SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Darrell Steinberg said Thursday he won't run for a third term as Sacramento mayor.
"It's actually a very positive decision and a happy decision for me. There is a season for everything in life and it's now the season for me to do other things that hopefully will help people because that's what this is about, and that's what it is always about," Steinberg said.
Steinberg has another year and a half left in his second and final term. He has spent six-and-a-half years as Sacramento's mayor since he was elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020.
"Being mayor has been a joy, it's been a joy. Because there have been so many moments where I've seen the city's resilience, where I've seen people rise above and where I've seen great things and where I've seen kindness in our community," Steinberg said.
If there's a feeling a déjà vu with this news, it’s because back in October of 2020, Steinberg said, "I have zero intention of running for a third term, and I won’t change my mind as some have asserted.”
That was in the context of covering the ‘strong mayor’ ballot initiative, which would have given the mayor more power.
Voters did not approve the measure.
And yet there’s been speculation in recent months that Steinberg might seek a third term, so on Thursday — he put that notion to bed.
Steinberg's announcement creates a wide-open field for candidates to vie for his seat.
So far, only two candidates have officially thrown their hat in the ring.
Public health policy expert Flojaune Cofer was the first, making the announcement last month. And just minutes after Steinberg's announcement Thursday morning, Sacramento Assemblymember Kevin McCarty declared his candidacy as well.
More people are expected to join the race in the coming months. Steinberg said he'd like to see a wide field of candidates.
As for his future, Steinberg said he is open to potentially serving in public office again at the state level, but he hasn't made any decisions yet. He clarified and said he's not retiring, but he's going to think about it.
"I don’t know. I really don’t," Steinberg said. "I’m not being coy about it; I really don’t know.”
ABC10 asked him about the status of a judgeship. Back in December, POLITICO reported Newsom was considering Steinberg as a judicial candidate for the Third District Court of Appeals in Sacramento.
"I'm eligible. I think I'm eligible," Steinberg said Thursday. "It's a possibility."
ABC10 also gauged his interest in a run for Congress.
"I don’t think so," he said. "We have a great Congresswoman, Doris Matsui.”
Matsui released the following statement following Steinberg's announcement:
“Mayor Darrell Steinberg is a champion of Sacramento, serving our community for over 25 years in the State Capitol and City Hall,” Congresswoman Matsui said. “He has dedicated his career to empowering everyday Sacramentans – using his wealth of knowledge and determination to fight for Sacramento’s families and lift up our underserved communities. He has worked diligently to build up a robust and inclusive local economy while continuing to grow our city’s profile as an economic and cultural hub.”
He did say he'd be interested in state attorney general if the office becomes available.
Whatever comes next, Steinberg said he'd like to stay in the public arena in some way.
Prior to serving as Mayor, Steinberg lead the California Senate as President Pro Tem under Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown.
He'd also previously served in the Assembly and as a Sacramento City Councilmember, amounting to some 25 years in public office.
After terming out of the Senate, he founded the Steinberg Institute, an independent nonprofit organization advancing policy and solutions surrounding mental health.
In the remaining 18 months of his term, he said, "We've got a lot of work to do."
That includes continued work on homelessness solutions, though he said under his leadership, the city has improved its response to the homelessness crisis and affordable housing shortage.
He also points to steering the city through the pandemic and pushing for police reforms and greater oversight.
"Who could have anticipated we would live through a worldwide pandemic? That we would have lived through a rightful racial reckoning, the death of Stephon Clark, the murder of George Floyd, and the emergence of a new set of priorities and agendas that are necessary, as we maintain all of what is already best about the city, in terms of its core services and the way that we serve people," Steinberg said. "I have nothing but great feelings and hopes and beliefs for the future of this city."
Watch more on ABC10: Sacramento County Fair begins Thursday with carnival rides, farming displays