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  The Next Mayor?
February 13, 2005

With only 20 months left until the 2006 election, it appears jockeying for the Richmond mayor’s race has begun. Contra Costa Times Political Editor Lisa Vorderbrueggen has been calling around trying to get a handle on the political landscape and has come up with at least one declared candidate, Mayor Anderson.

Although I made a run for mayor in 2001 and came in second with the lowest campaign expenditure of any of the four candidates, I currently have no interest in joining the fray in 2006. I have a full-time professional job that I thoroughly enjoy and find very satisfying. I thrive on the public policy challenges of City Council work, but frankly, I would find the ceremonial demands of the mayor’s job uninspiring. Actually, I had little initial interest in 2001, but ultimately I felt the voters needed an alternative to some of the early choices of the traditional Richmond kingmakers.

As the top vote getter in the 15-person 2004 City Council race, I am prepared to support the right candidate for 2006. I don’t know who that candidate is yet, but to get my support, he or she would have to:

  • Share my vision for the future of Richmond and have a history of supporting the specific public policy initiatives I believe are needed to get us there.
  • Be committed to a strong City Council that believes in taking the initiative to make public policy rather than relegating it to staff.
  • Be able to carry out the duties of mayor in a fair and constructive way that encourages public participation, respects other City Council members and facilitates unfettered City Council debate.

If such a candidate does not emerge, my interest could conceivably be rekindled.

The story from today’s Contra Costa Times by Lisa Vorderbrueggen follows:


Officials play it close to the vest

Posted on Sun, Feb. 13, 2005

THE DUST barely settled in Richmond after November's volatile City Council races before rumbles began in the 2006 mayor's race.

The loudest noise so far is from incumbent Mayor Irma Anderson, who says she absolutely intends to run for a second term.

"I have been so busy dealing with the city's fiscal debacle that I don't feel I have had the opportunity to accomplish some of my other goals," Anderson said. "I have only just begun."

The presence of an incumbent on the ticket usually dampens competition because he or she enjoys greater name recognition and access to campaign money.

But Richmond rarely follows conventional campaign mores, and politicos are running possible challengers up the public opinion pole.

Some view Anderson as vulnerable after the city's fiscal meltdown last year prompted a state bailout, layoffs and unprecedented concessions by the city's workers.

Additionally, Anderson has few friends on the council. Her colleagues often chafe at her brusque leadership style during meetings and accuse her of overstepping mayoral boundaries.

So, what names are in the air?

• Councilman Tom Butt says he has ruled out a run at mayor. But he was the top vote-getter in November, and his controversial e-forum on Richmond intrigue has never been more popular.

• Councilman Nat Bates has run and lost three times, so his name usually surfaces. He didn't return calls, but there's no love lost between him and Anderson.

• Councilwoman Maria Viramontes didn't return calls either, but she's a well-spoken and smart woman who generally impresses people.

• Ex-councilman Gary Bell lost his council seat in November in a field of 15 candidates. "I'm not going to rule it out but I'm not pursuing it, either," Bell said.

• And finally, Councilwoman Mindell Penn, who says, "Absolutely not. There are some people out there who believe that if they float my name around enough that I will believe it and decide to run. I have no interest in being mayor."

A viable and well-funded challenger, maybe even two, will surface, predicted a man certain to have a hand somewhere in the race, veteran and powerful Richmond political consultant Darrell Reese.

Whether it will prove worthwhile, that's harder to predict.

Voters don't care if Anderson bickers with her council colleagues, and Richmond's economic picture will brighten by the time voters go to the polls next year, Reese said.

If Anderson repeats her strong 2002 showing among both black and white voters, Reese says she could be tough to beat.

"It doesn't mean she can't be beat, but there's a lot of uncertainty at this point," he said.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen writes on politics each Sunday. Reach her at 925-945-4773 or lvorderb@cctimes.com. You can also reach her through her online forum at www.contracostatimes.com. Click on "Talk to the Times."