Scandal-Plagued Kevin Johnson Won’t Run Again

AP Photo/Cliff Owen
AP Photo/Cliff Owen

On Tuesday, beleaguered Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announced he will not seek reelection for a third term.

Johnson first revealed his decision to the Sacramento Bee via email, allowing, “after much thought and soul-searching, (he has) decided not to run for a third term.”

He later released a full statement on Twitter, saying in part:“It was an incredibly difficult choice, but one that I feel confident about. As I’m sure there will be much speculation on this, let me proactively say that I am not leaving for another specific job or position. While there are many intriguing opportunities out there (and I’m excited to explore them) I honestly don’t know what’s next for me.”

Johnson’s friend, Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, is expected to announce her candidacy for the mayor’s slot on Wednesday, and former state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and former state Assemblyman Roger Dickinson have also been mentioned as candidates. But Johnson would not publicly support any candidate yet, only asserting, “I leave my position knowing there is ample leadership in the city to effectively fill my shoes. And I leave knowing that my relationship with and work on behalf of the city is far from over.”

Johnson defeated incumbent Mayor Heather Fargo in 2008 to begin his eight-year run as mayor; he was the first Sacramento native to be elected mayor.

But in recent months, Johnson has been plagued by the resurrection of a nineteen-year-old sexual assault charge against him as well as accusations that his ascension to the leadership of the National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM) in 2013 involved the unethical use of volunteers and aides.

Johnson’s most significant accomplishment may have been his efforts to keep the Sacramento Kings from moving to Seattle, but a recent ESPN documentary lauding him for the accomplishment saw its national release postponed after a video was released showing his alleged sexual assault victim speaking of her experience at the time.

In addition to the brouhaha resulting from the video, Johnson has been targeted by the Sacramento News and Review, which has been attempting to retrieve private email messages of Johnson’s that involved his supposed coup to take the reins of the NCBM. In July, Johnson sued the city and newspaper to prevent them from retrieving the emails.

On Monday, the Sacramento News and Review got good news: First Look Media, which is owned by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, will donate $15,000 to SN&R for its legal battle against Johnson, which has cost the newspaper $48,000 already, according to co-editor Nick Miller.

Miller said, “This is crucial for journalists because we have a public official who is suing a news organization trying to stop us from doing our job. That could affect reporters and editors and media outlets across the country.”

First Look released a statement saying that Johnson’s lawsuit threatened “press freedom and the ability of the citizens to be informed about the actions of its elected officials.”