K.J. scores big in Sac-Town, but it's no slam dunk

By Paul Rubin

Talk about getting it wrong. Political pollsters in California's capital city of Sacramento had Mayor Heather Fargo favored to win yesterday's primary by about seven percentage points over former Phoenix Suns basketball star Kevin Johnson. Instead, K.J. drove right past the two-time incumbent on his way to his own seven-percentage-point win in a highly publicized and awfully nasty election battle.

That was the good news for K.J., whose uniform number appears in the Ring of Honor in the rafters of the Suns' U.S. Airways Arena. (What're they gonna call the joint if the airline has to call it a day?)

But Johnson didn't win the 50 percent of the vote necessary to avoid a runoff election with Fargo, whose leadership skills have been described in Sacramento newspapers as ranging from uninspired to mediocre. So the onetime Phoenix All-Star point guard--who outspent his opponent three to one--will have to wait until November to see if he becomes the chief executive of his hometown.

To put it mildly, this was one nasty campaign in which allegations of sexual misconduct became a big deal in the media and on the stump.

The Sacramento Bee recently reported that K.J. quietly had paid his teenage accuser $230,000 in an out-of-court settlement to shut up sometime after New Times published its expose of the unseemly case (in which no criminal charges were ever filed). That tidbit advanced the story, but ultimately didn't resonate too negatively with Sacramento's electorate.

Actually, little seemed to resonate with registered voters. Only about 20 percent of those eligible exercised their privilege Tuesday, and Californians overall broke the previous primary record low of 33.6 percent, set in June 2006.

Odds are this isn't the last we'll hear about K.J. and his "personal issues" between now and Election Day, five months down the road.

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