Former Lawmaker Likely Running To Succeed Sacramento's Basketball Star Mayor

California Senate president pro tempore Darrell Steinberg. Photo by REUTERS/Max Whittaker

California's former top Democrat legislator hinted broadly on Oct. 27 that he will run for mayor of Sacramento, bringing political heft to a race to succeed Kevin Johnson, the former basketball star whose boosterism helped revitalize his home town.

Darrell Steinberg, a former president pro tem of the state senate and a onetime Sacramento City Council member, said in an email to supporters that he planned to make an "important announcement" at the site of a new residential development project on the morning of Oct. 28.

"I want to thank every one of you for your support and encouragement in making my decision about running for mayor," Steinberg wrote in the email, a copy of which as forwarded to Reuters on the morning of Oct. 27 by an adviser. "Sacramento is my heart and my home and I've been proud to have devoted an entire career of public service to its people and its progress."

Johnson, a charismatic former point guard for the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers, said in October he would not seek a third term, days after a decades-old allegation resurfaced that he had dated and fondled a teenage girl while a basketball player in Phoenix. No charges were ever filed.

Johnson used his unique star power to begin to revitalize Sacramento, a workaday town that was hard-hit by the economic crisis and changes in U.S. manufacturing and agriculture-related businesses.

He made headlines in 2013 when he led a successful campaign to keep the Kings basketball team in town, complete with a new arena that has already spawned other revitalization efforts and is a former president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The battle to replace Johnson is sure to be competitive, as contenders, mostly Democrats, face off in a June primary with campaigns likely funded at least in part by competing labor unions.

Hours after Johnson said he would not run again, City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby announced her candidacy and another former state legislator, Roger Dickinson, is also said to be considering a run.

Steinberg, who left the Senate in 2014 because of term limits, served on the City Council from 1992 to 1998 before winning a seat in the state Assembly, followed by the Senate.

He was particularly well known for his advocacy for the rights and services for people with mental illness, and his family has been open about his own daughter's struggles with a mood disorder.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Bill Trott)

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