Politics & Government

Now that Fresno mayor’s race is on, one challenger wants police chief search suspended

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, left, is running for re-election in 2020. Fresno County prosecutor Andrew Janz, right, is challenging Brand and launched his campaign this week.
Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, left, is running for re-election in 2020. Fresno County prosecutor Andrew Janz, right, is challenging Brand and launched his campaign this week. Fresno Bee file

In announcing his run for mayor of Fresno, prosecutor Andrew Janz said he hopes to cut the homeless population in half in one term and called on his incumbent opponent, Mayor Lee Brand, to pause the search for a new police chief.

Janz, who gained national attention in 2018 for challenging Congressman Devin Nunes, will formally announce his campaign for mayor at a Thursday event in Radio Park. Last week he filed his candidate intention statement with the city.

In an interview with The Bee, he criticized Brand’s leadership and approach on things such as Measure P and rallying for high-speed rail in Sacramento.

After Janz filed to run, Brand pointed to his new opponent’s lack of political experience and “a track record that consists of saying ‘I’m not Devin Nunes.’”

“Time has shown that (Lee Brand) just doesn’t have what it takes to manage a city of this size. And I will admit, unlike him, I’m not a career politician,” Janz said. “I’m not running for city manager. … The job of the mayor is to be the representative of the city – the person who speaks for and acts on behalf of the people that live here. And during my time running for Congress, I met thousands of people … and I know and I understand the needs of the people that live here.”

Since his loss to Nunes, Janz returned to the courtroom prosecuting violent crimes. He said that work led to his decision to run for mayor. And, Janz said, the city post would allow him to make change in the areas he highlighted in his run for Congress, such as poverty, homelessness and crime.

While the mayor’s office is nonpartisan, the race shapes up along political lines: Brand is a Republican and Janz is a Democrat.

Fresno County prosecutor Andrew Janz, former congressional candidate, talks about launching the Voter Protection Project, a political organization to fight nationwide voter suppression.

Platform

Janz said that three or four months into his campaign, he plans to release a plan to tackle homelessness. The cornerstone of his plan will rely on economic development and attracting highly educated people and big business to Fresno. He spoke highly of former mayor Ashley Swearengin and how she represented Fresno, calling her a role model for leading the city.

Improving parks and staffing up public safety also would be priorities for him, he said. He pointed to Measure P, the failed parks tax initiative that Brand opposed, and the mayor’s recent quiet meetings with parks coalition and public safety leaders.

Janz said that Instead of giving tax breaks to Amazon and Ulta, the city could’ve used that money for parks repairs or to hire more firefighters. “There is no reason why we can’t find common ground there,” he said. “I think our priorities are really screwed up.”

Civic leaders gathered for the annual State of the City Luncheon, for Mayor Lee Brand's State of the City Address.

Chief search

Janz said he believes Brand should put the search for a new police chief on hold until after the election and appoint Deputy Chief Pat Farmer as interim chief after Jerry Dyer retires in October. Janz said he hopes city council members will put pressure on the mayor to pause the process, even though the city already is holding community meetings seeking input.

Brand’s fundraising already has reached nearly $500,000, dwarfing the $21,000 Janz has left over from his congressional campaign. Janz said he won’t accept money from big corporations or developers.

Janz said he hopes his mayoral campaign will reflect his congressional campaign by sending a message that resonates with people from all walks of life and on both sides of the political spectrum.

“It’s about giving people hope, especially in our underserved communities, and giving them something to live for.”

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Brianna Calix covers Fresno’s city government for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable, analyze city policy and inform readers how city hall decisions might affect their lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star.

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