Along with Trump, 2020 was not a good year for several incumbents in the Sacramento region

Clockwise from upper left Steve Hansen, Michael Tubbs, Steve Ly, Allen Warren, Donald Trump and
Christopher Cabaldon were all rejected by voters. | 

For several incumbents, 2020 was not a good year.

Starting at the top, Donald J. Trump - thankfully - is the fourth American President in 100 years to not be reelected. Trump joins Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, and Geroge H.W. Bush to be vanquished from the Oval Office.

Closer to home, there have been several incumbent candidates who lost their reelection bids. The incumbent carnage started during the March primary.

In the Sacramento District 4 City Council race, Steve Hansen, a two-term liberal Democratic councilmember, was defeated outright in the March primary by a fellow Democrat who ran to his left with a grassroots campaign, Kate Valenzuela. Hansen, who had considerable financial support from real estate developers and other establishment types in the donor class, was considered a rising star who undoubtedly had an eye for higher office, perhaps following in the path of another former Sacramento City Councilmember, Kevin McCarty, and make his way to the California Assembly.  

Another Sacramento City Councilmember who will not be returning to office after being defeated by Sean Loloee during the November election in his bid for a third term representing District 2 is Allen Warren. The real estate developer, who recently was hired by California Northstate University to advocate for their controversial $900 million Elk Grove hospital project, was dogged by allegations of harassment and financial woes.  

In Elk Grove, Mayor Steve Ly's meteoric rise over eight years has come to an end. Starting with his 2012 landslide election to the Elk Grove Unified School District Board of Trustees quickly followed in 2014 with a successful bid for the District 4 seat, and then in 2016 his election as the first directly elected Hmong-American mayor in the United States, Ly was on the rise.

Like many politicians on the Sacramento area scene, Ly was considered a rising star in the Democratic party who was said to be eyeing a run for the State Senate or Assembly. While Ly, Warren, and Hansen can make comebacks, it will be difficult, but not impossible.

Along with Ly being turned back in his reelection bid for mayor, two other prominent mayors in the Sacramento region lost. Those mayors were West Sacramento's Christopher Cabaldon and Stockton's Michael Tubbs.

Cabaldon was first elected to the West Sacramento City Council in 1996 and became the city's directly elected mayor in 2004. This year he was defeated by West Sacramento City Councilmember Martha Guerrero. 

The more surprising loss was by the first-term mayor of Stockton, Michael Tubbs. When he was elected mayor four years ago, after serving on the Stockton City Council for the four previous years, Tubbs was 26 years old. 

While these other politicians who suffered defeats were ascending regional players, Tubbs was considered a rising star on a national basis. Along with his youth, educational background, and life-story, Tubbs' guaranteed income experiment in Stockton earned such widespread attention he was the subject of an HBO documentary. 

While Tubbs can make a comeback - think Cleveland's youthful Mayor Dennis Kucinich, who eventually served in the U.S. Congress after being defeated for reelection as mayor, his immediate ambitions have undoubtedly suffered a significant setback.

In these defeats, there are other lessons that current officeholders should note. First, Hansen, Ly, and Cabaldon were defeated by women candidates, which is further evidence that as time progresses, they are narrowing the long-standing gender representation gap. 

Beyond this, these new officeholders who defeated their opponents should take lessons from the pitfalls of those they vanquished. First, while incumbency has its distinct advantages, it is no guarantee, and the best example of this is the Hansen-Valenzuela race.

Hansen, with all his liberal credentials and backing of establishment Democrats, and the all-important donor class, was viewed as out of step with his district. In the end, though, voters decided Valenzuela was more in tune with their political beliefs and how they wanted to be represented at Sacramento City Hall, and this lesson should not be lost.

The Warren defeat should remind officeholders once you become a public figure, so will your financial dealings, even if they happened before being elected. Voters will forgive cheating on your spouse, but shady business dealings are a whole other thing. 

From the Tubbs loss, officeholders should always take note of what is being said about them on social media and address it post-haste. Unfortunately, social media in Stockton has filled the vacuum of the declining fortunes of the Stockton Record and local legacy media in general, and those who ignore it do it at their peril.

Another lesson all these successful candidates should remember is that what you say or do today, or years ago, for that matter, never goes away, especially if it is considered negative. This lesson was learned by Ly after being besieged with claims that, at a minimum, he and associates strong-armed others, or worse, he sanctioned harassment of political opponents. 

All these new or ascending officeholders need to remember this - things that your opponent did and helped put you in office or elevated your position are the same things that can take you down.  

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