Politics & Government

Patterson declines to pursue 3rd term

Twice was enough for former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson.

He announced Monday he won't try for a third four-year term in the mayor's seat.

With Patterson out of the mix, many are predicting a wide open race to replace Mayor Alan Autry, who terms out in about 15 months.

Only Council Member Mike Dages has formally announced plans to run for mayor on the June 2008 ballot.

But several other council members and one businesswoman expressed interest Monday.

Patterson, who made his announcement on KMJ radio's Ray Appleton show, said he is trying to persuade several business leaders to run for mayor, but he wouldn't elaborate.

In an interview with The Bee, Patterson, 59, said he decided against making a run Sunday night after spending the last three to four months seriously considering a campaign. He said he would rather spend time with his family and at his job with a commercial real estate firm than return to City Hall.

"My family and loved ones really like the fact that I'm Dad and Grandpa and husband and there isn't a whole city that is in competition for my time," said Patterson, a managing director at CB Richard Ellis.

He has three adult children and a 2-year-old grandson. Patterson held the mayoral post for two terms before leaving office in 2001 because of term limits. Those term limits prohibit a mayor from holding office for three consecutive terms but would not have kept Patterson from jumping back into the mayor's chair after some time off.

Patterson was known as a fiscal conservative who opposed construction of the downtown stadium and the use of eminent domain in the creation of Roeding Business Park. His opposition to eminent domain prompted a recall effort that failed.

But Patterson is credited with beefing up the Police Department and attacking graffiti.

Patterson would have been a frontrunner because as a former mayor he has strong name recognition, said Tom Holyoke, a political science professor at California State University, Fresno.

"Patterson would have been like an incumbent running for re-election, and an incumbent usually starts with a tremendous lead," Holyoke said. "I'm sure there were a lot of people waiting to see what Patterson would do. I'd be surprised if a lot of others didn't jump in soon."

Council Member Jerry Duncan said it is "very likely" he will run for mayor. Council Member Henry T. Perea said he is considering a mayoral run. And their council colleague Larry Westerlund said he is thinking about it.

Ashley Swearingen is "strongly considering" a run. She is the chief operations officer for the Regional Jobs Initiative, a public-private partnership dedicated to improving the local economy.

Patterson said he wants more candidates to fill out the ballot.

"I'm hoping we have a field of five or six or seven or eight. The city deserves a deep pool of candidates," Patterson said.

Police Chief Jerry Dyer has said he won't run for mayor, but would be a heavyweight in the race, Holyoke said.

Dages and several of his potential competitors agreed that Patterson also would have been a stalwart.

"Jim Patterson would have been a very formidable opponent. Just his name recognition alone would have put him in a runoff," Dages said.

"He was a very popular mayor and is very well-spoken," Westerlund said. "This really does show the race is wide open."

If no one wins more than 50% of the vote on the June ballot, the top two vote-getters will meet in a November 2008 runoff.

Patterson's announcement may not end speculation about his political future. He also has been rumored to be a congressional candidate if Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, steps down next year.

But Radanovich's staff insists the congressman plans to keep the office he has held since January 1995.

Patterson called the rumor "just speculation without any real point to it."

"George is my congressman, and I want him to continue to be my congressman," Patterson said.

"I doubt I will be a candidate for political office any time soon."