In Challenging Times, Lots of Drama in Mayor's Race
KXJZ photos/Ben Adler
California’s capital city has always been known for its state politics. But as Sacramento faces a challenging future, the city is finishing up what could be its most bizarre local campaign ever.
Monday, November 3, 2008
“I’m here to announce my candidacy for the mayor of Sacramento.”
From the moment it began, back in early March, this campaign had a life of its own. Just ask Heather Fargo and Kevin Johnson.
Fargo: “Definitely unusual and bizarre. Some interesting twists and turns.”
Johnson: “Very enlightening and eye-opening.”
Or, ask the political pros behind the candidates. Dale Howard runs the Fargo campaign. He calls this the most unusual race he’s ever seen.
Howard: “The extent the press has covered it has made it much more like a presidential race run in the microcosm of one city than anything I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been in governor’s races that weren’t covered as extensively as this one has.”
Johnson campaign manager Steve Maviglio compares it to a roller coaster.
Maviglio: “It’s been so much based on what’s in the media and what’s in the news and so much not on the issues, that it’s been a lot of ups and a lot of downs. Every time each candidate seems to have an advantage, there seems to be a stumble on one end or the other.”
In fact, there have been so many memorable moments – and we don’t always mean “memorable” in a good way – that it’d take too long to go through them here. Besides, there’s an election tomorrow. A recent poll shows Johnson up by about eight points. But neither candidate is slowing down, as they look for every vote they can find.
Fargo: “My name is Heather Fargo, I am your mayor and I hope to be your mayor after November 4th. Thank you.”
At a Rock the Vote rally last week at Cosumnes River College, Fargo spoke bluntly about the challenges her city faces. A $58 million budget deficit threatens police, fire and other services. She knows the economy’s down, but says she’s the leader Sacramento needs right now.
Fargo: “I think it’s a time for experience and someone who has the demeanor and the relationships, the commitment and the ability to lead our city through some very rough waters coming up.”
Fargo’s asking voters to look at her record as mayor – how Sacramento has changed these last eight years, in downtown, midtown and in neighborhoods throughout the city. Cosumnes student and lifelong Sacramento resident Kenneth Bridgeforth buys it. He says the city has gotten better under Fargo.
Bridgeforth: “I like all the improvements they’re doing downtown. She’s supported and gone to Congress to get them to push and make our districts even better. There’s a lot more growth in Sacramento, and people aren’t giving her the credit where credit’s due.”
Johnson, of course, disagrees. He points to his record in Oak Park, where his St. HOPE non-profit runs charter schools and a redevelopment company. And he says he can do for the entire city what he’s already done in Oak Park.
Johnson: “I’m a person that I believe can deliver better schools. I’m a person that’s gonna do everything I can to cut crime and win the war on gangs in Sacramento. And I’m very committed to creating more job opportunities and get our economy going and create a prosperous community.”
Johnson held the last of eight town hall meetings in the city’s Meadowview neighborhood a few days ago. His message? Sacramento is in trouble. Crime is going up, the budget’s in the red and Johnson believes the city needs new leadership. Meadowview resident Kevin Carter agrees. He says Fargo has done a good job the last eight years. But given all that Sacramento faces right now …
Carter: “We need someone like Kevin Johnson. We need a fresh face, somebody that just has – a new body to come in and sit on that city council board where everybody’s gotten comfortable with each other. Now it’s time to shake it up.”
Heather Fargo and Kevin Johnson are two very different people, with two very different leadership styles. But what’s often been overlooked in all the campaign drama is that they actually have similar goals for Sacramento. They both want to keep the city safe, help it grow and lead it through the difficult times ahead.