Updated May 25, 2:15 p.m.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg on Thursday announced he won’t run for reelection, meaning voters will choose a new official head of the city in 2024.
Three candidates have announced campaigns for mayor so far: Assembly member Kevin McCarty, prosecutor Maggy Krell and epidemiologist Flojaune Cofer. Former City Council members Jeff Harris and Steve Hansen have also filed paperwork to fundraise to run for mayor, but neither of them have declared a campaign.
Instead of running for a third term as mayor, Steinberg said he is open to seeking state office, but has not made any decisions. In a speech in the council chambers with city officials surrounding him, Steinberg said he is committed to serving as mayor for the next year and a half.
“I have nothing but great feelings and hope and belief for the future of this city,” Steinberg said.
For the 2024 mayoral election, Steinberg said he is not endorsing a successor at this time. He added he hopes his successor continues working on finding a balance between providing core services and investing directly in Sacramento’s communities.
Steinberg has served as mayor since December 2016, when he returned to city government after leading the state Senate as President pro Tempore. He was a Sacramento City Council member from 1992 to 1998 before serving in the state Assembly and Senate for 16 years.
In his two terms as mayor, Steinberg has led the city during the COVID-19 pandemic, a rise in homelessness and protests after Sacramento police killed Stephon Clark. He also negotiated a settlement to build UC Davis’ Aggie Square in Oak Park, campaigned for the passage of the Measure U sales tax and pushed for more city shelter spaces.
But Steinberg, who will continue serving as mayor until December 2024, has said his authority as mayor is limited. Whoever wins the 2024 election must navigate Sacramento’s council-manager form of government, which is sometimes called a weak-mayor system. Under this system, the city manager is Sacramento’s chief executive officer, proposes the budget and has the power to hire, discipline and fire city department heads.
Previous efforts to switch the city to a strong-mayor form of government — including Measure A in 2020 and Measure L in 2014 — failed to get enough votes. Steinberg himself proposed Measure A, but 57% of voters opposed it. A mayor has more executive power under a strong-mayor system and California cities using it include Oakland, Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego.
The mayor of Sacramento runs City Council meetings and appoints members to boards, commissions and advisory agencies. Sacramento’s mayor represents and is elected by the entire city, unlike council members who represent certain districts. The mayor is responsible for interpreting the city’s policies and needs, according to the city charter.
The deadline to submit paperwork to run for mayor is Dec. 8. The 2024 primary election is scheduled for March 5. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the leading two candidates will face off in November 2024.
Flo Cofer makes first announcement
The 2024 Sacramento mayoral race began April 19 with epidemiologist and progressive organizer Flojaune Cofer making the first public campaign announcement ahead of the primary next March.
Cofer, the senior director of policy for the nonprofit Public Health Advocates, served as the chair of the Measure U Community Advisory Committee from 2019 through 2022. She launched her campaign with a speech in front of City Hall, saying her goals include investing in youth violence prevention programs, affordable housing and climate change mitigation.
“I think it’s important for elections to have real choices and I’m offering a progressive choice,” Cofer said. “I’m offering a choice to bring a different flavor and culture to city hall.”
If elected, Cofer would be the city’s first Black female mayor. Only three Black women have served as Sacramento council members: Callie Carney, Lauren Hammond and Bonnie Pannell.
More than 50 people attended Cofer’s campaign kick-off speech in April, including pediatrician Dr. Tiffani Johnson. Johnson said she believes Cofer’s public health background and commission experience means she will put together policies to keep children safe and healthy. It would also be meaningful for children to see a mayor who looks like them, she added.
“Having her voice and having her perspective, standing up for black women, it’s important,” Johnson said. “But I also know that Flo [Cofer] is someone who stands up for all people.”
Cofer has gotten an endorsement from Bridgitte Dean, the former director of the city’s Department of Community Response, which oversees homeless services.
“Dr. Cofer’s leadership, fearlessness and advocacy in her efforts to create lasting change in Sacramento have led to collaborative partnerships and crucial conversations focused on system change, mental health, homelessness and community safety,” Dean said in a press release. “As Sacramento’s mayor she will leverage our existing city resources to ensure safety, dignity, and respect for everyone.”
Maggy Krell joins the race
A second candidate announced a campaign for the 2024 Sacramento mayoral election through a video posted on April 27.
Prosecutor Maggy Krell introduced herself, citing her work as chief legal counsel for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and a deputy attorney general in the state Department of Justice.
“When immigrant kids were ripped away from their moms, I helped reunite families,” Krell said in a 30-second video. “As Planned Parenthood’s lawyer, I defended choice and access to health care. I believe in the possibility of a safe and sound Sacramento.”
In an April 28 email to CapRadio, Krell said she had not yet scheduled any press events for her campaign. Epidemiologist Flojaune Cofer is the only person, thus far, who has launched a 2024 mayoral campaign with a public speech.
Krell wrote a book about prosecuting human trafficking cases that was published in January 2022. She has lived in Sacramento for more than 20 years and received her law degree from UC Davis, according to her website.
Kevin McCarty announces run
State Assemblymember Kevin McCarty announced his run for mayor through an email sent on Thursday during Steinberg’s press conference. McCarty has represented parts of the city and county of Sacramento in the state legislature since December 2014 and previously served on the Sacramento City Council.
“I’m a homegrown Sacramentan ready to lean in to tackle our problems head-on,” McCarty said in an emailed statement. “We need real solutions to address homelessness and housing affordability, grow our economy, support our workers and families while improving neighborhood safety and livability. I’ll bring my experience as a neighborhood leader, Housing and Redevelopment Commissioner, City Councilmember and State Assemblymember to build partnerships and deliver results for Sacramento.”
McCarty was on the council from 2004 to 2014. He represented District 6, which includes Tahoe Park, Little Saigon and Campus Commons. When he won his state assembly race in 2014, McCarty left the council in the middle of a third term.
He has not hit his 12-year term limit in the state legislature. McCarty won reelection to his assembly District 6 seat last November with about 64% of the vote.
When is the mayoral election?
The 2024 primary election is scheduled for March 5. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the leading two candidates will face off in November 2024. Sacramento mayors serve four-year terms and do not have term limits.
Those running for mayor can file their candidate paperwork with the City Clerk’s office between November and December 2023. The deadline to submit nomination papers is Dec. 8.
Sacramento’s last mayoral election took place in March 2020, when Steinberg won 77% of the vote. Voters elected Steinberg to his first term as mayor in June 2016. His predecessor, Kevin Johnson, didn’t run for reelection that year.
Editor’s note: Assemblymember McCarty placed two million dollars in last year’s state budget to help pay for construction of CapRadio’s new downtown studios.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified which year Flojaune Cofer began serving as chair of the Measure U Community Advisory Committee. It has since been updated.
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