IN TWO WEEKS former Phoenix Suns guard Kevin Johnson will be sworn in as mayor of Sacramento, a city of 475,000 in which unemployment is up (7.4%), the deficit is way up ($58 million) and morale is way, way down. But Johnson, a Democrat who beat the incumbent, fellow Democrat Heather Fargo, in a runoff on Nov. 4, has experienced trying circumstances before—his first political campaign being a prime example. Johnson, 42, was hounded by allegations that he sexually molested a 16-year-old girl in 1995 and inappropriately touched a high school girl last year. Though he wasn't charged in either case, he paid a $230,000 settlement in the first instance.
Johnson's philanthropic background and his role in revitalizing Oak Park, the inner-city neighborhood where he grew up, gave his latest campaign a boost. Johnson, who will be Sacramento's first black mayor, also preached a message of change similar to the one that worked so well for a certain other candidate. Johnson's victory speech came about an hour after Barack Obama's. "There's not too many times I can one-up Barack," Johnson joked, "but he's old news right now."