Angelique Ashby, the only woman on the City Council, will announce Wednesday that she is running for mayor of Sacramento.
Ashby’s announcement comes as Mayor Kevin Johnson told The Sacramento Bee that he will not seek a record third term in office.
“Ultimately, it’s up to Sacramento to choose who its next leader will be,” Ashby said Tuesday afternoon. “The choice I’m making is I’m asking them to consider me.”
Ashby, 40, made her decision on Tuesday – the same day Johnson decided to step aside.
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“She is brave enough to say, ‘I’ve been waiting, nobody else is saying anything, I want to be mayor,’ ” said Brian Rice, president of Sacramento Area Firefighters Local 522. “I have to respect that.”
Rice and his fellow firefighter union members respect Ashby and her decision so much they will announce Wednesday that they are endorsing her. Ashby plans to introduce herself to city voters at large during an 11 a.m news conference at Local 522 headquarters on Folsom Boulevard.
“It’s kind of a rough spot; we like the current mayor too,” Rice said. “But (Ashby) represents a new face of Sacramento.”
Rice acknowledged that the firefighters have been close to Johnson in recent years. The move by the union to endorse Ashby – and Ashby’s move away from Johnson – signals a coming change in city politics, Rice said.
“It’s going to be interesting to say the least,” Rice said.
Until now, Ashby had been solidly in Johnson’s corner and a reliable ally on the City Council. With Ashby on his side, Johnson has enjoyed a majority of many key votes attained with other allies such as Allen Warren, Jay Schenirer and Rick Jennings.
Ashby’s move, coupled with Johnson’s exit, changes the calculus of city politics. Warren, another close Johnson ally, has been under fire all summer stemming from allegations he sexually harassed an employee. The city still is investigating that case.
In addition, Johnson has found himself the focus of media scrutiny as decades-old sexual misconduct allegations recently have resurfaced. Johnson long has denied the allegations by Amanda Koba that he molested her when she was a teenager, and authorities who investigated the claims did not pursue charges. The Sacramento Bee previously reported that Johnson and Koba signed a draft settlement agreement for $230,000 in 1997.
Rice said he thinks it’s time that Sacramento changed course.
“The Kings are secured. The downtown railyards are secured,” he said. “A person has a certain mission or shelf life, and once that’s been completed, a fuller vision needs to (emerge). … I think (Ashby) has got that vision.”
Ashby, who serves as mayor pro tem, first was elected in 2010 after running a grassroots campaign that unseated Natomas-area incumbent Ray Tretheway. She was a key local player in landing enhanced flood protection for Natomas, an effort that lifted a building moratorium in her district.
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She has championed libraries in Sacramento and helped Natomas Unified pass a facilities bond for a school district that has seen its student population increase by 2,000, Ashby said.
In the past, Ashby has been criticized for being too close to law enforcement during contentious labor negotiations with the city. Compared to Johnson and former Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, another potential candidate, she has limited experience and name recognition. “I’m running now because I needed to introduce myself to Sacramento,” Ashby said. “I want to tell people my story and give them time to consider me as their next mayor.”
Ashby said she has wanted to announce her candidacy for weeks but has been waiting for Johnson to make an announcement of his own. “I’m anxious to start knocking on doors, to have coffee meetings, to sit in kitchens,” she said.
She estimates she will need to raise at least $1 million to run a competitive race for mayor. She said she has spent the past several weeks meeting with advisers and potential donors.
Ashby is a mother of three children ages 2 to 20. She graduated from Sacramento High School and put herself through UC Davis and McGeorge School of Law as a single mother.
“My focus will be for everyone to have a great life in Sacramento,” she said.
Ashby said she feels that Sacramento hasn’t done enough to combat homelessness and needs to engage the issue more directly. She said she wants to establish a business-friendly environment and that the city needs to double down its efforts to combat a spiking crime rate.
“I’m going to give it everything I’ve got,” she said.“I’m the only woman on the council. Nobody else has announced they are running. Why wouldn’t I stand up?”
Editor’s note (11 p.m. Tuesday): Mayor Kevin Johnson announced after The Bee’s print deadline that he would not run for re-election, so this column is different from the one that appears Wednesday in the print edition of the newspaper.