With a promise to use his long resume in California politics to help solve some of his hometown's most challenging problems, former state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg launched his campaign for Sacramento mayor on Wednesday, an effort to return to the city hall where his political career began almost two decades ago.
"Let us seize the moment," Steinberg said in a campaign kickoff event Wednesday. "Let's get going for Sacramento."
Steinberg's decision to run for mayor comes after Mayor Kevin Johnson announced last week he would not seek a third term in 2016. Johnson has been dogged in recent weeks by new criticism over 1996 allegations that he molested a 16-year-old girl, an accusation he has denied.
Steinberg, who stepped down last December as Senate president pro tem due to term limits, has long been interested in running for mayor. But in the months since leaving the Legislature, he had avoided saying whether he would seek the job if Johnson was also on the ballot.
Sacramento City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby announced her candidacy for mayor last week, but Steinberg brings some sizable advantages to the race. Wednesday's announcement was made at an urban infill housing project boosted by legislation he championed in the Senate, and the event attracted a large crowd of state political players as well as a majority of City Council members.
The 56-year-old Democrat also has more than $1.4 million in an account earmarked for a potential 2018 run for lieutenant governor, though he can only use the portion of that money that matches the city's lower contribution limits.
Steinberg was elected to Sacramento's City Council in 1996 and went on to serve 14 years in the Legislature, the final six as leader of the Senate. Even so, he remained involved as a go-to power broker on a number of city issues, including the effort to keep the NBA's Sacramento Kings from relocating in 2013.
He said his campaign would focus on ways to help Sacramento's homeless population and new efforts at after-school programs in an attempt to reduce what police have said is a rising crime rate in the capital city.
"No child in this community should ever have enough time to get into trouble," Steinberg said to applause. "How about that?"