Three city council veterans will square off June 3 in the heavily Democratic 7th Assembly District, vying to fill the seat incumbent Assemblyman Roger Dickinson is vacating to run for state Senate.
Steve Cohn and Kevin McCarty are both labor-friendly liberals from Sacramento. If there is a recent issue that has divided them, it is the question of a public subsidy for the new Sacramento arena promised as an incentive to keep the Kings in town. McCarty has been a vocal skeptic of the subsidy, while Cohn has aligned with Mayor Kevin Johnson in embracing it. Johnson has endorsed Cohn.
A group with ties to Johnson and a history of supporting moderates, Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, has spent thousands in favor of Cohn. So, too, has the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, indicating that business interests prefer Cohn to McCarty.
Experience should help with name recognition for both of them. Cohn is the longest-tenured member of the City Council, while McCarty boosted his public profile by running for the Assembly in 2010, narrowly losing to incumbent Dickinson.
The third Democrat in the race, West Sacramento City Council member Mark Johannessen, is better known to constituents living in the western part of the district. The 7th covers the entirety of West Sacramento, giving a power base to the second-term Johannessen.
The presence of three viable Democratic candidates in McCarty, Cohn and Johannessen raises the possibility that Democratic voters will split and allow one of the Republican candidates to capture a top-two spot.
The conservative contenders are teacher Ralph Merletti, who unsuccessfully ran for a school board seat in 2012, and legislative intern Oliver Ponce. Both face long odds, although Ponce has gotten some money from Republican super-benefactor Charles Munger Jr..