California State Assemblymember and former Sacramento City Councilman announced his bid the same day Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg declined to seek a third term
By Graham Womack for California Local
With Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg announcing on May 25 that he will not seek a third term, a crowded field of would-be successors is taking shape.
One candidate is following a path similar to Steinberg’s: Kevin McCarty, who kicked off his campaign the same day the mayor gave a press conference at city hall ending months of speculation over whether he would run again.
Like Steinberg, McCarty has lived much of his life in Sacramento and went from serving on city council to the state legislature. While Steinberg served in the assembly and later as president pro tempore of the senate, McCarty, 51, is in his fifth term in the assembly. He has announced he is declining to run for reelection so he can focus on his mayoral race.
“I love Sacramento,” McCarty told California Local in a 25-minute phone interview on May 31. “I moved here when I was two, so I consider myself a lifelong Sacramentan. This is the community that raised me. This is the place where I’m raising my family—my kids [are] about to start McClatchy High School next year. And I’m concerned about the future of Sacramento.”
A Deep Background in Public Service
Some people become involved in the public sector after careers in other fields, such as law enforcement, medicine or agriculture. This isn’t McCarty, who went to work in the state legislature at 22. But it wasn’t an easy road for him to get to this point from his days at El Camino High School.
“I did not graduate from high school,” McCarty said. “I walked out of high school, dropped out for a few months and then said, ‘You know what? This is unacceptable.’ And I was able to get my life back together, go to adult school [at Winterstein Adult Education] and then go to college.”
McCarty, now a married father of two who lives in Sacramento’s Elmhurst neighborhood, holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Long Beach State and a master’s in public policy and administration from Cal State Sacramento.
He was first elected to city council in 2004 at 32, representing the same district that Steinberg had from 1992-98. McCarty won reelections twice and was elected to the assembly’s seventh district in 2014. Since redistricting that followed the recent census, McCarty has served District 6.
In the legislature, McCarty has served as a Democrat, telling California Local, “I consider myself a proud Democrat—but I’m also very practical.”
In recent months, McCarty has introduced a bill, AB 1360 that would help to compel drug treatment for some people in the criminal justice system. Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a similar bill from McCarty, AB 1542 in 2021. McCarty said this edition of the bill is being sponsored by the district attorneys of Sacramento and Yolo counties.
“My friends at the ACLU—they’re opposing me on this,” McCarty said. “It would reform sentencing for people that have a substance abuse disorder, such as a drug addiction, to have them get treatment while they’re in state prison or [serving] a long county jail sentence so they don’t become a statistic.”
It’s not the only issue McCarty cares about, though.
Areas of Focus for McCarty as Mayor
McCarty mentioned several areas of interest were he to be elected, including facing down a possible city budget deficit due to the drooping economy, and looking at what the city could do in its billing department to help streamline the process for businesses opening and prospering.
Numbers of people experiencing homelessness have also spiked dramatically in recent years, driven by factors such as housing affordability, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a federal court decision that made it so that cities couldn’t prohibit camping on public land when sufficient shelter space is unavailable. Sacramento has long been short on shelter beds.
McCarty said that he thought the biggest priority for Sacramento and all California constituents has to be homelessness and housing.
“I’ve been watching officially from afar, as a state assembly member,” he said, “and that’s one of the reasons why I’m leaning in. I have personal experiences of someone who’s homeless walking into my backyard, having to call law enforcement ourselves. My kids walk home from school by camps. And so we understand it. It’s the reality in our communities.”
McCarty, who previously served as a commissioner for the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, noted that he’s also authored legislation in the assembly that would help convert state buildings—which have sat vacant downtown during the pandemic—into housing.
He also suggested agendizing an hour at the beginning of every city council meeting to discuss what was being done on homelessness.
“I’ve been at the forefront of bringing about innovative solutions to tackle our problems in Sacramento,” McCarty said. “And I’ll do just that in the mayor’s office.”
The Rest of the Field
McCarty is one of four people to have announced campaigns according to either these candidates or reports in other media outlets.
Dr. Flojaune Cofer was first to announce, kicking off a progressive campaign on April 19. She would be the first Black woman to serve as mayor of Sacramento.
Cofer was followed by attorney Maggy Krell, a political unknown who has so far resisted giving interviews. Krell’s campaign announced recently that in her first month as a candidate she’d “raised the maximum amount allowed one month ahead of the legal deadline.” Her campaign includes Richie Ross, a veteran political consultant.
Most recently, former Sacramento City Councilman Steve Hansen announced his campaign on May 30, telling the Sacramento Bee, “The top issue I hear when I talk to people is that people don’t feel safe.”
Hansen, who was the first openly gay member of Sacramento City Council and would be the first such person to serve as Sacramento’s mayor, didn’t immediately respond to an interview request from California Local submitted through a former member of his council staff. Krell was unavailable for comment before deadline as well.
Others who haven’t announced campaigns but are worth keeping an eye on include former California State Senator Richard Pan and former state insurance commissioner Dave Jones.
But if the competition bothers McCarty, he didn’t let on while talking to California Local.
“I’ve been a city lawmaker and a council member for 19 years,” McCarty said. “And so I’ve been delivering for neighborhoods.”