We in Sacramento are proud to be the Big Tomato. We enthusiastically clang our cowbells as we watch our men in purple almost win another game. Politics, like the Capitol dome, are a big, important part of our landscape, and we take our mayoral elections seriously.
So imagine our surprise when City Councilwoman and candidate for mayor Angelique Ashby announced a press conference Thursday and her campaign manager, Josh Pulliam, sent a note to a Bee editor barring Ryan Lillis, our lead reporter covering the campaign.
Lillis, it seems, had gotten under Ashby and Pulliam’s skin by reporting last month that statistics Ashby displayed on her website overstated the decline in crime in her council district.
Lillis’ story was accurate and fair, but hardly one that blew the lid off the town. The police chief and city manager took the blame for giving Ashby bad information. In the estimation of the editorial board, the mistake wasn’t Ashby’s fault. In political terms, we noted, “it’s a warning ticket at most.”
Ashby should have moved on by focusing on issues that matter, like how to control crime citywide, house the homeless and bring jobs here. But she cannot let it go. Indeed, the mere mention of it at a Wednesday mayoral debate caused her to bristle again this week.
And that’s something to note. Campaigns reveal candidates. And this episode offers certain lessons. Politics ain’t beanbag. Nor is press coverage.
If you want to get a story out, don’t step on your message by picking a fight with a reporter. Better yet, remember the importance of the job you seek, and focus on the needs of the people you hope to represent.
Lillis, doing his job, showed up at the appointed time, 2 p.m., and at the right place, the Sacramento police officers’ union office. There, a campaign aide told Lillis he could not enter. Pulliam pulled up in his black Tesla 10 minutes later, and after another reflective minute, thought better of it and let the reporter in. A Bee editorial board member tagged along.
Inside, Ashby was explaining to the one television reporter in attendance the facts as she understood them. She stopped, and repeated her prepared statement for Lillis’ benefit, and then took questions, among them, why the silly social exclusion.
She wanted a “fair shake,” she said. She also wanted to let the public know crime in her district had fallen by 13 percent during her first term, and to attack her main opponent, former Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. She wasn’t particularly effective.
Ashby’s first term ended in 2014. What about crime in 2015? She didn’t have that data. No doubt, she will release it in the fullness of time. And The Bee will report it, if she doesn’t lock our reporter out again.