Councilwoman Angelique Ashby waited until Wednesday morning to concede the mayor’s race to her opponent, former state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg. But it was clear late Tuesday that there would be no need for a November runoff.
In light of Steinberg’s victory, here are five takeaways about the election and what lies ahead for Sacramento’s mayor-elect.
1. Numbers-wise, Steinberg is good. But he’s no Joe Serna Jr.
When I saw a Sacramento Bee interactive graphic showing that Steinberg swept almost every city neighborhood save for North Natomas, I wondered if it was a historic win. Had any city politician ever been so strongly supported by Sacramento voters?
It turns out that Steinberg’s victory, impressive as it is, doesn’t crack the top two most convincing mayoral wins of all time.
That list begins with the late Joe Serna Jr., who received an astounding 45,723 votes in the spring of 1992, according to city records. Serna’s nearest competitor in that race, Ross Relles, got 18,826 votes.
To put that into perspective, Steinberg on Wednesday had 38,565 votes (59 percent). Ashby had 17,115 votes (26 percent).
Serna scored with an even bigger rout – the biggest in city history – in 1996 when he received 45,485 votes. Three Serna opponents each got less than 6,000 votes.
Meanwhile, Phil Isenberg garnered more than 20,000 votes while cruising to mayoral wins in the primaries of 1975 and 1979.
The current mayor, Kevin Johnson, received 32,160 votes in June 2008. His opponent, then-Mayor Heather Fargo, forced Johnson into a November runoff by getting 27,242 votes.
2. The business community wants to believe in him
Steinberg promised on the campaign trail that he would be a mayor who tackles more than just homeless and mental issues. Now he gets to prove it.
“We need to start thinking about creating 75,000 jobs in Sacramento in the next 15 years,” said Barry Broome, CEO of the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council, the face of business development in the capital region. “We can’t just stop and applaud the Golden 1 Center. We can’t rely on the old economic models anymore and depend on government jobs.”
Though Steinberg was hit by campaign mailers that derided his perceived anti-business profile, Broome thinks Steinberg gets it. “I’ve spent a lot of time with Darrell, and I’m really optimistic he’s going to push a jobs agenda,” Broome said. “The city needs a legacy. We have very high youth unemployment. The next 10 years are going to be critical. People have lost so much faith in government. The opportunity is there to build a legacy. I think Darrell can do it, and I want to be one who helps him.”
3. Relationships will be a Steinberg strength
Though Steinberg doesn’t have the national profile of Johnson, his close allies believe he embodies a sense of optimism and ambition that will bring notice to Sacramento.
As the leader of the state Senate from 2009 to 2014, Steinberg became close with the top CEOs in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles. He is very close with Kevin de León, the current state Senate leader.
Steinberg has promised that he can trade on those relationships – and many others – for the benefit of Sacramento. Those who supported Steinberg hope his election proves that Sacramento has greater ambitions than being just a government town.
4. Neighborhoods are looking for contacts and connections
Steinberg received support from all over town. But one of his biggest challenges will be to reach out to destitute neighborhoods where violent crime is spiking.
“He needs to convene the providers of services and have honest discussions about what isn’t working,” said Darrell Roberts, who runs one of the most decorated organizations for at-risk youths in the city, the Roberts Family Development Center. “Frederick Douglass said it’s easier to work with developing young men than to mend a broken man.”
Roberts said he’d like to see Steinberg organize meetings between charitable foundations and communities in need, including Del Paso Heights, Oak Park, south Sacramento and Mack Road.
Steinberg spent his last years in Capitol promoting a vision of linking school curriculum with workforce needs. He has many desperate neighborhoods in Sacramento that need him to turn that knowledge into real opportunities.
5. Sacramento needs a public safety month – in October
Though Steinberg was not endorsed by the Sacramento Police Department’s union, public safety will hit a critical juncture late this year as he takes office.
In October, Golden 1 Center will open, traffic will pour into downtown and the city must prove that the area – and riding light rail to and from there – is safe.
“We want people to eat at restaurants downtown, walk around and feel safe,” said Michael Ault of the Downtown Partnership. “Downtown is becoming what we all hoped – an 18-hour city. Public perception of our downtown is critical.”
There is much more facing Steinberg, of course, and he has said he is ready and eager to attack it all. Good luck, Mr. Mayor.
Editor’s note: This story was changed June 13 to correct the runner-up in the 1992 mayoral election.