Marcos Bretón

Marcos Breton: A new player emerges in Sacramento politics

Marcos Breton
Marcos Breton

The young man who helped expose Seattle billionaire Chris Hansen as the source behind money spent to scuttle a downtown arena in Sacramento is the same young man quietly building a force in regional politics.

Joshua Wood is only 31 and less than a decade removed from his days as student body president at Sacramento State. But on Tuesday, he was right in the middle of all things political in Sacramento – as he often is lately.

In the morning, Wood was challenging Hansen on various Seattle media outlets to throw away the thousands of signatures his money helped secure in a campaign to force a public vote on Sacramento's proposed downtown arena.

In the evening, Wood's work as executive director of Region Builders, a local trade group, had moved the Sacramento City Council to reconsider its ban on "big box" department stores.

Both issues are major initiatives pushed by Region Builders with Wood right in the middle of it.

Last year, Region Builders gave roughly a quarter of a million dollars to political campaigns. That's up from the $3,500 that Wood had at his disposal in 2006.

It's a result of 13 different trades groups pooling their money to grow Region Builders as the political arm for local builders – with Wood as the sole paid staff member and point man.

Theirs is a voice badly needed in a region where business interests were too often ignored. Wood is also part of a new generation of young leaders who could play a big role in the evolution of Sacramento.

Wood didn't imagine any of this as a music major at Sac State who dreamed of fronting a rock band, until his professors inspired his spark for politics.

He then became one of several former Sac State student body presidents who've made a mark in politics, including Gary Davis, the mayor of Elk Grove, and Art Pimentel, a former mayor of Woodland.

But Wood is doing it his own way.

"I think I can have more impact without running for office," he said Tuesday.

Five or six years ago, it would have been unthinkable for Sacramento to reconsider its "big box" ban on large department stores. The City Council was too beholden to union interests then.

But Region Builders helped change the conversation toward the need for a stronger business community in a weak economy.

The Hansen flap is part of that movement.

"We need a downtown arena for jobs and economic development," Wood said. So now, Wood leads the campaign to pressure Hansen to throw away the signatures that his money financed after his bid to relocate the Kings to Seattle was rejected.

"Hansen could make a phone call and say, 'Don't give them to (local anti-arena advocates). If that happens, there is no local anti-arena campaign."

It could work. The kid is on a roll.

Call The Bee's Marcos Breton, (916) 321-1096. Back columns, Follow him on Twitter @marcosbreton.