Monday's Sacramento mayoral debate got testy at times between former California Senate leader Darrell Steinberg and Natomas City Councilmember Angelique Ashby.
"It’s getting a little chippy here, I see," Steinberg cracked about a third of the way into the hour-long debate at California State University, Sacramento. "This is good; it’s a debate!"
The debate was sponsored by Capital Public Radio, ABC10, the Sacramento Bee and Sacramento State. Former professional boxing champion Tony Lopez also participated in the event.
Listen to the full debate.
The two frontrunners went after each other several times – starting with where they're getting their campaign money from. Steinberg has transferred $1.4 million from a state account to use in the mayor's race. The transfer is fully legal but effectively bypasses the city's contribution limits.
Asked if the transfer should be legal, Steinberg replied, "Yes, I think it should be." He said it's been legal for years but was only being challenged now.
"I understand the argument," he added, "but I’m very comfortable with the way I’ve conducted this campaign and will continue to conduct this campaign."
"Let me be really clear, just in case I haven’t been," Ashby immediately responded. "There is no way that you should be able to transfer $1.4 million raised over five years by special interests all across this state – from LA to Red Bluff – into a Sacramento city mayor's race."
Steinberg said Ashby was trying to have it both ways by taking campaign donations from police and fire unions outside of Sacramento. Ashby said she does have support from public safety groups – and she won't apologize for that.
Later, they were asked about pay equity for women. Ashby raised a central issue to her campaign – the lack of Sacramento-area women in elected office.
"Look, on a local level, not only am I the only one on the city council, but your board of supervisors members and your Assembly and state Senate that are elected in the city are all men too," Ashby said. "It’s a 14-to-1 ratio. We can’t fix that problem unless we add more help."
Steinberg said he has championed gender equity his entire career. "And you’re right, we need more elected women in public office – absolutely."
Then, he quipped: "Just not this race" drawing laughter from the audience.
A few moments later, after Steinberg agreed with Ashby that more women should run, Ashby held up her hand and Steinberg gave her a high-five.
Lopez, meanwhile, repeatedly stressed he'd bring an outsider's common sense to City Hall.
“I don’t have a political brain," he said when asked whether his lack of political experience might be a problem. "I can bring stuff from the outside – bringing in new stuff, new imagination, from people just like you, me and my neighbors.”
Near the end of the debate, Ashby and Steinberg clashed again – this time over how to create more affordable housing in Sacramento.
Ashby bashed Steinberg for abolishing redevelopment agencies when he was leading the state Senate. Those local agencies provided key funding for affordable housing developments, but some agencies also drew criticism for other taxpayer-funded projects.
Steinberg defended his vote that led to the end of redevelopment, which helped close the state's budget gap.
"I inherited a $42 billion deficit – the worst in modern state history," he said. "And by the time I left office – not only because of me, but I was a central part of it – the state was in better shape. So there you have it: I’ll let the people judge my record during the Senate – I’m very proud of it."
As the moderator tried to move on, Ashby responded: "But you balanced that budget on the backs of local governments."
"Oh, no, no, no..." Steinberg cut in.
"That’s the problem," Ashby went on. "At the city, we don’t have that luxury – we have to have a balanced budget at the end of every budget season."
Ashby knows she faces an uphill challenge against Steinberg, who's both better-known and better-funded. And Steinberg played a "trump card," if you will, in his closing statement Monday: He announced an endorsement from Gov. Jerry Brown.
As Ashby tries to block Steinberg from the 50 percent necessary for an outright victory in the June primary, look for many of the arguments from this debate to continue over the next few weeks.
Original Story: The three candidates for mayor of Sacramento were peppered with questions by a panel of journalists Monday during a debate at California State University, Sacramento.
Former boxer Tony Lopez, Sacramento City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, and former state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg were given a 45-second time limit.
All three candidates were asked about the city's growing homeless problem and if they favored a housing village.
Councilwoman Ashby says she wouldn't support a tent city model for the city's homeless.
"I think that is not a good standard for Sacramento, but we do need additional shelter space," she says. We do need triage space. And we certainly need to grow our inventory of low-income housing and wrap around service model housing for those most in need."
Steinberg talked about sponsoring an initiative to create a $2 billion capital bond for permanent housing.
"It's going to pass in this year's state budget and when it does, Sacramento is going to be first in line to make our city a housing first city because that is the solution," he says. "I don't agree with a tent city or the band-aid approach. We need to focus on permanent housing."
Lopez said he would charge the homeless $100 a month to help pay for housing.
"Stop selling them a fantasy and get them back into a reality of life, and get em out, get up and coming," he says. "Because as a homeless person I would assume it would be nice to, you know, wake up in your own house, be able to take showers, shave, brush your teeth, do whatever you got to do to get ready to go what? To go look for a job in Sacramento. That's something, that's called a hands up. So if you keep giving a hands out it has it has zero value."
Counties will begin putting ballots in the mail for in-state voting Monday. Californians have until May 23 to register to vote before the June primary, and those who want to vote by mail must request a ballot by the end of the month.