Let’s Get Personal

Mayoral candidates defend past decisions

February 2024

Third of three parts

Inside Sacramento interviewed the four candidates for mayor in the March 5 primary election—Flojaune Cofer, Steve Hansen, Kevin McCarty and Dr. Richard Pan. The top two finishers will advance to a runoff in November if no candidate receives at least 50.1% of the March vote. The election is nonpartisan.

Cofer is policy director for Public Health Advocates, a nonprofit that promotes community health care. This is her first run for public office.

Hansen is a managing partner for Lighthouse Public Affairs, a corporate consulting firm. He served as a City Council member for eight years.

McCarty is a five-term state assemblymember and former City Council member, serving 10 years.

Pan, a pediatrician, is a former state senator and assemblymember, serving two terms in each house. This is his first campaign for city office.

Our final questions were specific to each candidate. Interviews were edited for clarity and length.

Cofer: Since 2020 you have repeatedly and publicly called for defunding police. Since then, crime has risen dramatically. Will you defend your position as mayor?

What’s always missing from the context of that question is what I asked for us to fund. From 2017 to 2020, we had no youth homicides in the city. We did that by funding and networking violence prevention and intervention. People who were maybe on the high risk of doing shootings were part of this network and were part of the prevention. It’s shortsighted to just say, ‘Oh, look, we don’t care about public safety.’ No, we’re trying to make sure we’re investing in prevention. I’m a public health professional. I’m a woman who has lived alone in this city, who understands the importance of safety. What I want to do is fund what works.

Your defense of your alleged violation of campaign finance rules is that the law itself was wrong when it was updated. Shouldn’t you follow the law and take a responsibility, or at least returned any money?

I’m not alleging that the law is wrong. I’m alleging the law as it’s written is right. It says that the primary election period starts on April 1, and goes until March 31. This year there’s a March election, and I didn’t even open my campaign committee until April 13. I am in compliance with the law as it’s written. We followed the letter of the law and even reached out to city staff to confirm that that was the correct interpretation.

Hansen: In recent years you favored fences to prevent public access on the Sac River Parkway. Do you regret opposing public access to the river and levee?

I support public access to the river and the levee. I want to make sure that we’re smart about how we do it. And that we continue to prioritize the on-street safety of people. But I will commit to continuing to work with the community to eventually create that access. That’s always the position I’ve had. We just didn’t align policy and practice.

McCarty: You voted against funding Golden 1 Center and were part of a lawsuit to stop it. Do you regret those votes?

I voted against the subsidy because I thought the people should have a chance to weigh in, like for school bonds. And I wasn’t convinced that it properly protected the general fund. Unfortunately, my fears are materializing. The general fund is now paying that debt service. But the arena did a great job and saved a dying mall. Thirteen years later, I still have those concerns about protecting the general fund. The arena was built, and we need to make sure it succeeds.

Pan: You pushed and voted for the passage of AB 2098, which was repealed a year later. Do you regret that vote?

Note: Signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2022, AB 2098 said that a doctor who spread false or misleading information about COVID prevention and treatment or questioned the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines could have his or her license suspended, placed on probation, or revoked.

I don’t regret the vote. The purpose of the bill was to address a very real problem of a small handful of physicians who basically were not providing accurate information to patients. There’s an argument to be made that that the Medical Board of California already had the power to do that. But they wanted us to send a signal that yes, the legislature wants them to be able to do that. It’s important that the health providers you go to give accurate, truthful information.

Please submit reader comments to Cecily Hastings at publisher@insidepublications.com.

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