Local Elections

Russell Rawlings ends Sacramento mayoral bid, endorses Steinberg

Russell Rawlings, whose run for Sacramento mayor allowed him to advocate for homeless rights, affordable housing and pay equality on a big stage, said Sunday he was ending his campaign and endorsing former state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg.

Rawlings’ politics were the most left-leaning of the candidates running for mayor. And at first, he said he was disappointed with Steinberg’s support of the downtown arena project and the strong mayor ballot measure defeated by voters in 2014.

“I’ve gotten to know him better,” Rawlings said, “and I think we have some common ground. Do we agree on everything? Of course not. But do we agree on some really important issues? Absolutely.”

Rawlings said he recently learned Steinberg voted against the city’s anti-camping ordinance when he was on the City Council in 1995. The law is used primarily to arrest homeless individuals sleeping outdoors, and Rawlings said learning of Steinberg’s vote was the turning point in his decision to drop out of the race and endorse his rival.

Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, the other major candidate in the race, has said she supports the ordinance because it can serve as an effective tool for authorities to connect homeless individuals with housing and services. Former boxing champion Tony Lopez has also said he supports the ordinance.

Rawlings said he and Steinberg also have similar views on advocating for affordable housing and a more inclusive mass transit system.

“Russell Rawlings has elevated this race with his passion and perspective and given a voice to the voiceless,” Steinberg said in statement. “I share his call for increased attention to homelessness, public transit and neighborhood programs. I respect his decision, I am profoundly honored by his support, and I welcome him and his supporters to our campaign for Sacramento’s future.”

Rawlings plans to ask his supporters to volunteer at phone banks and canvass neighborhoods in support of Steinberg.

His campaign had support among liberal voters on social media. With a packed field, his decision to withdraw could give Steinberg a boost toward securing 50 percent of the vote in June, which would avoid a runoff in November.

An Oak Park resident, Rawlings said he plans to continue advocating for the issues that were at the center of his campaign. Much of his focus has been to push Regional Transit to more effectively serve neighborhoods outside of downtown. He said he wants the agency to audit its finances because “it needs to show it is able to manage its own house and establish trust with the community.”

“My energy is better used as an advocate and pushing for real development and traction on these issues,” Rawlings said. “I’m not sure what that looks like in the future, but I’m committed to making a change for those with limited means or an ability to have a voice in city politics.”

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis

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