Race for mayor: Vallejo city councilman takes slim lead over competitor with domestic violence convictions

City Councilman Robert McConnell was leading over fellow City Councilman Hakeem Brown in the race to become Vallejo’s next mayor, according to partial returns Tuesday night.

McConnell, a lawyer, was leading with 41.14% of the vote; Brown had 38.07%, according to Solano County election results.

Speaking to KTVU by phone, McConnell said he did not want to declare victory just yet. He said he wants to wait until the election results are certified. According to John Gardner, Assistant Registrar of Voters in Solano County, it will likely take officials 20 days to certify the results of the election.

“This is not a time for jubilation, it's a time for reflection,” McConnell said. “We have a tremendous amount of work to do in this city, but this city is not alone. We are not an isolated case and in many ways we are somewhat better than other cities because we have recognized we have these problems.”

McConnel plans to make the city’s financial responsibility a top priority. He said Vallejo has been named as a defendant in 22 civil rights violations related to excessive force and alleged police misconduct. McConnell said that could potentially lead to an estimated city payout ranging from $40 million to $60 million and he does not want Vallejo to go back into Chapter 9 Bankruptcy as it did in May 2008.

“It will depend on the negotiations but if we do not prevail in that area, then Chapter 9 will be an answer that we will have no choice but to follow. It's a very distinct possibility,” he said.

McConnell is also focused on changing the culture of the police department. He would like to see people join the department who are trained in dealing with mental health issues and can help the homeless. McConnell said he advocated for state regulations for law enforcement agencies so that officer involved shootings and other serious crimes are investigated by an independent state agency and not the local district attorney’s office.

If he does become the certified winner of the election, McConnell plans to create a domestic violence task force to help victims. It comes in light of the community’s response to the domestic violence conviction and allegations against challenger Hakeem Brown.

“It has impacted many, many people very deeply with great emotion so we can't just move on and forget that as if it never existed,” McConnell said.

The news website, Open Vallejo, recently exposed Brown's criminal history, which included domestic violence and gun convictions.

A small recall protest was launched by grassroots activists last month. 

Brown released the following statement to KTVU on Wednesday:

I have always said that I respect the will of the voters. While we await every vote to be counted, I recognize the numbers don’t look to be in my favor. 

I am deeply humbled by the show of support from voters who checked my name on the ballot. Obviously it didn’t turn out the way we had hoped, but I always said I would respect the will of the voters. The work continues, and I look forward to collaborating with the new mayor and our community to address the greatest challenges our city faces so we can all move Vallejo forward, together.

It has been an especially difficult election season, but I never went into this thinking it would be easy. I am someone who has worked hard to overcome challenges and rebuild my life, and I will work equally hard to do the same for Vallejo. No woman should be abused mentally or physically by anyone. While I own up to my past mistakes and hold myself accountable for them, I think it’s also important to stand up for the truth. The truth is that many of the allegations are baseless. Of course I am disappointed by the outcome of my mayoral race, but I will work tirelessly with the new mayor and my colleagues on the city council for the people of Vallejo. 

There are a total of five people vying to be Vallejo's mayor.

Other candidates include educator John B. Kenney, social services worker Cornisha Williams-Bailey, and M. Avonelle Hanley-Mills, who described herself as a “transformative advocate.”