Mayor’s Race Is Wide Open!

By Scott Smith
Record Staff Writer
May 06, 2012 12:00 AM

STOCKTON – Incumbent Mayor Ann Johnston appears to be the candidate to beat, despite leading a city marred by escalating street violence and the looming possibility of bankruptcy.

The Stockton mayor’s race is wide open, and it is uncertain who, if anybody, will emerge from the June 5 primary to challenge her in a November runoff. She’s up against Ralph Lee White, Anthony Silva, Jimmie Rishwain, James Butler and Gregory Pitsch.

Johnston believes her support base remains solid even as she continually fends off attacks at each council meeting and a recent town hall meeting.

“People are going to have to make a decision, whether they trust what we’re doing and the direction we have to go,” she said, “or throw it open to inexperienced folks.”

Stockton voters in less than one month will narrow the field. A single candidate could win outright with 50 percent of the votes, plus one. With no clear winner, the two top vote-earners will face off Nov. 6.

Johnston said the city’s future is at stake.

“It’s no time for the faint of heart to be in City Hall,” she said.

Bob Benedetti, a University of the Pacific political science professor, attributed the attacks to Stockton having a full-time mayor. Johnston is a natural point person for personal unhappiness, he said. Benedetti said he didn’t see a strong candidate rising to oppose her.

“It’s hers to lose,” said Benedetti, adding that none of her challengers command citywide respect. “Many people recognize, like it or not, she’s under a hard situation. She’s done a credible job.”

White, a perennial candidate and former councilman, has most doggedly attacked Johnston. He lost the first round in a courtroom challenge over term limits when a judge sided with Johnston.

“The judge didn’t shoot me down,” said White, promising to press the issue. “If Ann Johnston doesn’t make the runoff, we’re done. If she does, I go back to court.”

White served 16 years on the City Council beginning in the 1970s. That and his business experience, acquiring wealth through his bail bonds and property investments, make him the best candidate, he said.

Silva, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Stockton, has won support from the Stockton Police Officers’ Association and the Stockton Professional Firefighters Local 456.

Silva said he has put $20,000 on his credit card to fund his campaign.

He also has been the subject of questions for registering as a mayoral candidate at one home address and then moving to another within Stockton. City Clerk Bonnie Paige said he remains a valid candidate as long as lives in Stockton.

Silva said he believes that many of the city’s problems could be solved by fostering a tone of mutual respect between City Hall and the labor groups. That takes good listening, he said.

“That’s one thing I could be effective at,” he said. “Shutting my mouth.”

Silva served as a Stockton Unified trustee and also ran unsuccessfully for the Lodi Unified board and the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.

Former mayoral candidate Tony Stevens stands to complicate things. His name remains on the ballot, even though he has dropped out.

Jimmie Rishwain, a businessman, also has funded his own campaign with a personal loan. He donated $100,000 to his campaign. Rishwain served four years on the City Council in the 1960s and was appointed mayor three times.

Rishwain said he estimates that an incumbent such as Johnston has a 20 percent advantage through name recognition, but he envisions a runoff between him and Johnston.

“Every time there’s a story, she gets her name out,” he said. “But I’ve got the experience. I know City Hall. I know what the problems are and I know the solutions.”

Butler, who declines to take campaign donations, said his decades working inside the city give him the insight into untapped resources for making money and for cutting inefficiency and waste.

“I’m formulating a plan to get us out of this,” he said. “Everybody else is focusing on the devastation.”

Butler said Stockton is missing an opportunity to create more public-private partnerships with power companies to capitalize on the city’s ample water sources. Johnston is too far removed from the city’s daily operations, he said.

Pitsch has collected $125 in donations and spent that on painting two signs and on gas. As mayor, he vows to have open communication with residents.

“Stockton will accomplish amazing things if we work together,” said Pitsch, who doesn’t deny using medical marijuana to alleviate pain from an old neck injury. “That’s why I can’t sit back and wait any longer.”

Would you like to see a ‘Strictly Solar Stockton?’

The candidates

James Butler, 59

Party affiliation: Democrat

Political experience: None

Education: High school graduate

Work: Senior plant maintenance supervisor for Stockton’s Municipal Utilities District, retiring June 30

Personal: Married 33 years to Myrna Butler

Quote: “I know the inside system. I know there’s some substantial savings. I’m also looking long term — how do we become less dependent on state and federal money and more dependent on our knowledge?”

Ann Johnston, 69

Party affiliation: Democrat

Political experience: Two terms on the council and in her first term as mayor, Lodi Unified School District’s board of trustees for 13 years representing north Stockton

Education: B.A. San Francisco State, General Social Science, Secondary teaching credential

Work: Owner of The Balloonery

Personal: Married 43 years to Cliff Johnston; the couple has two adult sons and three granddaughters

Quote: “We have to make Stockton the very best it can be, and that means solving problems and detailing a plan to move forward.”

Gregory Pitsch, 26

Party affiliation: Republican

Political experience: none

Education: High school graduate and some college

Work: Online clothing, electroncs retailer and fledgling music producer

Personal: Wife Brittany Pitsch, an American Sign Language interpreter in Manteca schools

Quote: “We need to start thinking collectively and find out what each of us can do with our time in a more productive manner, rather than this destructive path we are on.”

Jimmie Rishwain, 82

Party affiliation: Republican

Political experience: Stockton council member and mayor in the 1960s

Education: high school graduate

Work: Real estate developer and investor

Personal: Three grown sons and seven grandchildren

Quote: “I believe in Stockton. My heart and soul are in Stockton. I’m concerned about the direction the city of Stockton is going: crime, foreclosure and bankruptcy.”

Anthony Silva, 38

Party affiliation: Republican

Political experience: One term on the Stockton Unified School District Board of Trustees, 2004-08

Education: Humphreys College, B.S. Science, Communities Studies

Work: CEO Boys & Girls Clubs of Stockton

Personal: 7-year-old son, Caden

Quote: “The current levels of crime and unemployment are unacceptable. I will increase police presence and bring new businesses into town.”

Ralph Lee White, 69

Party affiliation: Democrat

Political experience: Served 16 years on the City Council beginning in the 1970s

Education: Finished high school in Texas

Work: Bail bondsman and property owner

Personal: Five daughters, 14 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Quote: “I will guarantee within one year that the murder rate will drop 50 percent and the crime rate 60 to 65 percent. If not I will resign. I will put 125 police on the street. If we can spend $12.7 million on lawyers and consultants in one year, we can put policemen on the street.”

Contact reporter Scott Smith at (209) 546-8296 or Visit his blog at;sz=180×150;ord=timestamp?;lid=41000000005217789;pid=21129075;usg=AFHzDLvZ2bDneTBmLTtLwUmqL5U4N_vZYg;;pubid=536313;price=%2444.99;title=ACCO+Quartet+Executive…;merc=OfficeMax;;width=95;height=85

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1 Response to Mayor’s Race Is Wide Open!

  1. Randy D. Roxson At Law is a Registered Lobbying Firm and advocates on legislative and regulatory issues related to fire at all levels of state, local, and federal government. For more information please visit: Lodi Attorneys

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