Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln announced Tuesday that he will file to run for Congress, continuing the city’s trend of one-term mayors.
Lincoln, who will run as a Republican, is looking to unseat incumbent Democrat Josh Harder in the next election cycle to represent the 9th District.
“I’m running for Congress because I refuse to stand by any longer while Washington neglects our communities,” Lincoln said in a statement. “I’m taking our message from the streets of Stockton to the steps of Congress. We will to fight for real change that puts the people of the Valley first. Consensus isn’t easy, but it’s how you get things done for the people.”
Harder and Brett Dood, a Republican pastor from Ripon, are the only candidates to date that have filed to run for the District 9 seat.
There was speculation last week that Lincoln had his sights set on Washington D.C. after a flier for a fundraising event scheduled for this week for the mayor circulated online for his potential congressional run. Lincoln’s campaign would neither confirm nor deny at the time the mayor’s 2024 election plans.
Now, it looks as if Lincoln will not only run but also with the support from the national and state Republican Party.
The flier asked donors to join House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and other “members of the California Republican Congressional Delegation” at a fundraiser Thursday in support of Lincoln’s run for Congress.
Lincoln’s choice to run for Congress represents a stark turnaround to what the first-term mayor has previously indicated about his future political aspirations.
In February, Lincoln told Stocktonia that reelection has long been on his mind. He said that his plans for a second term in Stockton’s top job began as soon as he closed out his 2020 campaign, opening up a 2024 campaign committee soon after he started his tenure as mayor and beginning fundraising efforts in the fourth quarter of last year.
“Stockton has lacked stability for two decades when it comes to the office of the mayor,” Lincoln, who defeated one-term Mayor Michael Tubbs, said at the time. “What I mean by that is every four years for the last 20 years, we’ve had a new mayor. And it’s hard for any organization to effect sustainable change if there’s constant turnover at the executive level.”
Gary Podesto, who died at the age of 81 earlier this month, was Stockton’s last two-term mayor, serving from 1997 to 2005. Since Podesto left office, three mayors — Ann Johnston, Anthony Silva and Tubbs — attempted to earn a second term but were defeated. A fourth, Ed Chavez, retired after one term.
Lincoln is still listed as a candidate for Stockton mayor for the 2024 Primary Election in city candidate campaign finance disclosure documents and candidate information. The “Kevin Lincoln for Mayor 2024” committee filed a candidate intention statement for Lincoln on May 23, listing “Mayor” as the sought after office.
The committee appears to have been formed in June 2021 and has since regularly filed campaign finance disclosures, the last of which was submitted to the city of Stockton at the end of January.
A source close to Lincoln’s campaign also told Stocktonia in May that the mayor’s reelection preparations had been underway for several months.
Lincoln said that over the last few months he’s considered where he could make the greatest impact.
“The fact is that no matter how much progress we make as a community, Washington’s culture of partisanship, blame, and neglect continues to make life harder for Stockton and Valley residents,” Lincoln said, placing blame on both parties for congressional dysfunction.
He also noted that Central Valley voters “are centrist and pragmatic” and said that Harder too often votes inline with President Joe Biden’s economic policies.
“Harder’s party line voting isn’t helping. It’s hurting,” Lincoln said. “Josh Harder’s votes for inflationary spending make housing, gas, and groceries more expensive, while his support for Joe Biden’s failed economic policies leaves Valley residents behind.”
Congressional District 9 could be a tough run for Lincoln, as the region has a general Democratic lean. About 43% of registered voters are Democrats, while just 27% are Republican, according to state data.
However, District 9 is listed by the National Republican Congressional Committee as one of 37 districts across the country that are main targets for Republicans to flip in the upcoming election.
While Republican candidate Tom Patti, ran against Democrat Harder in 2022 and lost by about 11 points in the county, other Republican candidates did well in the region. For example, Republican candidate for California governor Brian Dahle won by nearly 4 points in the county, though he lost statewide to Gavin Newsom.
Lincoln also notes that he previously unseated former Mayor Michael Tubbs, a Democrat, to be elected Stockton’s mayor in 2020. Though city mayor is technically a nonpartisan office.
In a sort of twist, Patti is now throwing his support to Lincoln in his bid for the job he once wanted and is instead eyeing the mayor’s current seat.
Patti, who sis in his second and final term on the county’s Board of Supervisors, confirmed to Stocktonia on Saturday he plans to run for Stockton mayor in 2024, noting that he would not have pursued the office if Lincoln had planned to run for a second term.
The Republican National Committee pursued Lincoln to run for Congress, discussing the viability and support the RNC would bring in should he decided to run, Patti said. And Patti thinks Lincoln is the right candidate for the job.
“You have a leader from our region being courted by those in Washington who recognize his value to the party and his steady leadership in our local government,” Patti said. “I think Kevin is a great candidate. When he decides to make that decision and announcement, I 100% support him.”
Other notable candidates have thrown their hats into the ring for Stockton mayor, including City Councilmember Dan Wright and former Vice Mayor Christina Fugazi, as well as Ernesto Gonzalez, who ran for Stockton City Council in 2018 but lost in the primary.
Lincoln’s campaign said the mayor “has not endorsed any candidate in the race to succeed him as mayor.”