Mayoral Intrigue

City voters deserve choice in top leadership

By Steve Maviglio
May 2023

Contenders for the 2024 mayor’s race are quietly jockeying for position, but it’s all talk until December. That’s when candidates must file paperwork for the March 5 primary election.

Between now and then, it’s a waiting game to see who might want to replace Darrell Steinberg.

Knowing candidates have seven months to make up their minds, we decided to look at who might—or should—solicit endorsements, raise money and get the required documents into the city clerk’s hands by Dec. 8.

Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna would be the 800-pound gorilla in the race. The son of the city’s beloved first Latino mayor, the late Joe Serna Jr., Serna has made his mark in three terms on the county Board of Supervisors.

Serna has a reputation as a coalition builder who gets things done. His backers cover the political spectrum, from Democratic activists to the business community. A county supervisor is arguably more powerful than the mayor of a city with a weak mayor system. But Serna is believed to have lost faith in the city’s elected leadership.

Assemblymember member Kevin McCarty may pass on an easy 2024 statehouse race to run for mayor next year. He can’t run for both Assembly and mayor, and would be termed out of the Assembly in 2026. McCarty served on the City Council and was active in opposing the Downtown arena. He accomplished much in the Assembly, including legislation to protect the American River Parkway from being overrun by homeless encampments. He’s politically savvy and has cruised to victory in Assembly races.

Former City Council member Steve Hansen is considering a run. Upset by Katie Valenzuela in the 2020 council race, Hansen remains ambitious and active. Many projects he championed— particularly housing in Downtown and Midtown—are coming to fruition. He would be the city’s first openly LGBTQ mayor.

Former City Council member, Assemblymember and State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is said to be office-shopping, with interest in the mayor’s seat. Last year, Jones lost a bitter state Senate race to Angelique Ashby. He has a chunk of money left over for a mayoral run. He set up an exploratory committee for state treasurer, so his sights might be higher.

Former state Senator Dr. Richard Pan, termed out last year, has put out feelers about a possible run. Pan has a long list of legislative accomplishments, primarily in public health. With nowhere else to land, Pan has talked to supporters about resurrecting his political career at the municipal level.

Former City Council member Jeff Harris is very likely to run. There is no love between Steinberg and Harris. Mid-mannered Harris would have backing from the business community, plus a strong base in East Sacramento and River Park, communities he lost through redistricting. Harris is known for responsiveness to constituents and forward-thinking on homelessness.

Maggie Krell, a special adviser in the California Attorney General’s Office and former chief legal counsel for Planned Parenthood, would carry the outsider’s mantle. A human rights lawyer who wrote a book on human trafficking, Krell lost the district attorney’s race to Anne Marie Schubert a decade ago. Being the only formidable woman in the race might be an advantage.

Flojaune Cofer, senior director of policy at Public Health Advocates and former chair of the Measure U Advisory Committee, is being urged by progressive activists to run. Cofer is a proponent of defunding police. Her candidacy would give Democratic Socialists a platform, but with no elected or campaign experience, she’d be a long shot.

Without term limits, an open mayor’s seat comes along once in a decade or so. Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed an appellate court judgeship for Steinberg, but gave the seat to someone else. Now Steinberg knows he’d likely face strong mayoral challengers for the first time in his political career.

An open seat or competitive race would be welcome. Our city is at a crossroads. Voters deserve a choice on who they want to lead.

Steve Maviglio is a Sacramento political consultant. He can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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