Kevin Johnson was first elected mayor in 2008, when he defeated incumbent Mayor Heather Fargo. Jose Luis Villegas jvillegas@sacbee.com
Kevin Johnson was first elected mayor in 2008, when he defeated incumbent Mayor Heather Fargo. Jose Luis Villegas jvillegas@sacbee.com

City Beat

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City Beat

Mayor Kevin Johnson won’t seek re-election

By Ryan Lillis

rlillis@sacbee.com

October 20, 2015 10:42 PM

UPDATED November 18, 2015 08:25 AM

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will not seek a third term next year, he announced late Tuesday.

Johnson made the announcement first in an email to The Sacramento Bee late Tuesday, writing that “after much thought and soul-searching, (he has) decided not to run for a third term.”

“It was an incredibly difficult choice, but one that I feel confident about,” the mayor wrote in a statement he later posted on Twitter. “As I’m sure there will be much speculation on this, let me proactively say that I am not leaving for another specific job or position. While there are many intriguing opportunities out there (and I’m excited to explore them) I honestly don’t know what’s next for me.”

Johnson’s decision came as he faced new scrutiny over past allegations of sexual misconduct, punctuated by an abrupt move last week by ESPN to shelve a documentary about the city’s fight to keep the Sacramento Kings in light of such concerns. Johnson said last week that the allegations and ESPN delay would have no bearing on whether he opted to run for a third term.

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The decision also comes after a second term in which Johnson led the effort to build a downtown arena, helped prevent the Kings from moving to Seattle and encouraged redevelopment in the central city.

Johnson’s statement was released on the eve of an announcement by his colleague and close political ally, Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, that she would run for mayor in 2016. Ashby will make her announcement Wednesday during a press conference at the headquarters of the city’s firefighters union.

“Ultimately, it’s up to Sacramento to choose who its next leader will be,” Ashby told The Bee’s Marcos Breton on Tuesday. “The choice I’m making is I’m asking them to consider me.”

A potential second candidate – former state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg – told The Bee early Wednesday that he would not make any announcements Wednesday, but that he “will be ready to announce (his) intentions soon.” Steinberg said he would meet “with a broad group of friends and community leaders over the next several days” as he prepares to make a decision.

“I have been privileged to serve Sacramento for 20 years and love my city,” Steinberg said. “I look forward to our great future.”

Without naming who he would support in next year’s election, Johnson said, “I leave my position knowing there is ample leadership in the city to effectively fill my shoes.”

In addition to Ashby and Steinberg, former state Assemblyman Roger Dickinson and Councilman Allen Warren have been mentioned by political observers as potential candidates.

“I leave knowing that the city is headed in the right direction and is ready to embrace the exciting changes ahead,” the mayor wrote. “And I leave knowing that my relationship with and work on behalf of the city is far from over.”

Johnson was first elected mayor in 2008, when he defeated incumbent Mayor Heather Fargo. He was re-elected in 2012. Johnson was the first Sacramento native to be elected mayor.

His signature accomplishment was leading repeated efforts to block the relocation of the Sacramento Kings, most recently in 2013. That latest campaign resulted in the financing and construction of a $507 million arena for the Kings downtown that is scheduled to be completed next October.

Johnson has focused heavily on downtown development and earlier this year launched an initiative to build 10,000 new residential units in the urban core over the next decade.

In recent weeks, Johnson has been the subject of media scrutiny stemming from a nearly two-decade old case in which a 16-year-old girl accused him of molestation.

In 1996, a girl named Amanda Koba accused Johnson of molesting her at his Phoenix home. The Phoenix Police Department investigated and Johnson was never charged.

The allegations were reported in Sacramento in 2008 by The Sacramento Bee, which first reported that Johnson and Koba had signed a draft settlement agreement worth $230,000.

Earlier this month, the website Deadspin posted a video of Koba being interviewed by Phoenix detectives. In response, ESPN delayed the release of a documentary about the city’s efforts to keep the Kings in 2013.

That national release that was supposed to have occurred Tuesday night before ESPN shelved the film.

Statement on decision not to seek reelection. pic.twitter.com/eQrxNc0y7T

— Kevin Johnson (@KJ_MayorJohnson) October 21, 2015

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis