Amateur Hour

Cofer brings rookie chaos to mayor’s race

By R.E. Graswich
March 2024

There’s something wonderful and worrisome about a political novice running for mayor. A rookie brings fresh ideas and perspectives. Trouble is, what happens if the rookie wins?

This year’s wonder and worry is embodied by Flojaune Cofer, a far-left progressive in her first run for office. Her newcomer status wouldn’t matter if Cofer sought a smaller job, maybe school board. But Cofer wants to start at the top.

Her decision comes at a precarious time. Mayor Darrell Steinberg departs after eight years of disappointment. He promised to solve the homeless crisis and failed. There were 2,700 homeless people in town when Steinberg was elected. Now there are 10,000.

Steinberg is an old pro, a career politician always in search of a backroom. But his deal-making tricks from the state Legislature didn’t align with the street-level demands of municipal governance. He promised too much, delivered too little.

The mess he leaves requires cleanup by someone who knows City Hall and understands the gravitational pulls of neighborhood priorities and influential players. Local politics is bottom up, not top down.

The next mayor must navigate a charter system that grants the mayor significant influence but limits the boss to one vote, same as other City Council members.

Two candidates, Steve Hansen and Kevin McCarty, qualify. Both served lengthy sentences as City Council members. Both understand the budget. They know how city staff operate, led by the city manager.

A third prospect, Dr. Richard Pan, spent 12 years in the state Assembly and Senate, but zero in local government. He would need time to learn. Not as easy as it sounds.

When I worked for Mayor Kevin Johnson during his first term, we wasted three years trying to comprehend the mysteries of City Hall and city bureaucracy. There’s no guide called “Mayoral Success for Dummies.”

My big concern about Pan becoming mayor is he’ll wake up one morning in 2025 and realize he hates the job. After success in the Legislature, he should practice pediatrics, teach medicine and leave noxious, soul-sucking City Council meetings to people who didn’t graduate from medical school.

Which brings us back to Flo Cofer. Her campaign is not the worst in city history, but carries the hallmarks of an amateurish affair, full of gaffes and errors.

If by some miracle she becomes mayor, her cavalier attitude toward rules and minimal grasp on the gears and levers that make local government function will paralyze City Hall.

She opened her campaign by breaking city laws on campaign financing. An independent report to the city’s ethics commission said, “(Cofer’s) receipt of contributions in excess of the aggregate contribution limitation is a violation of Municipal Code.”

Those words should have bounced Cofer from the ballot.

But the investigator, perceiving a spineless City Council, recommended no punishment. The investigator suggested Cofer was merely confused. Her “violation was understandable and perhaps excusable.” The city let her off with no consequences.

Cofer caught a break over those illegal contributions. Worse, she learned nothing from the experience.

Despite being caught violating city code, she pretends she did nothing wrong. She told Inside, “We followed the letter of the law.” Except when she didn’t.

Given her views on local ordinances, it’s no surprise Cofer dislikes cops. In an interview with Sacramento State journalism students for the Sacramento Observer, Cofer ridiculed Police Chief Kathy Lester’s belief that the department is not systemically racist.

“Chief Lester knew that was nonsense the moment it hit the tip of her lips,” Cofer said. “It’s like the dog in the meme with a fire: ‘Everything is fine.’ No, it’s not. It’s literally on fire.”

Mayor Cofer would cut the police budget and reduce patrol officers, with disastrous results.

As for homelessness, Cofer wants city parks opened for tent communities. She thinks unhoused people shouldn’t be guided into housing or services they don’t want. “All services are not equal,” she told Inside.

Neither are mayoral candidates.

The election is March 5. Absent a majority winner, the top two finishers meet again in November.

R.E. Graswich can be reached at Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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