was lucky that he got hit early, while he was enjoying a rush of otherwise positive media attention.
But when the excitement of his newly minted candidacy fades, he’ll have to show voters there’s more there than flash. He ditched a debate with Heather Fargo on Channel 13 last week, saying he had other commitments. That raised this question: How well will Johnson fare against Fargo in a head-to-head debate on the issues?
Johnson should do well by making education a campaign issue. It’s hard to argue against better schools, and he has some solid ideas about getting the business community more involved in the school system. And the education platform has the bonus effect, not at all accidentally, of reminding voters of the late Joe Serna Jr., who enjoyed a reputation as a strong mayor, particularly after taking over the Sacramento City Unified School District board.
But Johnson’s power move on Sacramento High School has created a core of bitter enemies among certain teachers and parents who will do everything they can to derail his candidacy over the next few months. They may find allies in the Fargo campaign to amplify their criticisms of the way Sac High has performed since Johnson’s St. Hope corporation took control.
ESPM nickname: D-Joe
Chances: He’s got to show us something.
Jones is still trying to find his game. “I don’t really have a platform. I’ve just decided to run,” he told SN&R/ESPM.
The 76-year-old insurance broker and landlord said he’s never been involved in politics, but that “You’ve got to start somewhere. You might as well start at the top.”
Jones has, along with the other candidates on the ballot, been to meetings with local unions like the teachers and the firefighters. “The teachers were really nice, and I’ve been learning a lot,” he explained. So far, he hasn’t garnered any endorsements.
Jones is dissatisfied with the front-runners. “I don’t think Kevin Johnson is any more qualified than I am. I feel awful that this is the best we can do, to have people like me running for mayor.”
He maintains things are going badly in the city’s long awaited rail-yard development project. An apartment-building owner, Jones said he’d like to use his mayoral powers to look into the abuse of Section 8 housing funds.
ESPM nickname: Killa Padilla
Chances: He figures he makes it to the runoff. We figure it’ll be fun while it lasts.
First, it’s pronounced Pa-dill-uh. Second, when we asked how many times he’s run for office, Padilla shot back with, “What’s that got to do with it!?!”
The answer is four. The now world-famous bounty hunter (currently on hiatus from his own National Geographic Channel TV series called, appropriately enough, Bounty Hunters), ran against Democratic Congresswoman Doris Matsui and twice for mayor before jumping into politics again.
“It certainly gives one an opportunity to put out smart ideas,” Padilla says of his most recent foray in electoral politics. Ironically, he said he decided to run only after it became clear that Fargo would have competition. “If Heather had run unopposed, I would not have run. She can’t be beat one-on-one.”
His first idea is to establish a “marshal’s unit” run strictly out of the mayor’s office. The unit would be dedicated to rounding up parole and probation violators. “These are the people who are responsible for half of the crime in Sacramento. Get them off the street, and you solve half the crime problem.” He’d also increase the use of drug- and gunpowder-sniffing dogs on the city police force.
Padilla is no nervous Nellie when it comes to pushing development of Natomas. “We’ve got to work with developers to make sure that gets developed,” he says, arguing that money from development fees would soon be rolling in. Of course, Padilla acknowledges that the housing market makes this unfeasible for the next “three to five years.”
In the meantime, he says, city government must shrink. “We’ve got to eliminate about 800 jobs,” he said. “There’s 10 to 15 percent of the city of Sacramento workforce we don’t need. We need to start cutting the fat.”
Also on Padilla’s to-do list: Find ways to help new cops buy houses within city limits, instead of in the suburbs where many Sacramento Police Department officers reside. “You’re not going to have drug dealers living next to cops.”
ESPM nickname: Mean Green
Chances: She’s more into cooperation than competition.
Strand is a retired mechanical engineer, a pagan and massage therapist. She worked for years for the California Air Resources Board, and in her semi-retirement has been a regular at City Hall meetings and an inveterate writer of letters to the editor.
She’s running in order to bring attention to the issues of climate change and peak oil, which she believes pose major problems to local governments. No easy problem to tackle even for an engineer/massage therapist.
“My personal opinion is that we need to get ready to stop driving,” she told the ESPM crew. No problem for her: If you spot her around town, chances are, it will be atop her bike.
What does Sacramento look like after she’s the mayor? “It looks like a place where I can get 80 percent of my calories within biking distance.”
Strand helped convince the city council to throw out city rules that banned the planting of front-yard gardens. That’s not just an aesthetic consideration for Strand, but a recognition of the combined challenges of peak oil and climate change.
“What I think would work in the suburbs would be to take up all that pavement and plant it,” Strand explains.
Strand says she doesn’t expect to win, but has another measure of success. “It will be successful if people are talking about stuff they wouldn’t have talked about otherwise, and if I’m able to conduct a campaign that’s inexpensive and reasonably effective. It’s about seeing what I can do without going out and fund-raising. ”
ESPM nickname: Boy Genius
Chances: Fouled out early.
Sharpe turns 29 next month. Until recently, he was the bass player for the local punk band the MegaCools. He is just finishing up his bachelor’s degree in government from Sacramento State. Sharpe’s got our vote for best hair, which is a deep Superman blue.
He is critical of the city’s approach to development in Natomas and the rush to approve new building permits there in spite of flood dangers.
“We need to develop where the services are,” Sharpe told SN&R/ESPM’s Alley Oops. “There’s still not a full acknowledgement of this problem on the city council.” He’d like to see the city do more to encourage new businesses downtown and the build-out of the existing urban area before striking into new farmland. “We need to fill all of these little holes in Del Paso, south Sacramento and Midtown first.”
But with the city’s revenues tied to development, how do you keep the city budget in the black without developing wall-to-wall? “There are other ways to use that land to generate revenue,” he said. For example, Sharpe suggested using the farmland to the north of the city to develop agricultural businesses and biotechnology rather than just paving over them.
He also thinks the city has overlooked, even been an obstacle to, some of its most creative citizens. “There’s a great underground music scene here. But the city has been kind of tone-deaf to that,” he explained.
Sadly, Sharpe was disqualified after nearly half of the signatures he turned in to the city clerk came back as invalid. Among them was his own. “I don’t understand it, I just voted in the last election,” he fumed. Having waited until the very last day to turn in his paperwork, Sharpe had no time to gather more signatures. He’s frustrated but says, “I guess I’ll take it as providence. I think I’ll run against Steve Cohn [for city council] in 2010.”