Kevin Johnson won’t seek re-election as mayor of Sacramento
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Calling it a tough decision, former NBA star and current Sacramento, California, Mayor Kevin Johnson said Wednesday he will not seek a third term next year now that the capital city is heading in a positive direction.
Johnson, a 49-year-old Democrat, told reporters at a bookstore in the neighborhood where he grew up that he’s accomplished what he wanted to do as mayor by stabilizing city finances and building a $500 million arena for the Sacramento Kings basketball team.
"I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished," Johnson said. "For me, if I think about the trajectory of Sacramento, I think we’re headed in the right direction. I think we have great momentum."
The decision came as a decades-old claim of sexual abuse re-emerged as a possible liability for Johnson in a re-election bid.
Last week, ESPN cited the claim while announcing it was delaying the premiere of a documentary on Johnson’s effort to keep the Kings from leaving for Seattle.
The sports network said it needed to re-evaluate the film after a woman identified herself as the teenager who had accused Johnson of touching her inappropriately 20 years ago.
Johnson has denied the claim, and the Phoenix Police Department investigated but did not file charges.
The Sacramento Bee reported Johnson entered a settlement worth $230,000 with the girl. Johnson has not commented on the report and a message left with his spokesman wasn’t immediately returned Wednesday.
Johnson said the claim had nothing to do with his re-election decision.
"I would have never run if those allegations were something that concerned me," the mayor said. The claim also arose during his initial mayoral campaign in 2008.
Johnson, a former president of the United States Conference of Mayors, received national attention when he represented NBA players in demanding one of the harshest penalties in the history of U.S. sports against Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, over racist remarks.
He is married to Michelle Rhee, a former chancellor of Washington, D.C., schools who has fought teachers unions in pushing for charter schools.
Though he has been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor or another state post, Johnson said he has no plans to seek higher office right now.
"That’s never been my goal," he said.
Sacramento political consultant Doug Elmets, who has not worked for or against Johnson, said it would be surprising if the mayor didn’t eventually run for another office.
"I don’t know any politician that doesn’t aspire to higher office," Elmets said. "Kevin Johnson has been politically successful and all the accusations have been nothing more than accusations, which would not preclude him from either seeking higher office or being appointed."
Johnson’s announcement opens the way for other candidates to run to head the California city.
Councilwoman Angelique Ashby immediately announced her bid Wednesday at the headquarters of the city’s firefighters union.
Another potential candidate is former state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a former Sacramento councilman, who said he is strongly considering a bid but first wants to consult his family and community leaders.
Johnson was re-elected in 2012. He was the first Sacramento native to be elected to the position.