A pair of City Council races should be a good gauge of the mayor's political influence.
Mayor Kevin Johnson is backing former NAACP branch president Betty Williams in her run against Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell for the district representing Meadowview and other south Sacramento neighborhoods.
Johnson is also supporting developer Allen Warren in the packed north Sacramento race to replace Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy, who is stepping down.
The mayor isn't supporting candidates in the other two races. He said he wants to wait and see how the District 4 race - which has seven candidates vying to represent Land Park and the Central City - shakes out.
He also hasn't made a decision on whether to support Councilman Kevin McCarty or his challenger, Mitch Netto. It seems unlikely he'll support McCarty, given that the two have split on many high-profile votes at City Hall the past four years.
As for Johnson's support of Williams, it seems to have as much to do with her as it does Pannell. The mayor told reporters this week that Williams "clearly has a history of being a community activist," but that past votes by Pannell have also disappointed him.
"I've been here for four years and I don't mind council members disagreeing with me or vice versa," he said. "I think you can disagree without being disagreeable. But if somebody's agenda is clearly just to vote in a different way or if the mayor comes up with an idea, they're just going to say 'No,' I don't think that's in the best interest of Sacramento."
Pannell has voted against all of Johnson's strong mayor proposals and the two were on opposite sides of a contentious redistricting debate last summer.
The mayor and Warren have known each other for several years. A Del Paso Heights native, Warren recently moved back into the district to run for Sheedy's seat.
"I don't think anybody knows the community better than he does," the mayor said.
Johnson said he is "also a big fan of Kim Mack," one of the other candidates in that race.
PHOTO CAPTION: Betty Williams