Will there be an actual election to replace retiring Sacramento County Supervisor Jimmie Yee?

So far, candidate Patrick Kennedy is in a one-man race

Sacramento County Supervisor Jimmie Yee is retiring, and we’re supposed to have an election this spring to replace him.

The right candidate could move the board in a much more progressive direction on sprawl, affordable housing, and transportation. The wrong candidate will only cement the developers’ hold on the board.

Yee’s District 2 seat represents the Pocket, Greenhaven, South Sacramento, Valley Hi and Vineyard. So far, the only person to declare candidacy is Sacramento City Unified School District board-member and attorney Patrick Kennedy.

Kennedy has rolled up a long list of Democratic endorsements. Funny since, a) the guy has never won a competitive election, and b) he seems to struggle quite a bit with the idea of democracy.

Let’s recap. Kennedy pushed to fast-track school closures in poor neighborhoods, short-circuiting the usual public process.

When SCUSD Area 1 member Ellyn Bell left the board suddenly, Kennedy voted to deny residents the chance to elect her replacement. He helped orchestrate the appointment of political player Jay Hansen to fill out Bell’s term. In good old-boy style, Hansen voted with Kennedy on the controversial closures.

Kennedy led the effort to pass school bond measures Q and R in 2012. But when asked, parents consistently listed class-size reduction as their first priority. There was support for a parcel tax, which would raise less money than bonds but which could be used to restore programs.

Kennedy knew better than his constituents. The bonds will be a boon to the building trades—to which Kennedy has close ties—and to the technology vendors and consultants. They won’t do anything to reduce class sizes, or stem the loss of students to charter schools and other districts.

Kennedy worked for the law office of Gregory D. Thatch, the go-to lawyer for Sacramento’s big developers and a powerful force for shaping county policy. Kennedy’s done political work for the building trades and they have funded his campaigns generously. He’s got the endorsements of Thatch, and Region Builders, and Sacramento Association of Realtors.

He’s also got an intimidating list of endorsements from Sacramento’s Democratic political establishment, people like Phil Angelides, Darrell Steinberg, Phil Serna, Roger Dickinson and Kevin McCarty.

It’s enough to scare off most potential candidates. One possible exception is long-time SMUD board member and Florin Road Partnership executive director Larry Carr, who is considering jumping in.

It wouldn’t be the first time the two have squared off. Carr beat Kennedy 67 percent to 32 percent when Kennedy tried to take Carr’s SMUD seat back in November 2006. That’s despite Kennedy raising about three times as much money.

In fact, Kennedy has never won a competitive election. He got onto the school board in 2008 by being the only candidate to file; there was no opposition and no election. In 2010, he somehow lost a Sacramento City Council race to Jay Schenirer (who is endorsing him now).

Kennedy’s big electoral victory to date is his 2012 re-election to school board, over a guy named Ralph Merletti. Merletti had no campaign, no money, no name-recognition, no endorsements. He was the only person to argue in favor of keeping white supremacist, slave-owning Indian-killer Jedediah Smith’s name on a district elementary school, and more recently spoke against new policies protecting transgender students. That guy got 35 percent of the vote against Kennedy.

Kennedy may manage to coast into the supervisor’s seat, but it’s amazing that an office so important would be handed to a candidate with no contest.

As for Carr, he was skunked by Jimmie Yee—59 to 33 percent—when Yee first got the supervisor seat in June of 2006.

Back then, Carr was the alternative to the developer-backed candidate Yee. Carr was endorsed by the Environmental Council of Sacramento, and by both SN&R and The Sacramento Bee. The Bee called Carr a “bold voice for change,” and a “vote against sprawl and for building upward not outward.”

Bites talked to Carr recently, just as he was arriving at the County Registrar’s office to pick up paperwork for a possible run. He didn’t sound like a bold voice for change so much as a guy cautiously weighing his options.

Carr refused to critique the current board. Bites asked how he would have voted on the controversial Cordova Hills project. Carr said he hadn’t looked at the details closely enough to say.

That’s not good. Plus, Carr is “absolutely” seeking Yee’s endorsement, which comes with its own sprawling baggage.

To be fair, Carr is still figuring out if he can mount a viable campaign; he hasn’t honed any talking points. But where is the candidate to stand up against developer power, to be a bold voice for change?

More troubling, will we have an election at all? Without at least one more strong candidate, this will be an anointment by the political establishment. This office is too important for that.